208km (129 miles) N of Edinburgh; 47km (29 miles) SE of Inverness; 137km (85 miles) N of Perth

A bit tacky for our tastes, Aviemore, a year-round resort on the Spey, was opened in 1966 in the heart of the Highlands, at the foot of the historic rock of Craigellachie. The center of Aviemore itself, with ugly concrete structures, has little of the flavor of Scotland. But visitors flock here for its accessibility to some of the most beautiful scenery in the Highlands, especially the Cairngorm Mountains, known for their skiing in winter and hiking in summer.

A vast 3,800-sq.-km (1,467-sq.-mile) area of the Scottish Highlands has been designated as the largest national park in Britain. An area of outstanding natural beauty, containing some of Scotland's highest peaks, Cairngorms National Park is sparsely populated at 11.7 persons per square mile but contains 52 mountain summits, including four of Scotland's highest peaks. Rivers, lochs, and forests are interspersed with farms and small hamlets. The park also embraces a number of old castles, a few rural museums, and some Scotch whisky distilleries.

With its cycling and walking trails, the park's most interesting stretch is the Victorian Heritage Trail that includes the royal family's Balmoral Castle. For more information, check out www.castlesandwhisky.com. For maps, advice on walks or hikes, and complete information, write, phone, or fax: Cairngorms National Park Authority, 14 The Square, Grantown-on-Spey PH26 3HG (tel. 01479/873-535; fax 01479/873-527; www.cairngorms.co.uk).