AT LAST, the snow resorts of Scotland are reaping the rewards of the winter season, with the north-west of Cairngorms National Park benefitting from the ever-bustling Highland town of Aviemore.
The area comes alive in snowy season for skiers, boarders and climbers alike, but there are also the more sedate delights of Boat of Garten and Grantown-on-Spey to the north, offering a Disneyfied experience among eagles, ospreys and capercaillie. When the snow isn’t so forthcoming, it is a playground for hikers, cyclists and watersports fanatics. With enough kit in your boot to keep North Face afloat, lodge living is a great option if there’s a crowd. Red Squirrel Lodge’s owners also run Aviemore School of Snow Sports so you are in expert hands for planning lessons and adventures around your accommodation. n
WINING AND DINING? If you’re not cooking up a feast in the well-equipped lodge kitchen there are plentiful food options in the area. Less than ten minutes by car from Aviemore and 20 from Grantown-on-Spey, your culinary choices are dependent on your budget. You could opt for the AA Rosette Culdearn House in Grantown-on-Spey (www.culdearn.com) or be equally at home at the ever-popular Cafe Mambo on Aviemore’s high street, which prides itself in its relaxed approach to burgers and beats as the weekend crowd moves in. Special mention has to go to the much-loved Mountain Cafe in the town too, which serves up the most eye-boggling selection of delicious home bakes and produce this side of Mary Berry’s apron strings.
ROOM SERVICE? The views to the snow-capped peaks of the Cairngorms are breathtaking. All bedrooms have ensuite facilities, Sky TV and free wifi. Given how many layers a weekend in the snow requires, there’s plenty of cupboard space as well as a dressing table and armchair on which to spread out and make yourself at home.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR? A world of outdoor adventure is on your doorstep, arguably the best that Scotland has to offer, whether it’s the wildlife of the Highland forests, rivers and lochs, or going wild for the snow sports available at Cairngorm (www.aviemoreskischool.co.uk offers full equipment hire, four hours’ instruction and full area lift pass for £79 per adult; www.cairngormmountain.org).
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE? Lodge life is not just for the country club set if you can gather a large enough group of consenting adults. Available at £999 per week for eight people, this lodge is easy on the budget, but with the benefit of sumptuous decor and facilities that make an adventurous break much more practical and comfortable than a hotel.
LITTLE EXTRAS? With a hop, skip and a carefully-judged jump, you can be thawing out in the lodge’s deceptively large outdoor hot tub within a few seconds of derobing from your salopettes at the front door. With the Strathspey Steam Railway line (which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year) passing directly by the bottom of the garden, you can join in the steam theme from the comfort of your verandah. Just watch out for the trainspotters’ binoculars. A children’s fishing lochan is also available within the lodge grounds.
GUESTBOOK COMMENTS? The attention to comfort in snowy surrounds is second to none, with a log-burning fire in the lounge, a drying room, an endless supply of DVDs, as well as a barbecue and the aforementioned hot tub on the veranda.
01479 812266, www.greatnorthlodges.co.uk/redsquirrel.htm