We were trying not to be mesmerised by the falling snow as we drove over the Drumochter Pass on the A9 heading north. My three-year-old son Reuben was astonished by the white-out. To be fair, it was breathtakingly beautiful – even to an old cynic like me.
Budget or boutique?
The Macdonald Resort Aviemore is a collection of four hotels (three of which are 4-star), 18 luxury woodland lodges, the Macdonald Spey Valley Championship Golf Course, a conference centre and a plethora of on-site activities catering for all ages and tastes. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the resort has recently had a £7 million upgrade. It is too enormous to be boutique and too luxurious to be budget.
Wining and dining
There are lots of options but we chose the Scottish Steakhouse in the Highlands Hotel. Although the most upmarket option in the resort, it is family friendly and our one-year-old daughter and her brother put that to the test. The waiting staff were helpful and attentive and politely ignored the food being tossed over the side of the high chair.
For starter I had the Stornoway black pudding scotch egg with pickled veg and mustard mayonnaise: crispy on the outside, gooey in the middle and scrumptious. My wife raved about her chicken lollipops with bourbon barbecue sauce.
For main I had succulent skewered tiger prawns served with avocado and mango salsa and wasabi mayo with sides of hand-cut chips and onion rings. My only regret was that I didn’t order an accompanying sauce. My wife opted for a medium cooked sirloin steak with peppercorn sauce which she wolfed down with glee while the kids shared a hearty bowl of lentil soup and some chicken strips.
My wife’s sweet tooth got the better of her and she ordered the dark chocolate brownie with morello cherries, salted caramel crémeux and Arran Dairies ice cream to take back to the lodge. Needless to say it was all gone by the time we walked there.
Other options for dining out included Spey Burger family diner and Giovanni’s Ristorante Italian bistro.
We stayed in one of the lodges and it certainly had the wow factor. Although the décor was plain and uninspiring, the vaulted wooden ceilings and glass facade were fabulous and the two en-suite bedrooms were spacious and comfortable. It had an open plan living space comprising a small kitchen area with basic facilities, a lounge with big leather sofas and a dining area. The lodges are set within the ancient Caledonian pine forest and give the place tranquillity and a lovely aroma.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hot breakfast buffet’s range of produce was of exceptional quality and cooked to perfection, with an egg chef to prepare exactly the variety you want.
Once breakfast was over, deciding what to do was our biggest challenge. With a swimming pool complex, three-storey soft play maze, children’s activity centre, kids club, 3D 4K cinema, brilliant adventure play park, designer/artisan shopping centre plus lots of seasonal activities, we were spoilt for choice. Sadly the snow didn’t settle so hitting the slopes wasn’t an option but there was grass sledging on site, as much of an adrenaline-fuelled giggle as the traditional version.
For those with more mature tastes in recreation, there is the golf course designed by former Ryder Cup player Dave Thomas, featuring the longest hole in Scotland at 635 yards, or the pool, sauna and steam room. After the day’s exertions, head to the Laggan whisky bar for drams and cocktails or the Spey Valley sports bar for the big match on Sky Sports 3D.
On arrival Reuben was given multicoloured finger torches to help us find our way to our lodge in the dark. These kept him entertained all through our holiday and are still going strong. Our lodge had free wi-fi with great connectivity.
We were sad to leave this resort where we had so much family fun in idyllic surroundings.
Macdonald Aviemore Resort, Aviemore, Inverness-shire PH22 1PN (0344 879 9152, www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk). From £199 per night for lodges which sleep up to six people; additional travel cots can be requested