Newtonmore: The Perfect Spot for a Break in the Scottish Highlands

Visiting Newtonmore Scotland

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Newtonmore is one of those unspoiled small places that’s a bit of a well-kept secret.

Just one and a half miles off the A9, the main road up through the Highlands of Scotland, you’ll find it.

Though it is wee, it is almost certainly mighty.

With brightly coloured cats and an 18th century working croft, Newtonmore has something for all the family.

Location

Newtonmore lies 14 miles south of its bigger neighbour, Aviemore, and is around an hour’s drive south along the A9 from Inverness. From Edinburgh, it’s around a two-to-three-hour drive.

Newtonmore History

Newtonmore itself doesn’t go too far back in its history.

The local population tended to live in townships before the beginning of the 19th Century in nearby Glen Banchor around a mile to the west and a couple of hundred feet higher up.

In the 1760s, a road bridge was built over the River Spey and a few houses were soon constructed in the valley.

However, the first real record of the village is in 1823 in Scottish Record Office entries where Newtonmore (then called ‘Moor of Strone’) had between 50 and 60 inhabitants.

In the 1860s – The village grew thanks to the arrival of the railways and by the census in 1892 there were 88 homes and a total of 364 inhabitants.

Thirty years later, the population had reached 800 and Newtonmore had become a busy tourist centre and there were a number of shops and services.

Today, Newtonmore has a population of around 1,000 and its community is famous for its self-sufficiency and fundraising.

6 Things to See and Do

Despite its size, there are lots of things to do in the village and the surrounding area that’ll keep all the family entertained.

1. Highland Folk Museum

One of the most popular attractions in Newtonmore is the Highland Folk Museum.

This open-air museum takes its visitors back in time from the townships of the 1700s right up to the 1950s.

Historical buildings Newtonmore
Newtonmore Highland folk museum historical buildings

With over 35 historical buildings to explore, visitors learn all about how the Highlanders lived, worked, studied and played throughout the centuries.

The living museum is set on a huge site with a working farm, an old-fashioned Post Office shop that sells traditional sweets, and an 18th century township where real-life characters bring the experience to life.

You can pop into the old stone-built turf-roofed homes with their peat fires or have a look at how they used to dye and weave yarn to make clothing.

Newtonmore Highland folk museum information
Visiting Newtonmore Highland folk museum

And, if you like the TV series Outlander, the site may look a little familiar as the township served as the backdrop for the series’ Mackenzie village!

The museum boasts free entry (though they welcome donations) and there’s a café, play park and gift shop too.

You might even pick up a bottle of the locally made Stag’s Breath tipple.

2. The Wildcat Trail

Newtonmore Wildcat trail experience
Newtonmore Wildcat trail

If you enjoy getting out in the great outdoors, the Wildcat Trail is a 10km orbital path that takes you around the trails of Newtonmore village, allowing you to explore the beauty that is the Cairngorms National Park.

The path crosses moorland, skirts the River Spey, and passes above the River Calder gorge.

There’s even Allt Laraidh Falls en route and magnificent views of the Cairngorm Mountain range.

Although the whole trail is 10km in length, it can be accessed at six different points around the village which means that you can walk it in sections.

Newtonmore Scotland Wildcat trails
Newtonmore village trail (Wildcat trail)

It is a well-signposted route thanks to village volunteers maintaining the signage – look out for the signposts with the wildcat logo.

From Experience – A couple of points worth mentioning, however, are that you may come across some livestock, so keep your dogs under control!

It’s definitely worth wearing good walking shoes too – the weather up here will mean that there is many a muddy patch!

3. The Wildcat Experience

Hidden Scottish wildcats
Newtonmore Cap’n Jack

Not to be confused with the Wildcat Trail, the Wildcat Experience is one that will get you exploring almost every street in the village.

Hidden around Newtonmore are over 130 decorated models of the Scottish wildcat, each one unique in its design.

From Bagpuss to Cap’n Jack, you’ll find them up trees, in gardens and on rooftops.

You might even spot one having a surf on Loch Imrich!

Before you begin, head to the Wildcat Centre in the village where you can pick up a Trackpack with a full-colour brochure and a map to mark where you spot each one.

If you don’t have time to find them all, there are certificates and prizes if you find at least 25 of them.

Wildcat Experience in Newtonmore explained
Wildcat centre in Newtonmore

Once you’re done, head back to the Wildcat Centre to claim your certificate and prize.

Finding all 132 cats takes time – and in many cases, multiple trips back to the village over several years to find them all!

4. Clan MacPherson Museum

The Clan MacPherson Museum takes you back in time and tells the story of ‘High Resolve, Patriotism, Loyalty and the Jacobite Cause’.

Here, you can learn all about one of the last of the Jacobites, Cluny of the ’45, a man who was hunted for nine years following the battle of Culloden.

You can hear all about the famous Clan folk, learn of mutinies and see the weapons used from the time.

If History Is Your Thing – This museum’s a must. It’s free to enter, but donations are welcome to help keep the museum running.

5. Highland Games

If your visit to Newtonmore is in the summer, you might just find yourself lucky enough to be there for the Newtonmore Highland Games.

These traditional games are serenaded by several pipe bands and welcome many clansmen from all over the world.

The events include the popular heavy events such as throwing the Scots hammer and Tossing the Caber as well as athletic races including the Creag Dhubh hill race with competitors arriving from all over the country.

There are events for children too. Also, not to be missed is the highland dancing, with competitors entering from across the globe!

6. Hogmanay

Experiencing New Year’s Eve in Scotland is a must.

And Newtonmore offers a great Hogmanay experience.

At 11:30pm, two crowds gather, one near the village’s Glen Hotel and the other at the Balavil Hotel.

Members of the crowds hold torches as they process which adds to the atmosphere.

The crowds are led by a piper and process to an area near the village’s bowling club where they are greeted with a complimentary wee dram of Stag’s Breath Whisky Liqueur and a piece of traditional Scottish shortbread.

There’s musical entertainment and then a fantastic firework display after midnight. The night draws to a close with a few songs.

Wildlife

Newtonmore is a great place for wildlife spotting.

Highland cattle and deer are often spotted whilst out walking the Wildcat Trail and you could even catch a glimpse of the elusive Scottish Wildcat if you’re extremely fortunate.

However, for guaranteed views of wildlife, The Highland Wildlife Park is less than 15 minutes’ drive away.

What to Expect? You can take your car on a wildlife safari and see a whole host of animals up close including native species and those from further afield.

From the Scottish wildcat, forest reindeer and capercaillie to the amur tiger, red panda and Japanese Macaque, the Highland Wildlife Park lets you get up close and personal.

Food and Drink: My 3 Favorite Places

Newtonmore weather tips
Favorite places in Newtonmore

Newtonmore Cafés

If delicious homemade cakes are what you’re looking for, pop into the Wild Flour café.

With a little shop and a warm welcome, this popular café certainly lives up to its reputation.

Another popular option is Antler’s, also situated on Main Street.

Restaurants

Although it’s a small village, Newtonmore boasts its own family-run restaurant.

Letterbox only uses locally sourced Scottish ingredients and specialises in game and Aberdeenshire steaks.

If that doesn’t quite take your fancy, the village’s hotels such as the Glen Hotel offer hearty meals too.

Stag’s Breath Liqueur

A popular tipple in Newtonmore is Stag’s Breath Honey Whisky Liqueur, made in the heart of the village.

Created from fermented comb honey and malt whisky, a wee dram of the liqueur warms you from the inside on cold highland evenings.

How to Get There

Newtonmore sits one and a half miles off the A9, the main route up to the most northern parts of Scotland making it easy to get to from most places.

Travel to Newtonmore
Newtonmore station

It also works well as a stop-off location if your journey is taking you up to Inverness or the Moray Firth and beyond.

You can also fly into Inverness from a range of destinations and journey down to Newtonmore by car in around an hour or by train.

Newtonmore is also served by the main railway line from Edinburgh to Inverness, meaning that there are direct trains from London Kings Cross (including the popular sleeper train) as well as more local trains up to Aviemore for example.

Final Thoughts

With wildcats, crofts and circular walks, you’d be hard pressed not to find something that everyone can enjoy in the charming village of Newtonmore.

But shh! Let’s keep it our little secret!

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