In July, Angus and I went on a pawfect dog-friendly adventure to Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park. We discovered lots of dog-friendly activities, pubs and restaurants, and had a great time soaking up the mountain scenery from our dog-friendly accommodation: Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel. Aviemore really is the perfect destination to take your dog on holiday- read on for our best trips on planning your dog-friendly Aviemore adventure.
The Cairngorms National Park is UK’s largest national park, and covers over 4500 square kilometres, stretching from Glenlivet and Granton on Spey in the north to Blair Atholl in the south, and Ballater to the east.
Aviemore is the capital, located on the west side of the park, and this is where we based ourselves on our latest dog-friendly Scottish adventure.
Aviemore is known for its host of outdoor activities – from skiing to kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, hiking to mountain biking, it provides an excellent base for a variety of activities for you and your dog to enjoy!
Dog-friendly accommodation in Aviemore
Angus is a proud Ambassadog for Hostelling Scotland, and he has loved all his stays with them so far, coercing lots and biscuits and pats out of the staff!
The Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel was once a shooting lodge, and has recently undergone an impressive renovation. It’s easy to mistake the contemporary lounge areas for something you’d find in a hotel, yet – the hostel has retained its traditional and cosy lodge charm.
Take one step outside and you’re immersed in Glenmore Forest Park. Sprinkled with thousands of pines encompassed by rolling mountains, Glenmore is a nature enthusiasts’ playground.
The golden sandy beach of Loch Morlich is located a short walk from the hostel. Angus and I played rounds of fetch and watched the sun go down over the water.
At night we returned to the hostel to recharge with a warm cooked meal, and each morning I enjoyed a Full Scottish breakfast with Angus beside me, chowing down on his doggy breakfast of ham the hostel staff kindly made for him!
There was also a large garden for Angus to run around in at the back of the hostel, and picnic tables to enjoy the views across the valley. Our comfy private room backed onto the forest, and a bathroom with a waterfall showerhead was located across the hallway.
It had everything we needed for a dog-friendly nature escape.
- Private Rooms
- Drying Room
- Bike Storage
- Self-catering kitchen
- Several lounge areas
- Pool table
- Beer and wine for sale (it’s a licensed premise!)
- Secure lockers
Things to do in Aviemore with a dog
There are many fun things to do in Aviemore with a dog, and many of the activities I recommend in this article are located within a short distance from the Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel.
Having a car certainly helps if you want to reach many of these places, however, if you don’t I recommend basing yourself at the hostel as many of the activities mentioned start from there.
Loch Morlich Beach
Angus loved running along the beach at the eastern end of Loch Morlich. Less than a 5-minute walk from the hostel, Loch Morlich is the UK’s highest body of water and home to a golden sandy beach surrounded by mountains and fun forest trails to explore.
It’s a popular area for swimming and watersports – and after some coercion, I enticed Angus into the water where he went swimming for the first time!
The easiest way to access the beach is via the Glenmore Camping ground, which is accessible to everyone. There is also parking available- just make sure you bring coins to pay for your parking as there isn’t a mobile signal in this area to make contactless payments.
Walk or cycle the Loch Morlich circuit
The Loch Morlich Circuit is an easy walk or cycle for everyone, including your pooch. I hired a hike from below the Pine Marten Bar at the Glenmore Campsite; it cost £20 for a half-day hire (3 hours) which gave me plenty of time to cycle around the loch (you’ll need around 1.5 hours to cycle it).
Angus enjoyed splashing in the rivers and the loch. Be sure to make sure your dog stays on the trail, as there are birds nesting on the banks of the loch.
This guide from WalkHighlands is a good one to follow.
Hike Meall a’ Bhuachaille
Meall a’ Bhuachaille is a moderately challenging hike that rewards you with a birds-eye view of Loch Morlich, the munro Cairn Gorm, the Cairngorm Mountain Ski Centre, and Glenmore Forest.
I suggest hiking Meall a’ Bhuachaille clockwise, beginning at the Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel. Hiking this Corbett in a clockwise direction is the easiest option, as when you descend to the east it’s very steep (like a staircase).
If you follow this guide, you will also pass the Ryvoan Bothy and An Lochan Uaine (the Green Loch).
Difficulty rating: 3/5
Time: 3.5 – 4.5 hours
Distance: 8.5 kilometres / 5.25 miles
Walk to An Lochan Uaine (the Green Lochan)
If you fancy a shorter, easier walk, the trail to An Lochan Uaine (the Green Loch) is a popular option. You will pass through ancient Caledonian pines to reach the lochan, which has interesting folklore attached to it.
Locals say the lochan is green because this is where the faeries wash their clothing.
The algae levels in the lochan make more sense as to why it’s green, however!
People have been known to swim in this lochan, although I don’t think I’m that brave due to the leeches I glimpsed in the water! It’s a lovely walk, however.
Difficulty rating: Easy
Time: 2 hours
Visit Ryvoan Bothy
Ryvoan Bothy is a rustic wee bothy located at the base of Meall a’ Bhuachaille. If you’ve not heard of a bothy before, it’s essentially an unlocked mountain shelter with basic lodgings. Bothies were used by drovers, deer-stalkers and farmers centuries ago. Ryvoan was formerly a crofters cottage which was abandoned in 1877.
Today, bothies are a popular refuge for walkers and mountaineers. Outdoor enthusiasts can spend the night at a bothy, or just use them for shelter during tumultuous weather.
If you’re walking to An Lochan Uaine, you can reach the bothy by continuing down the same path for one kilometre (0.7 miles).
Difficulty rating: Easy-moderate
Time: 2-3 hours
Distance: 10 kilometres / 6.5 miles
Read more: The best bothies in Scotland
Ride the Strathspey Steam Railway
The Strathspey Steam Railway is a hidden gem in the Cairngorms National Park- and dogs can ride the steam train too!
You can buy a ticket for a roundtrip departing Aviemore; a ticket for the general section is currently £16.75 for one adult, and your pup’s ticket costs just £1.
The journey winds through some of the Cairngorms’ finest scenery. The train stops at two stations: Boat of Garten and Broomhill (aka Glenbogle for Monarch of the Glen fans). Boat of Garten has a lovely coffee shop that sells delicious slices, and an old Ladies’ Waiting Room which offers an interesting glimpse into the past!
Walk the Loch an Eilein circuit
Enjoy an easy circular route with your dog and discover an island castle! Loch an Eilein is a beautifully reflective body of water, named after the island that is home to a 14th-century castle of the same name.
Loch an Eilein castle was probably built by the Bishops of Moray in the 13th century, but it was rebuilt in the 14th century by Alexander Stewart, the Wolf of Badenoch. He inherited the castle after forcing the widowed heiress, Euphemia, to marry him. After being excommunicated by the Bishop of Moray, Alexander Stewart got his own back by burning Forres, and the city and cathedral of Elgin.
The castle is now an overgrown ruin, cut off from the mainland by the rising water of the loch. It’s a stunning example of an island castle.
To walk the loch circuit, follow this guide.
Difficulty rating: Easy
Time: 2 hours
Distance: 7 kilometres / 4.25 miles
Read more: A dog-friendly guide to Loch Lomond
Dog-friendly Restaurants and Pubs in Aviemore
There is no shortage of dog-friendly restaurants in Aviemore and Glenmore; in fact, the surrounding area is made for a dog-friendly staycation.
Here are some of my favourite restaurants and pubs where Angus and I dined. Tip: if you’re visiting in summer, be sure to book a table in advance- I found it tricky to get a table at many of these restaurants.
The Pine Marten Bar
The quirky Pine Marten Bar is located by the roadside at the Glenmore Campsite. It’s a rustic ski lodge, the walls filled with mementoes including old ski gear. It’s usually bustling with happy campers from the campsite and their canine companions.
There is an outdoor area to enjoy a drink on a warm day, and also balcony seating that overlooks a quiet section of the Glenmore Forest.
This is one of my favourite dog-friendly pubs in Aviemore/Glenmore.
Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel
Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel also serves hot meals from 5pm- 8pm. They have a great selection of classic meals including steak pie, fish and chips, and chicken curry.
They are also licensed so you can enjoy a beer, glass of wine, or cider with your meal- and your dog is allowed to sit with you in the dining area.
The Boathouse Cafe
The Boathouse Cafe is located at Loch Morlich Watersports, which offers a variety of rentals including kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddle boards and mountain bikes. It’s on the beach at Loch Morlich.
They offer both takeaway and sit-in food and drinks. It can get busy here due to the number of beachgoers, however, it’s a good place to grab a quick meal or a snack if you’re relaxing at the beach.
The Winking Owl
The Winking Owl and Bothy Bar are located in the centre of Aviemore. Owned and run by Cairngorm Brewery, The Winking Owl is the main restaurant, with mountain views over the Cairngorm ranges. The Bothy Bar is a warm and cosy bar that serves award-winning local ales and hearty food.
The Bothy Bar is dog-friendly, and well-behaved dogs are allowed in the upstairs restaurant.
If you’re looking for a restaurant that’s a little more dressy than a pub, The Balavoulin in central Aviemore is a great choice. They source many of their ingredients locally, and they also have a great cocktail menu!
The Old Bridge Inn
The Old Bridge Inn is your typical cosy, candle-lit Scottish inn with a twist: it has a small beach!
There is a variety of outdoor seating where you can enjoy a drink while you watch your pooch play in the River Spey. There are also hammocks where you can relax in the woodland surrounding the river.
Located on the fringes of Aviemore, The Old Bridge Inn has a variety of beer, whisky, wine, and spirits to choose from, and serves your typical pub food.
Dogs are welcome in their rustic lounge, by the wood-burning stove. I would recommend booking a table for dinner in advance as it gets busy.
Smiffy’s (for takeaway)
Enjoy fish and chips on the beach by picking up a takeaway from Smiffy’s on Grampian Road in Aviemore. They also have delicious vanilla soft serve ice cream.
Read more: A dog-friendly guide to the Isle of Arran
Packing list for your dog
To help you plan your adventure, I’ve created this packing list for our dog-friendly trip to Aviemore and the Cairngorms National Park:
- If you’re driving to Aviemore, I recommend you have a Dog Car Seat Cover to keep your car as tidy as possible. This is the one we have and it has saved our car from muddy paws many times!
- Food bowl
- Food for your dog. We measure out what Angus needs, and place each meal in individual reusable/biodegradable bags. Always take extra food.
- Portable water bottle with drinking bowl
- Biodegradable poo bags
- Poo bag carrier. This one is great.
- Dog collar, harness, and leash
- Treats and carrier bag
- Dog bed
- Tick remover (one for dogs and one for humans too). I found two ticks on Angus during our time in Aviemore.
- A couple of old towels
- Dog-friendly first aid kit
Are you going on a dog-friendly adventure to Aviemore and the Cairngorms National Park? Drop your questions or tips below!
This blog post was part of a paid partnership with Hostelling Scotland. All words and opinions are my own (and Angus’s!).