THERE’S plenty to do in the Cairngorms, even when the weather thwarts plans to go skiing.
Taking up skiing was our family’s plan to ensure that we don’t go into hibernation over the long Scottish winter. Having previously visited CairnGorm Mountain, we decided that returning somewhere familiar for our maiden expedition would be a wise move. The Boat Hotel in nearby Boat of Garten offer tailored ski packages and is so family-friendly that kids stay free.
I imagined it would be a simple equation: CairnGorm + winter = ski season, but unfortunately I got my maths wrong. Despite clear blue skies the conditions were against us. Undaunted, we set out to discover what else the area has to offer families.
On our way back to Aviemore we stopped at the beach. Wrapped in several layers of thermals we enjoyed the tranquillity of the deserted sandy shores of Loch Morlich. A walk up to the Glenmore Forest Park Visitor Centre gave us the pleasant surprise of watching a red squirrel enjoying its breakfast.
Other places of interest on the road back to Aviemore include the Reindeer Centre, the Cairngorm Sleddog Centre and the Rothiemurchus Estate, on which quad biking seems to be a popular activity in muddy weather.
Back in Aviemore the main street offers plenty of shopping opportunities for outdoor types and several options for refreshment pit stops – on a recommendation we visited the Mountain Cafe, which has an incredible selection of tasty home baking.
The Macdonald Aviemore Mountain Resort is a collection of different types of accommodation, with a swimming pool, shop, restaurants, 3D cinema and soft play area, which are also open to non-residents. We took advantage of an offer for swimming, a two-course lunch and unlimited soft play at £42 for a family of four.
Closer to the hotel in Carrbridge is the Landmark Forest Adventure Park. Once again we’re scuppered by the weather as the outdoor attractions are off-limits on the day of our visit, however, the Bamboozeleum is an indoor attraction and was open for some mind-bending fun. Highlights were the Morph-me machine which transforms your face into different sexes, ages and even into a chimp, and the thermal camera, which instantly finds your hot spots.
There are several walking routes in the Cairngorms National Park and we ventured out into the cold knowing a warm welcome awaited us back at the hotel. Delicious meals to refuel and comfortable beds to collapse into made for a blissful break.
• The Boat Hotel, Boat of Garten, near Aviemore, Inverness-shire, PH24 3BH. Tel: 01479 831258, www.boathotel.co.uk; family rooms from £99 B&B per night. Landmark Forest Adventure Park, Carrbridge, Inverness-shire, PH23 3AJ. Tel: 0800 7313446/01479 841613, www.landmarkpark.co.uk