Sonja, Cormac and Katie came to visit Fraoch Lodge Dec 2012 to early New Year 2013. Cormac was booked on our Hogmanay Winter Skills trip as a treat for his significant birthday; which left Sonja and Katie to fill the week with their own activities. They managed to keep themselves very well occupied for the week. Katie even tried to roll her own pasta one evening. She was very pleased – so much more to report back to her friends than she expected.
Sonja kindly agreed to write up their adventures here:
Cormac’s big birthday was fast approaching and I had no clue what I was going to do. He is an avid hillwalker and mountaineer so I felt something in Scotland might be a good plan. We spend quite a bit of time in the Glencoe area so I wanted to try somewhere new. The Cairngorm National Park seemed the obvious choice. I had spotted Fraoch Lodge in my surfing ‘the net’ travels and the idea of Winter skills courses mixed with freshly made homemade bread appealed to me straight away. Having expressed an interest via the website Andy (one of the proprietors) responded to me straight away and answered all my queries and came back with a rather excellent price for two adults and a child for a weeks stay with a course included.
That was Cormac looked after, he would be out yomping around the Cairngorms for the week, digging snow-holes and cutting steps and other suitable mountainy type stuff, but what to do with a nine year old adventuresome type girl? We decided a spot of snowboarding would be just the ticket.
We set off for Scotland early on the 27thof December and caught a ferry from Belfast to Stranraer. Our drive whilst scenic was uneventful and we had no issue finding Aviemore or indeed Boat of Garten and subsequently Fraoch Lodge – it was exactly where Rebecca (the other half of the dynamic duo) said it would be. Upon arrival we were greeted by wee Gregor, a roaring fire and tea and cake – very, very welcome after a 12 hour journey in the car. The cake proved to be delicious – a trend which never deviated – each afternoon we would enjoy a variety of cakes in front of the fire. This quickly became my favourite part of the day. Soon the rest of the Hogmanay group had arrived and we all met in the dining room for a hearty two-course dinner with our hosts. Plans were made for the next day and most of us retired to bed or the cosy warmth of the sitting room. Our rooms were great, clean and comfortable and warm, which looking out on the snowy green beyond our room just added to our sense of being in a home from home.
The next morning dawned bright and clear, Katy (the adventurous nine year old) and I, set out for Aviemore to the local tourist office to find out what was available to us in the area as snowboarding was impossible that day, due to the gusting winds up at the piste. We met a really delightful man in the tourist office who was courtesy and friendliness itself. He gave us a number of pamphlets and outlined so many things that were on offer in the area. We booked tickets for the wildlife park the next day and set off for Fraoch Lodge (lets call it ‘home’ from here on in!). That day followed its usual pattern of delicious cake, hearty grub and interesting and fun conversation with the many characters on the Winter Skills course. The next day, packed lunch in hand, we set off to The Highland Wildlife Park. Such an array of exotic animals we have n’er seen before from Polar Bears to Bactrian Camels and everything in between. The park is a wonderful day out with so much to see and great talks at feeding time, Katy thoroughly enjoyed herself and we had no trouble whiling away an entire day there.
The next day the winds continued to stymie our snowy plans so we headed up to The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre. I think this was one of Katy’s favourite activities. We went out to the little paddock set off to the side of the centre and saw a number of reindeer but the real treat was to come. We followed the staff up in convoy to a carpark someways up the mountain. We hopped out and were given a brief talk (it was chilly) about the plan and off we set. Down a winding trail to a beautiful river, across the wooden bridge and up the other side leading us into the foothills of the Cairngorms. Soon we were surrounded by a herd of 200 reindeer all looking for attention and of course the food pellets that they knew we had. It was a wonder to see these majestic creatures up so close, particularly after the long hard Christmas they had just had – they seemed to be enjoying their well deserved break from their North Pole duties! That evening I was really touched to see that Rebecca had gone to a lot of trouble for Cormac’s birthday, preparing his favourite chocolate biscuit cake (with candles) for cake o’clock and putting up birthday banners in the dining room.
The next day, still unable to snowboard, we hit Aviemore and treated ourselves to big steamy cups of hot chocolate and a spot of sledding in the town. We had planned to go dog sledding the next day so we relished the idea of a relatively easy day spent at home in front of the fire. The next day after another wonderful bowl of porridge and a cooked breakfast we set off for The Cairngorm Dog Sled Centre. This again was easily one of Katy’s favourite experiences. After a long talk by the owner of the centre who is a real character and very passionate about his dogs we set out on a motorized vehicle that was ‘pulled’ by a team of sled dogs. It was exhilarating and we loved every minute of this activity. We spotted a huge stag watching us, as we flew past him with the dogs running as though their lives depended upon it. My only advice for anyone planning on partaking in this activity, bring a lot of very warm clothes. That night, after a feed of Haggis, tatties and neeps, we set out for the local Ceilidh, with the rest of the guests from the Lodge, and had a really wonderful night of dancing. Katy came with us and managed to ‘Auld Lang Syne’ her way into the New Year but we retired home moments after the clock struck twelve as she was all danced out.
On our last day Katy was feeling a little under the weather so she, wee Gregor and I had a duvet day. We spent the day lazing in front of the fire wrapped up in sleeping bags, drinking hot chocolate and eating cake. A perfect ending to a wonderful week in the Cairngorms. I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that I will return to Fraoch Lodge to spend more time in that lovely part of the world because we barely touched the surface with regard to what can be done in the area. We still haven’t snowboarded there so that will need to be experienced. In fact I plan on doing the snow-holing weekend with the expert himself, Mr Bateman and the Winter Skills is also on my wishlist. Can’t wait!