Aviemore – the Outdoor Playground of the North
When Mr Baby was only five months old we had our second trip away. Again it was in Scotland as we built our confidence travelling with a tiny human. Mr Husband suggested a trip to Aviemore so he could go skiing (whilst I watched the child) and we could all stay in a cabin/chalet – I expected to spend the weekend cold and slightly miffed, but here’s the thing, the trip was fabulous.
Aviemore, if you don’t already know, is the gateway town to the Cairngorm mountain range which offers a mix of skiing, walking and outdoor activities. It’s a real all rounder destination for families, groups of pals, couples, ski gods or ski novices so you can return over and over at different stages of your life. I’ve visited as a single girl skiing (staying at the Macdonald Aviemore Resort, a notably child friendly hotel complex which I haven’t visited with my own babies yet), as a married woman attending a skiing birthday party and now, as a new mother, with no real possibility of skiing whatsoever.
For our second trip we opted for self-catering accommodation and the Pine Bank Chalets which are simply wonderful.
The chalets are super cute, super affordable, super polished (the decor and finish are excellent) and super cosy. There are two ranges, deluxe or classic. Our lodge, Braeriach (in the deluxe range), was a one bedroom cabin – this meant that when we put our baby down at 7pm in the complimentary travel cot in the bedroom, we had the living/dining area and its super snug wood-burning stove all to ourselves. We packed a cooler box of quality food, a bottle of prosecco and chocolates, and we were ready to enjoy a romantic night in. There’s a wide range of restaurants in Aviemore, many of which are family friendly, but I was more than happy to stay in – it’s easier! In terms of practicality the cabin even had a tiny dishwasher, the perfect size for an evening’s ware, so we didn’t even have to do dishes. And in terms of overnighting with a small child, as it was one storey semi-detached accommodation I had little anxiety about disturbing other guests with a restless baby. Lastly, the chalets were about a 10-15 minute walk into the centre of Aviemore, the perfect distance to walk a baby to sleep.
STRATHSPEY STEAM RAILWAY
There is a lot choice for children in Aviemore and its surrounding area, from wildlife parks, to a reindeer centre where you can actually feed the beasts, to zip trekking through the trees. Exploring with a small baby is slightly different – a flying fox seems a bit harsh – but we experienced some total gems. The highlight was taking a trip on the Strathspey Steam Railway which was pretty magical.
The railway gives you the chance to board a beautiful old steam engine that puffs through the countryside like something out of Harry Potter. The departure times from Aviemore station are very civilised – 1030, 1230 or 1445. The train stops at Boat of Garten, then continues onto Broomhill, after that it simply returns the route it came, depositing you safely back in Aviemore with the entire round trip taking approximately one hour and twenty minutes. There’s just a sense of old school excitement about the whole journey and it’s a great option for a rainy day. This was Mr Baby’s first ever train trip – how cool is that!
Another outing to recommend is a walk around one of the lochs or woodlands in the areas. There are a lot of short hikes to do which take in some excellent scenery. We trekked round Loch an Eilein which is a two hour round trip. I admit this may seem a bit much but we aimed for nap time, loaded the child with milk before getting out of the car and walked at a brisk pace. We did need a relatively sturdy buggy but our Quinny stood us in good stead and, yes, we’d remembered to pack the rain cover which thankfully we didn’t need. I felt a sense of achievement and was pleased we’d just gone for it. I’d recommend a wee book called ‘40 Shorter Walks Aviemore and Cairngorms‘ if you want to plan a route/duration that works for you.
I know I’ll return to Aviemore as it’s just one big playground – I can’t wait till the kids are older and I can fling them down a flying fox or watch them feeding reindeer and my husband really wants to teach them to ski. We had such a positive experience that once home we booked a foreign holiday – yes, we were now ready to catch a plane with a baby. And in case you’re wondering, the ski slopes were closed due to high winds – shame…