Each year, around my birthday, P and I take a trip up to Aviemore for the weekend. Aviemore is a small Scottish town in the highlands, in the Cairngorms National Park. Usually, the plan is to go up Cairngorm for some snowboarding. I should point out that snowboarding on Scottish mountains is not like snowboarding in the Alps, for example. On Scottish mountains there is Weather. You will not get a tan. On the other hand, it is usually amazing fun.
Last year we gave the snowboarding a miss. We were both a bit skint and nearly at the end of our PhD stipends. So we had a nice wintery walk in the snow instead and just enjoyed relaxing. This year, when we booked at the beginning of January, we were very, very keen to slide down a hill on a plank.
That Scottish weather I mentioned, ever unpredictable, had other plans. As the date came closer it became more and more obvious that snowboarding was unlikely to happen. On occasion, we’ve had trouble getting up the mountain before, but usually due to high winds. This time there was simply no snow. When we packed out bags on Thursday night to head out on Friday, we didn’t bother to pack snowboarding gear – it’s too big and bulky to be worth it if there’s no chance you’ll use it.
One backup plan was to go out in search of reindeer, as Aviemore also has a reindeer centre. Sadly, this was closed. Sometimes you just can’t get a break. We gave up and decided we’d just go and have a nice, restful weekend. Sometimes, just getting away can be lovely.
We arrived late on Friday night, got cosy, built a fire and shared a bottle of wine. We’d brought a couple of films to watch and fell asleep to one of them. On Saturday morning we woke up and decided to take a long walk out to Loch an Eilein, just South of Aviemore. The name means “loch of the island” and there’s a castle in the middle that was said to have belonged to someone called the Wolf of Badenoch (aka Alexander Stewart). This is part of a longer route that P regularly cycles with his siblings in the summer. It’s all very beautiful.
We walked back towards Aviemore via The Woodshed Bar, a pub that lives on the Hilton Coylumbridge estate and boasts a roaring open fire and what they claim to be the best nachos this side of Mexico. Well, we were hungry, so we ordered some with a couple of local beers. I don’t know about the best nachos, but they certainly did the job.
As we walked back into town we stopped at The Old Bridge Inn. This has long been my favourite place to eat in Aviemore and we’d planned to book a table for real food that evening (last year we’d been disappointed as they’d had to close due to flooding). Continuing our spate of naff luck we were told they were full. We quickly made other plans, deciding to order take away from Royal Tandoori instead and to revisit The Bridge for Sunday lunch the next day.
Fortunately, their Sunday lunch was incredible and we had just enough time to sit back and enjoy it before it was time to pack up and get ready to head home. A lack of snow and reindeer was a little disappointing but it certainly didn’t ruin the weekend – we’ll just have to hope for better luck next year.