Every year Mum and Dad travel to their lodge on the Hilton Hotel Estate for a weeks R & R and this year I decided I would go with them for a few days – just me, me Mum & Dad (lucky parents of mine!). I was a bit apprehensive about leaving everyone and spending a few days away but I needn’t have been, it was blissful!
I travelled up with them and their 2 greyhounds on a cold Saturday morning, outrunning the snow as we went and eventually arriving in a slightly milder Aviemore over 400 miles later at around 6pm. The lodge is delightful and thankfully very warm and we were soon unpacked and enjoying a curry and an evenings TV – no kids, no phone, no laptop. It did seem a bit strange at first and as I heard the weather forecast for the Midlands I did wonder if everyone was OK. Eventually, at 11.30pm I rang son the elder and he sounded elated “we’re out on the field with the dog taking pictures, it’s brilliant” he informed me. He also informed me Bruce was at a gig and may have to sleep the night in his van and that his Dad, who was traveling back from skiing in Europe, had been diverted to Cardiff Airport as Birmingham was closed! I listened to this while looking out of the window on a moonlit but totally snowless night, slightly ironic that I was in Scotland with no snow and they were in the Midlands with snow up to their arm pits. I decided not to call again, with one parent in Scotland, one in Wales and one holed up in a transit van in England it was best I didn’t hear any more.
The following day I woke up at my leisure, showered with no interruptions and read the paper and drank a whole cup of tea. At around 10.30 am my cousin, his wife and their two gorgeous daughters arrived for a big breakfast. They live in Inverness and have visited Mum & Dad on several occasions but I realised I’d last seen them at their wedding 7 years ago. They bought with them all the paraphernalia needed for a day out with an 18 month old and a 4 year old – nappies, bags, change of clothes, pushchair, toys etc. I’d forgotten how much ‘stuff’ is needed for little ones but they are so worth it, both girls were adorable busying themselves with toys and hiding games. Eventually we went for a walk into Aviemore and with prompting and bribery (hot chocolate with all the trimmings) the 4 year old walked all the way there and back, just over 2 miles. She loved holding the dogs on a lead, feeling very important with her new responsibility and needed very little encouragement.
The following day we walked through the forest, frozen in time with gnarled and twisted trees in stark relief against a clear blue sky. There was a kind of magic in the air, as if walking through an enchanted forest but mostly the magic came from walking with my lovely Mum and Dad in one of the most beautiful areas of the UK. We came to a small loch, partly frozen and truly stunning, I’d almost forgotten how liberating it is to be out in the wilds (sort of) and the stresses and strains of everyday life seemed to ebb away. We returned to the Lodge with 2 fully exercised dogs and found hats, scarfs and gloves ready for our trip to the Cairngorm ski slopes, I was just a tad excited about this bit of my brief visit to Aviemore.
I’ve never skied in my life and had no intention of ever doing so (mostly on account of being confused with the Michelin man when wearing the full ski get up). I still have no great desire to ski but when we arrived, by the funicular railway, at the restaurant and ski slopes I did have a moment when I considered getting out there on a pair of skis. This moment passed as I watched the lumberings, awkwardness and stumblings of the beginners on the nursery slopes. Needless to say there is no place I’d rather be than on top of a mountain covered in snow with the sun shining brightly, apparently we were very lucky as it is often misty, wet, cold and windy up there. After some warm soup and a drink in the restaurant we boarded the funicular railway, celebrating its 50th anniversary, and descended the mountain. I found the friendliness and easy manner of all of the staff, from the people in the ticket office to the driver of the train very refreshing. It’s not often you go to a tourist hotspot and find such genuinely friendly staff so well done to all staff that work so hard and still manage to be pleasant.
To finish the day we visited Loch an Eilen as the sun was going down and walked briefly around the shore before making our way home, via Aviemore charity shops for a bit of retail therapy. I bought Dad a couple of very old folding road maps for £1.00 each and a couple of books. A trip to tesco was then inevitable and as Dad and I scratched the numbers off of our winning scratch cards (no such luck) Mum shopped for tea and we all returned back to the warmth of the lodge and another phone, lap top, interruption free evening of TV, reading and a lovely tea.
The following day it was time for me to go home, leaving Mum and Dad to enjoy the rest of their holiday child free (OK so at 44 I’m a bit more than a child but I’ll always be their child). As my Easyjet plane took off from Inverness Airport in a clear blue sky and banked so that I could clearly see Loch Ness and beyond, I felt a little bit emotional – it had been such a special time with my parents and one I will treasure always. Thanks Mum and Dad.