Welcome one and all to our website.
My name is Julie Carman, and my husband David and I would like to share memories and photos with everyone who
remembers the old Aviemore Centre when it was a thriving and wonderful place to
be in the late 60’s through to the 90’s. I have some magical memories
of the whole of Aviemore starting in 1975 when I was 14 years old, when I first went to Scotland with my
parents. I lived in Kent, so it was a long way to go by car. 610
miles to be exact. This was in the days before the new A9 was built.
You had to travel from Perth to Aviemore on a tiny, windy road, through all the
little villages and towns. I used to look forward to this part of the
journey. We used to stop in the “Little Chef” at Newtonmore for something
to eat every time we came. I’m pleased to see that this building is still
standing and even featured in the programme Monarch of the Glen. The excitement for me used to build from here, especially when
we came to Aviemore for Christmas. Memories of towering snow capped
mountains, frozen lochs, icy roads! and counting down the minutes until we
rolled into Aviemore. Oh, the excitement!
SCOTS LOVE AFFAIR
Although I was only 14, my love affair with Aviemore, Scotland, the Scots and
all things Scottish began the minute we crossed the border at Gretna. My
father was a coach driver, so for many years I had been lucky enough to travel
to hundreds of lovely places throughout England and Wales on day trips and
holidays. I had always wanted to go to Scotland and now we were finally
here. There was something wonderfully romantic about
Scotland which has stayed with me to this day. I love the Scots people and
their warmth and friendliness, the beautiful countryside and scenery, the
mountains, lochs, the pine forests, the wildlife, the beautiful west coast and
the wonderful coastline from John O’Groats to Oban. The cities, especially
Glasgow, which I love and the wonderfully remote Sutherland. I love the
cold, wet, snowy and totally unpredictable weather. I can never come to
Scotland without the usual tour through Glen Coe and a ride up the open
chairlift there is one of the highlights of our trips. A sense of peace
and tranquillity, stillness, the sound of crashing waterfalls, majestic
mountains rising into the sky, , the eerie silence and the
feeling that you’re surrounded by the ghosts of battles past, all of these
things engulf you as you stand in this magnificent valley in awe of its beauty
and breathe in the wonderfully clean fresh air. A fantastic place.
Anyone who travels through Glen Coe and does not feel touched by its beauty has
no soul. I’ve often wondered whether the people of Scotland realize and
appreciate how lucky they are to live in such a wonderful place with all this
beauty around them. I used to live in Devon and people took the natural
beauty around them so much for granted. I would give absolutely anything
to live in Scotland. We are hoping to move to the Highlands in a couple of
years time when our youngest son leaves school. I can’t wait. David and I
would very much like to open up our own tea-room, selling home-made cakes, made
by me. You’ve got to have a dream!
SOMETHING ABOUT THE PLACE (It calls you back...)
But there was always something about Aviemore. This bustling little
village in the heart of the Highlands, surrounded by the Cairngorm Mountains was
just lovely. Just what you’d imagine a Highland village to be like, very
traditional, but with the added bonus of a buzzing hive of activity hidden
behind the hotels and shops on the main road. On my first visit in 1975 we
stayed in the Chalets Motel, very basic little rooms, more for skiers really,
with bunk beds. No TV, no hospitality tray, just beds and a shower room.
But we loved it. The next time we came in 1976 we stayed in the Strathspey
Hotel, the big tower block building right at the front overlooking the station.
My father did a coach trip to Scotland so there were 52 of us (me, my sister, my
mum and dad and 48 OAP's!!) We then
stayed at the Badenoch Hotel in 1977, overlooking the fountains and ice rink on
the “piazza”. I remember all the waitresses were dressed in tartan
jackets. They looked like air hostesses. Very smart. The next
time we came was Christmas 1978. This time, we stayed in the Forte Post
House, right at the back of the Centre. A lovely hotel. Certainly
the best looking. What a wonderful time we had. So much so, we returned
for Christmas the following year. Entertainment was laid on every evening
after dinner and everyone used to dress up in fancy dress. There was a
Hawaiian themed evening, where the under manager of the restaurant, Tony,
dressed up as Long John Silver, complete with parrot on shoulder and all the
staff were dressed for the occasion. I remember wearing tinsel around my
neck as a garland and the flower in my hair was a sticky backed bow that you put
on a present! But we looked good!!
One evening was an Arabian theme and several of the men came to dinner with the
bedspread from their room draped around them to make them look like sheiks! Oh what fun we had.
Where did it all go? It was things like this that made it all so
SKATING? MORE LIKE SLIDING...
My sister and I used to go over to the ice rink and spend hours happily skating
around in our hired boots that never fitted properly! When I say skating, it
was more like desperately clinging on to the side or ending up on our bottoms.
I learnt to ice skate in Aviemore and couldn’t get enough of it. Many
times, there was a curling match going on and part of the rink was sealed off
for the curlers and the rest was open for skaters. I spent hours leaning
over the barrier watching the curling. What a fabulous sport.
I have been looking for
a curling stone for myself for 33 years now and never managed to find
one, so if anyone out there has an old style curling stone, preferably
from the old Aviemore rink - (not the modern ones with plastic handles),
I would be more than happy to buy it from you. That would be
absolutely brilliant. Someone somewhere must have one sitting in
their garden shed gathering dust!
I'll buy It! IF YOU CAN HELP PLEASE CONTACT ME....
evening, we arrived at the rink only to be told that we couldn’t skate because the rink was
hosting an ice hockey match. The disappointment!! We'd been looking
forward to it all day. Seeing as
we’d walked over there knee deep in snow, we decided to stay and watch the
match. Brilliant. The first ice hockey match I’d ever been to. It was great.
During the day, we used to visit the little shops on the piazza. There was
the Cairdsport ski shop, where I bought a pair of goat skin furry snow boots.
They cost me £55 in 1978! A kings ransom, but I just had to have them.
Sandy Caird sold them to me and he was telling me that he was importing
them from Italy and that he just couldn't get enough as demand was
outstripping supply. They were obviously all the rage at the time.
I had the last pair in his shop.
There was a little chemist shop on the parade there, Steiner's Hairdressers, RS
McColls newsagents the Das Stubel Restaurant and a gift shop. We always had our lunch in the Pinewood Restaurant.
Very Austrian chalet looking on the inside with its pine clad walls and high
ceiling. I wish I had photos of all these places. I did have once,
but don’t know what happened to them. There was the cinema and disco in
the same building. Next to the ice rink was an arcade with games machines
and outside there were little go karts that used to whizz around the
square near the fountains. I remember going underground at the Strathspey Hotel to
the “La Pigalle” disco. Had some fun there!! No matter what hotel we
stayed in over the years, there was always some dark haired gorgeous
Scottish waiter in tight black trousers that I ended up snogging by the
end of the week!! (where have all the Scottish waiters gone?) We used to love
going on the Aviemore race track, with its little racing cars and then there was
Santa Claus Land. A 365 days a year resident Santa. Fabulous!
I have a photo of my sister and I with Santa, who was walking over to the Post
House Hotel at the time for his elevenses. This photo is on this website.
His name was George and he still resides in Aviemore. Also, there’s a photo of the North Pole. A
great big lump of ice that was just across the way from Santa Claus Land.
You could cut through the front of the Centre into the town in those days from
behind what was the Freedom Inn, which was self catering apartments for holiday
THINGS WERE DIFFERENT THEN...
There was no Tesco then. I can’t remember what was on Tesco’s site.
There was always a little café where Hambletts, or whatever it’s called now is,
at the bottom of the slope that led up to the Aviemore Centre. We
were always in there with mum and dad for a cuppa. There were lots of
little gifty shops on the parade and further down the road was the Red MacGregor
Hotel, a very imposing structure. Just across the road were some more
little shops and then you went down a stairwell and into a car park.
In 1978 when we were there for Christmas, we walked down this stairwell
to go to the little hardware shop there and my dad was totally taken by
surprised. "B**ger me, he said. Look at that. In the
1950's he'd been a lorry driver for the East Kent Packers in Faversham
where I was born, which was a fruit packing and distribution company and
he used to drive 8 wheelers from Kent to Scotland delivering fruit.
He then left that job and became a bus driver for the Maidstone and
District Bus Company in Faversham. Although the majority of their
vehicles were service buses, in the late 1950's they acquired 2 AEC
coaches for touring. My dad drove both of these coaches for
several years in the early-mid 1960's. Imagine his surprise when
parked in the car park behind the shops in Aviemore was the exact coach
that he used to drive. He looked at it and recognised it straight
away by the registration number PKP 111. This old coach had come
all the way up from Kent and was being used to transport the men working
on the construction of what is now the new A9.
It's a small world!! Sorry, I've digressed
was a little hardware shop in that car park, which is where we were going when
we saw the coach. I remember we bought some Christmas tree
lights in there. We always used to take our 6ft Christmas tree with us and
have it our hotel room!! Well, it was Christmas! We used to walk
down to the little post office and send our postcards to friends, telling them
what a wonderful time we were having. One of our favourite walks was Craigellachie
mountain, behind the Post House. You walked out the back of the
hotel, up a bank, and there you were. Now, sadly, the new A9 runs
right behind the hotel and to get to this lovely walk, you have to go
tunnel that runs under the new A9, which we always seem unable to find! There was a decked path that led you around the bottom of the mountain and a
lovely little loch. It doesn’t seem the same now, with cars hurtling past
at 80 miles an hour! The peace has been somewhat shattered. All in all, the
Aviemore Centre was a fantastic place.
I wish I could climb into a time capsule and been catapulted back to the 70’s.
For all its “revival”, I would go back to how it used to be any day of the week.
It had character, it had things to do that didn’t cost the earth, it had little
personal shops, homely eateries, it had a dry ski slope and most of all, an ice
rink for skaters and curlers alike. Everything you would expect from a ski
Even up at the Cairngorm Mountain now, a train takes you to the top. Gone
are the days when you rushed down to reception in your hotel to check the
weather board to see if the
“White Lady Chairlift” was operating and what the wind speed was. The
excitement of driving up the ski road to Cairngorm and climbing into snow boots
and ski jackets to join the queue for the open chairlift is something I will
never forget. You had to sit in an open chair, high above the ground,
completely exposed to the elements, be it fog, rain, high wind or snow.
You got off half way up and then onto another chairlift which took you right to
the top of the mountain. There was a strange looking dome shaped café, a
bit like a space ship, called the Ptarmigan restaurant. You were quite
lucky if you were able to get to the top because of the weather in the winter.
Once I went up with my sister and it was a complete white out. She was
scared and whinged all the way up and back. The joys of having a
much younger wimpy sister!! Low cloud
and snow meant we were suspended in mid-air in nothingness. You couldn’t
see anything at all, you could just hear the sound of skiers whooshing below, whizzing
down the mountain. Very spooky! but unforgettable.
I went back to Aviemore in 1982 with my now ex-husband. He wasn’t overly
enthusiastic about the place (the man had no taste!). He was a fisherman,
so unless it involved sitting on a river bank for hours on end, nothing
much else appealed to him so sadly I didn’t go back until 1985, when
I went with my parents on another coach holiday (left the old man at home this
time, more fun that way!!) and we again stayed in the Strathspey Hotel. That was the last time that I went to Aviemore and saw
the old Centre that I knew and loved. I met my now husband David in 1995 and in 1998, I
decided that it was time that he and my children had a taste of Scotland.
David was all for it as he’d never been further north than Manchester! We
came up in the October half term and had a wonderful time. My two boys
loved it. We went up the Nevis Range gondolas, saw Loch Ness and then came
to Aviemore. What a shock. The sorry site that greeted me was heart
breaking. I’d told them all about this wonderful place that I used to
enjoy so very much and it had all been reduced to rubble. I stood where
the ice rink used to be and cried.
It was pouring with rain as we walked around this once great place and it was
soul destroying. Santa Claus Land was still there, but a shadow of its
former self. We stayed at the Coylumbridge Hotel on the ski road, and even
that seemed very run down. We went up to Cairngorm Mountain and again, nothing.
No chairlift, no café, no people. The only familiar sight was the red
phone box. Sadly, David and the boys never ever got to see the old Aviemore Centre in
its heyday, he only saw it for the first time in ‘98 when it looked so sad.
He would have loved it like I did and so would the boys. I talk about it
so much though that they feel they know it inside out! I so wish I'd taken
so many more photos of the old place and that video cameras had been
Despite the disappointment,
I wasn’t going to be put off. In 2001, we decided to once again come to
Aviemore, for Christmas this time. We stayed in the old Strathspey, which
was now the Hilton. What a change. A big glass frontage had appeared
and a new foyer. A swimming pool and health club had been added. But
I was pleased to see that the restaurant at least, was exactly how it used to be
in the good old days, as were the bedrooms. Gone though, was “La Pigalle”
disco! We had a lovely time and it snowed from Christmas Eve onwards.
The boys had a wail of a time sledging on the banks of the hotel, as did we!!
It was lovely to see the
village thriving and bustling with holiday makers. Aviemore still had its
charm and its warm, friendly people. It was still the same Highland
village that I remembered, albeit, spreading out a bit. It was great to be
back. I felt like I was home and I couldn’t have been happier. If
there’s such a thing as re-incarnation, I was definitely a Scot in a previous life! I’ve never
felt such a sense of belonging anywhere as I do when I’m in the Highlands.
We had two more great Christmas’s at the Hilton. Sadly, the following
year, Christmas 2004, the hotel had changed hands and I'll never go back there
If we ever come to Aviemore
again, we'll stay in the village itself as this seems to have had the least
changes apart from the fact that it seems to be spreading further and further
out. I couldn't even bring myself to go into the old Centre ever again.
For me, it's ruined.
We would love to hear from all of you who have stories to tell and memories to
share of the “old Aviemore Centre”. We would love to see your photos and
read your letters and put them all on our website. You can play your part
in building a tribute to Aviemore and the Centre that we once knew and loved and
all the people that made it special. The little shops that served us well
with a warm smile, the little café’s, that served us tea and gossip, they all
deserve a round of applause and a lasting tribute.
Come on, get writing,
emailing, posting, whatever. Tell us about your experiences in Aviemore.
Was there a character? Was there a certain shop? Was there an event?
Where you there in the 1970's when “It’s a Knockout” took place on
the Aviemore ice rink? What would you like to share with everyone?
As you can see, we have a distinct lack of photos from way back then, so please,
please send us some!
We look forward to hearing
from you all so please put your thinking caps on and take a trip down memory
lane like I just have. You'll enjoy it. The love affair with
Scotland continues. So much so, that in August 2006, David and I got
married at Gretna Green over the anvil, complete with a piper.
A lovely Scottish wedding. You can see some pictures in the "Our Photos" section.
Without your photos and
memories, this website wouldn't exist, so please help "keep the dream
Julie and David
email us at firstname.lastname@example.org