Family friendly fun in the Highlands

Macdonald hotel, Aviemore
Macdonald hotel, Aviemore
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When heading for a three-night break in the Scottish Highlands in late spring one can be forgiven for erring on the side of caution and packing more waterproofs than sun hats. Macdonald Aviemore Resort was our destination and we were fully prepared for prolonged periods of entertaining our two boys aged four and two indoors.

However, our careful plans were blissfully disrupted as our stay so happened to coincide with the hottest temperatures of the year - 21 degrees at its peak. The clear skies offered a breathtaking panorama of the still snow-capped Cairngorms throughout our stay.

We had booked a family room within the Aviemore Hotel and we were pleasantly surprised to find this included a separate room for the boys featuring a bunkbed, beanbags, TV and an all-important closeable door. Throughout our stay the family room provided a haven for all.

The first day we dumped our stuff and headed into the sunshine on a family bike ride around the resort and Aviemore before crossing the River Spey to Rothiemurchus, where after buying the essentials within the farm shop we decamped for a picnic.

Upon our return to the resort we made use of the lagoon swimming pool with giant flume where we wrung the last bit of energy from our kids.

As part of our package we received dinner plus bed and breakfast and after our swim we were left with a range of choices for our evening meal. Restaurant options include Spey Burger, Giovanni’s Italian Ristorante, Scottish Steakhouse and Costa Coffee.

We chose Spey Burger, situated within our own hotel. The decor is stripped brickwork and distressed wood and the food as good as any you’d find in a high-end burger chain.

Next day we awoke to more blue skies and snow-capped peaks. My wife had the presence of mind the day before to book our two into the childcare centre for the morning, so after dropping them off we found ourselves childless on a sunny day.

To say it’s a childcare centre is to do it a disservice as this is one of the largest supervised play activity centres in Scotland - 1500 square metres featuring nine interconnected play zones. There’s something for kids of all ages from baby toys to soft play to computer games.

Despite the balmy conditions my wife opted for a solo swim, steam and sauna while I headed off on the bike again visiting nearby Kingussie and Newtonmore. Those less bike-minded I’m sure would have made for the Spey Valley championship golf course.

Three hours later we picked up the kids and headed to the resort playground, our ears ringing to tales of new friends met and games played.

After an hour spent in the on-site playground we all headed to the on-site 3D cinema where we watched an unforgettable animated adaptation of Robinson Crusoe.

That night we decided to try Giovanni’s for dinner. Set on the ground floor of the Macdonald Morlich (formerly the Macdonald Aviemore Inn) adjacent to the cinema, the menu boasts a wide range of pizzas and pastas and a decent children’s menu.

The next day was spent walking around the nearby Craigellachie nature reserve which offers woodland trails of silver birch and a peaceful loch before unwinding in the swimming pool.

For our last dinner we headed to the Scottish Steakhouse within the Macdonald Highland Hotel, the decor and setting screamed ‘no kids’ at us but the staff were more than welcoming to us and our by now crabby and tired boys.

Our last day was pottering about Aviemore before returning for a peek through the windows of the on-site Woodland Lodges which sleep up to six people.

Packages currently include three-night weekends, from £559 for a family of four.

Included in the dinner, bed and breakfast deal is a three-hour supervised childcare session per child (0-12yrs) per day in the Aviemore Activity Centre plus free use of the swimming pool and flume.

There are 18 deluxe Highland lodges available which sleep up to six people in three en-suite bedrooms.