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!

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 memorable.

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!

One 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 makers.

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                         

There 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 through a 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 resort.

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 invented.     

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 again.

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 alive".

Julie and David Carman

you can email us at memories@auldaviemore.co.uk