WITH FUN, FOOD AND FLUMES, SCOTT MULLEN’S FAMILY HOLIDAY TO AVIEMORE PROVES WHY THE HIGHLAND RESORT STILL HAS WHAT IT TAKES
WITH the descent of darkness, the senses are heightened as the silhouette of our destination appears at the end of a meandering track through the deathly silent forest. The still trees don’t move as the car crunches over the gravel path, the hum of the engine eventually subsiding abruptly after a two-hour journey that brings us to home. At least for the next three days.
With just the faint glow of light from inside the lodge offering a remote heat through the glass while we approached outside in the February air, there was little clue of the rural haven cocooned inside. A clunk of the key in the lock and click of the door, and we were transported inside to a picturesque scene illuminated by a blazing log-burning fire at the opposite end of the room. Hissing and crackling away, its warmth provided the perfect peaceful welcome to what would turn out to be three non-stop days.
The scene is set at the Macdonald Aviemore resort, just a couple of hours and 34 “are-we-there-yets” away from the hustle and bustle of west central Scotland. The campus is far more sprawling than initially thought, especially for a young family hesitant about entertaining a three-year-old and a six-month-old at the same time. We needn’t have worried.
Set literally a stone’s throw away from Aviemore town centre – the resort backs on to the handily-placed Tesco on the main road – the complex comprises of three hotels and 18 woodland lodges for accommodation, a huge conference centre, cinema, leisure centre, soft play, kids’ activity centre as well as the usual outdoor pursuits of skiing and trying to chaperone a toddler around an outdoor play park. The latter decidedly trickier than the former.
The Macdonald Aviemore resort is nothing new. It celebrated its 50th year last year, and to mark the occasion £7 million was spent modernising large parts of the resort to keep it thriving in the face of competition of cheap foreign flights and the ever-troublesome task of catering for the younger generation. It is clear even from an initial wander around the site upon arrival that no expense has been spared on some projects, namely the lavish conference centre and arena along with the grand on-site shopping centre adjacent. The nearby Spey Valley resort, golf course and steakhouse are shining examples of that.
Having said that, there was nothing extravagant about our humble abode for our three-night stay. While investment may have been ploughed into some of the site’s hotels – not all were open due to the visit taking place in the offseason – it is fair to comment the lodges are probably best described as rustic. Some TLC would be needed to bring them up to a par with some of the other facilities on site, but a slightly dated feel was balanced out –sort of – by a sense of space and comfort offered within the lodge itself. Three double bedrooms split over two floors shared two en-suite bathrooms, while an open-plan living space was regularly heated with the flickering inferno in the lounge that raised all the way up to the high log ceiling above.
To be fair, this was perhaps the only negative we encountered during our stay, and it’s important to accentuate the many positives of this resort, which does cater for everyone. In our family, it’s probably best to start with the grub. After unpacking on the first night, the Mullen Clan jumped back in the car and made the two-minute drive to the Speyside resort for dinner at the Scottish Steakhouse restaurant. This place is a gem. With a roaring fire in the middle of a dining room spaciously set out under an impressive beamed ceiling, the only thing to top the cosy setting was the food served. The sirloin steak was out of this world, equalled only by the homemade peppercorn sauce which accompanied it. Junior mumbled the kids’ chicken strips were just as tasty as the last one was stuffed into his mouth in a mad flurry before pudding.
Back at the resort, the Aspects restaurant is the main eatery and is the central hub at breakfast. Located in the Highlands Hotel, the usual Scottish buffet and continental breakfasts were found, but the quality and variety was rather something. It was in the same restaurant we returned at night for dinner, and once again couldn’t fault either the service or the food. Again, the experimental and adventurous voice from behind the Peppa Pig magazine at the end of the table assured us the chicken
goujons here were of a similarly high standard. There is also an on-site pizzeria which we were told can deliver to your own lodge, but sadly this was closed at the time of our visit.
After eating ourselves into a coma on the first night, exploring the site was left until the morning. As the darkness lifted, it was easier to appreciate how everything at the resort is within walking distance, and Junior promptly marched us into the activity centre. I cannot stress enough how wonderful this place is. While there is a big soft play just along the corridor – I did my best to sleep off the breakfast in a ball pit with sadly no success – the centre caters for children from babies all the way up to teenagers with various zones, including a sensory room. There’s even a giant TV room with an Xbox … allegedly.
Just next door, we dipped our toe several times into the swimming pool, which again ticks several boxes. As well as a baby section, the sprawling pool has a wave machine and even decent-sized flume which my three-year-old forced me down more than once. This was a regular hit. Activities are ongoing at the Macdonald Aviemore resort all day every day from mask making, welly walks, quizzes for the adults to giant inflatable soft play zones in the conference centre. It was really impossible to do everything in such a short space of time.
With ever-increasing competition, Aviemore continues to do well. While an adventurous retreat, this bustling Highland hub caters for everyone. If you needed to venture out of the complex and on to Grampian Road, a host of shops, eateries and bars could keep you entertained. Special mention for La Taverna Italian buffet on the outskirts of town. Aviemore has plenty to offer.
The Macdonald Aviemore resort just reinforces that. That point was highlighted with the juxtaposition of our arrival and departure. One in sleepy silence, the other screaming to come back.
Scott Mullen and his family were guests of Macdonald Aviemore resort for three nights. The resort’s spring campaign offers up to 30% off best available rate from 30th March – 30th June inclusive. For more information visit www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk/our-hotels/macdonald-aciemore-resort
A Highland lodge at the Macdonald Aviemore resort