We all went up to Aviemore for a week in June, to stay at Doug and Pat’s timeshare at Coylumbridge as we do most years. This year was a bit special, though – we hadn’t gone last year, and this year may be our last since Aidan will be at school this time next year.

On Monday morning all six of us went for walk to an unnamed lochan about 45min stroll from the lodge. It was a good gentle introduction. The kids both mostly enjoyed their first walk through the bush for quite a while, and looked quite smart in their hiking gear. In the afternoon Aidan enjoyed the play park, and we enjoyed remembering how little he was last time we were here. In the evening (after bedtime)
Megan got up and went on her first bunny-hunt with Grandma.

The four of us went to the Landmark Centre on Tuesday. The kids weren’t that excited by the play equipment, so we did stuff instead. The best was the Red Squirrel Trail, a raised treewalk through the forest, explaining all about the history, flora, fauna, and future of the forest. We didn’t see any squirrels, but the kids were fascinated and we did learn the difference between cowberry and blaeberry.

Later we went on the water slides: the Otter is twisty and dark, the Wildcat has a bump in the middle, and the Falcon is pretty much straight down – weightless and fast. We took both kids up, two or three to a boat. Both kids loved it – Aidan was excited about being weightless on the Falcon like the astronauts and Megan was just generally excited. Neither of them was scared at all, and they both wanted to go again and again.

Then we went to the Inshriach Nursery. They still had some yummy cake left even though it was quite late in the day, and the birds were out in force behind the tearooms – as were the red squirrels! Megan loved stroking the resident cat.

After all that we decided to have a quiet day on Wednesday.

On Thursday the kids went on their first ever hillwalk – a two mile long, 225m descent (NN998074 to NN981095) through the arctic tundra of Cairngorm National Park. Both kids were fantastic – especially Megan, who was a complete trooper and stormed through everything. Aidan did well too, but when he got hungry he kept falling over. Remarkably, the kids were harder to keep moving on the formed path than they were pushing through the swampy heather.

At the beginning of the walk we were all having second thoughts – neither Aidan nor Megan seemed very keen, and Megan seemed very little to be embarking on such an expedition. But the whinging stopped very rapidly once we got moving (just like it used to for me when I was little!), and they both did so well! We appreciated our new poles too.

In the evening Carolyn and I had dinner on our own, and then went for a drive. We found ourselves at Loch Garten. I never will get used to the evening light at such a high latitude – it’s lovely.

Friday was our chance to get away on our own. We originally intended to bag our first Munro together, but it snowed the night before and we weren’t prepared for walking above the snowline. Instead, the ranger recommended an excellent route through the Corries and part of the Lairig Ghru. We had a lovely day, with amazing scenery and lots of variation – at least until we got to the formed paths in the Rothiemurchus estate. And we had it to ourselves: we only passed four other groups all day. I was impressed by how “alive” the mountains are – at first glance it looks pretty desert-like, with not much beyond heather. But in fact there’s a wider range of flora than that, and we also saw a few tiny tiny birds flitting around – so there must be a good range of insects to support such an energetic bird! We finished up in a great little Greek Cypriot cafe opposite the visitor’s centre with a well-deserved cup of tea and pastry.

The kids had a great time with Grandma and Grandpa at the Highland Wildlife Centre and Highland Folk Museum.


Saturday was our last full day. The boys went on a distillery tour, and showed Aidan how whiskey is made. Glenfiddich welcomed him (unlike Macallan, with a minimum age of 8), and he was as fascinated by the process as we’d guessed he would be. He was particularly struck by the fact that they make a beer first, and then distill that into whiskey. The girls went to a garden centre.

On Sunday we headed back south, tired but happy. On the way we stopped off at The Hermitage, Dunkeld, and walked to Ossian’s Hall (stunningly, right above a waterfall) and Ossian’s Cave (lovely echoes of “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt!”). The kids had a good time – lots of Megan dawdling, and Aidan going back to hold her hand and encourage her on – cute! Then lunch at Palmerston’s, Dunkeld; then home and picnic pizza dinner on the lawn.

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