1. The 1700s township at the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore was the filming location for many of the 18th century village scenes, with traditionally-built croft houses and “black houses” on site. You may remember if from Series 1 when Claire joins the tax-collecting visits with the rest of the MacKenzie clan. This open air museum is a fascinating day out with over 30 historical buildings containing period artefacts, from the 1700s to the 1960s.
5. Shinty or camanachd in Gaelic, is only slightly less frantic and brutal in real life than in Episode 4 of series 1, when the MacKenzie men play a ferocious game in the castle grounds! If you would like to see a game whilst staying here, try the clubs at Newtonmore or Kingussie - great local rival clubs and prize-winning teams.
6. Clan History: If Outlander has fired your interest in the history of the clan system in Scotland, you could pay a visit to the Clan MacPherson Museum in Laggan, Newtonmore which has displays and information on the Scottish clans in general as well as its own clan heritage. Try also Grantown Museum and Inverness Museum.
4. Inverness - only a few miles from Culloden - where the Outlander story begins as Claire and Frank take their second honeymoon after the Second World War.
There are so many ways to make your journey to our beautiful part of the Scottish Highlands. How will you reach your Handpicked Lodge this year?
If you prefer to travel a little slower, the Caledonian Sleeper is a wonderful way to arrive direct to the centre of Aviemore. Or take a daytime train to sit back and enjoy the scenery along the way – regular daily trains run north to Inverness and south to Edinburgh and Glasgow (and connecting beyond: Trains to Aviemore).
Regular daily buses stop in the centre of Aviemore on their way north from Edinburgh and Glasgow, and on their way south from Inverness (Citylink and Megabus). For the local bus service around Badenoch and Strathspey, you can find timetables and information on the Stagecoach website.
Having a car will really help you make the most of exploring our wonderful area during your time here. If you are arriving in Aviemore by train or bus, take a look at the great service provided by Aviemore Car and Van Hire. You’ll need your Drivers Licence, proof of address, passport (if non-UK resident), to have been driving for 2 years and aged between 23 and 75 years. They are open 9am to 5pm but for £30 extra they can be available for you outside these times if you’d like your car waiting at the station for your arrival.
If you are driving your own car, the Traffic Scotland website is a good source of up-to-date traffic information, journey times, roadworks, road traffic incidents and weather affecting routes. You can expect to be driving for around 2.5-3 hours from Edinburgh or Glasgow to Aviemore, 2 hours from Aberdeen, 30-40 minutes from Inverness.
All that hard work will be worth it when you reach the luxury of your Handpicked Lodge!
Our newest addition to the HPL portfolio, Trails End Lodge, was named for the mountain bike trails which start and finish at High Burnside, some of which are decidedly daring. If you want to locate some of these trails, try www.trailforks.com - you can also download their really useful app. They’re a bit beyond our technical ability (which is a roundabout way of saying we’re too scared to try them) but our mountain biking friends and family all seem to enjoy them!
For a really gentle cycle with some beautiful scenery, try the Speyside Way out to Boat of Garten from Aviemore. The path runs parallel with the Strathspey Steam Railway so you may get some friendly waves from the carriage windows as the lovely old steam train puffs past. Once you reach Boat, reward yourself with tea and cake or lunch at 1896 Café - or bring your own picnic to eat in the gardens next to the little steam railway station. Once you head back on the return journey, you’ll be rewarded with some utterly stunning views of the mountains.
A longer and more challenging route takes you out to Loch Einich – beware, there are some seriously steep short uphill sections, and some fords of varying depth - but also truly breathtaking views on the way there and back. You’ll most likely have the loch to yourself too. Or how about the Ryvoan Pass or the Burma Road if you want to put in the mileage and the altitude? You really could spend a lifetime exploring the cycle routes which radiate from Aviemore, so grab your bike, a map and a helmet, and start pedalling!
Spending time in the beautiful spacious kitchen of Trails End Lodge, our newest Handpicked Lodge, has put us in a real foodie mood this month. There are so many tasty Scottish foods to try during your stay in the Cairngorms – here are our Top 5:
Fancy a pizza night instead? From Trails End Lodge, it’s only a short walk or drive to get a haggis pizza from local take-out or sit-in pizzeria Pizzariach (they do lots of other lovely toppings too!)
Scotland is famous for the fine quality of its fresh fish, from scallops to salmon and gravlax to langoustines. Aviemore is fortunate to have the fantastic Pro Fish fishmonger right here in the village. A family-run business, the Pro Fish shop sells a good selection of fish, shellfish and crustaceans from Scottish fish ports and smoked fish from local smokehouses, and offers free delivery to many local villages too. Their Luxury Meal for Two pack is a perfect way to create a Scottish seafood feast in your Handpicked Lodge this season.
Other villages in the area are visited weekly by fish vans from the nearby Moray coast, such as Sutherlands of Portsoy, so wherever you are staying, you have a chance to try some local fish.
Whilst we’re simply wallowing in the cold white stuff right now, we know that plenty of you down south are looking on enviously and wishing you could be up here skiing, boarding and playing in it. So we’ve devised two ingenious solutions for all you southern snow-lovers who might think that they don’t have the budget or the spare holiday for a quick snow break. Don’t despair – it’s quicker and easier to get here that you might think…just grab some ski friends and your snow boots!
I’ve only got 2 days annual leave left until the end of March and I really want to ski!
Handpicked Lodges Solution:
4 days skiing for only 2 days off work? Easy – and for under £500 per person including a 4-day lift pass. Here’s how:
Total £492.00 per person including lift passes (Based on four sharing.
We really want to try snowboarding on real snow before our ski holiday – but we don’t want to spend a fortune!
Our solution: 4 night midweek ski break in Aviemore - Under £300 per person for flights, accommodation, lift passes and car hire! Here’s how:
Total £292.04 pp (Based on four sharing).
Note: Prices correct as at Thurs 18 January and may increase – so book fast if you want to grab these brilliant bargains! You can hire skis/boards, boots, poles and helmets if required either at the mountain or in Aviemore itself. Ask us for more information at time of booking.
To bring warmth and character to what could otherwise be quite a cool interior, natural textures such as sheepskin rugs and cosy wool throws have been used everywhere. There are little personal and quirky touches in each room such as this dog lamp base, and moose and stag bottle stoppers in the dining room. In the lounge the shelves are filled with favourite novels and travel books ready for an evening spent curled up in front of the inviting wood burning stove. Cacti and succulent plants bring nature indoors and add the finishing touches to this perfect little lodge.
We promised we would share some of the secrets of our lovely lodge interiors with you, so here is the first blog post in our new series for 2018.
First off - sheepskins and deerhides, which feature in most of our lodges. They bring luxury and character and warmth to any home. If you’re in need of defrosting after a long day on the Cairngorm slopes or out walking, a sheepskin over your favourite cosy chair by the fire is the perfect place to curl up and will warm you back up almost instantly. Add to that the flickering flames and comforting woodsmoke aroma of the fire and you’ll probably be dozing off before you know it!
You can find beautiful sheepskins at the wonderful ww.skyeskyns.co.uk, based on the Isle of Skye.
You may have seen that some of the HPL team ski toured up to the Cairngorm summit just before the official start of the season in late November. Ski touring has become increasingly popular over the last few years and particularly in the Cairngorms you’ll see many skiers walking uphill on skis with synthetic “skins” secured to the bases. Once at the top, you strip the skins off, roll them up and ski down! No lifts required.
Is it difficult to learn?
No! If you are already a competent skier and are relatively fit, it’s very easy to pick up the basic technique. The hardest part is the “kick turn” where you rotate the skis 180 degrees to change direction on steep uphill slopes – but practice makes perfect! Of course if you want to ski outside any patrolled and pisted area you also have to educate and equip yourself with the right skills and equipment such as navigation, weather and avalanche awareness, as well as avalanche and emergency kit, that you’re confident and well drilled in using.
Why not just use the lifts?
Ski touring allows you to access areas of the mountains not served by lifts. After all, CairnGorm itself is not the only great skiing hill round here!
What about the kit?
The beauty of ski touring equipment is that it can be used for regular downhill alpine style skiing too. Any modern all-mountain skis can simply have the alpine bindings replaced with a touring set. You will also need a set of touring ski boots. Of course once you get the touring bug you may want to upgrade to a lighter set of skis and bindings – the lighter the skis, the easier is it to climb, and the further you can tour in any day.
To the great excitement of locals and visitors alike, Nethy Bridge finally has a cafe!
After months of extensive renovation work by its new owners Nethy House cafe opened its doors last week. To find up-to-date information, including opening times see the Nethy House Facebook page.
Located by the bridge on the main road through the village, the cafe is only a short walk or drive from Foresters Lodge, Riverside Lodge and The Old Smithy, our Handpicked Lodges in Nethy Bridge. The cafe is right next door to Balliefurth Farm Shop, our favourite butcher, which sells a fantastic range of butcher meat, poultry and game as well as fresh fruit and vegetables and all sorts of appetising food products.
Friendly, smiley service, simple, clean decor and the glow of the wood-burning stove create the warm and welcoming atmosphere at Nethy House cafe. The food menu includes delicious home-made soups with bread or cheese scones, and a wonderful selection of home-baking: so far we have enjoyed every tasty mouthful of a smooth sweet potato and coconut soup with melt-in-the mouth cheese scone accompaniment; a rich, tangy, sticky ginger and lime cake; and a decadent fruit scone with cream and jam. Yum! The broad drinks menu includes artisan coffee from specialty Highlands-based roasters Glen Lyon, and an array of teas and soft drinks.
The entrance to Nethy House – you can’t miss it by the bridge! Local crafts and photography are also available to buy.