Saturday, July 5, 2014

Weekend Trips in the UK #2 - Aviemore, Scotland

Scenic views in Aviemore, Scotland. Source
Peaceful trekking in the Highlands

I have always been fascinated with Scotland, particularly the Highlands. Thinking about it now, I can't recall if I became enamoured with this magical place studying UK history as a young boy or after watching Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery swinging swords in 'Highlander' for the first time all those years ago. Whatever the case, travelling to Scotland to witness the beauty of the Highlands became a dream for me early on in my life.

As teachers, we all feel the need to detox and relax after frantic days in school, especially near the end of the academic year. A trip to the Highlands is certainly one of the best ways to recharge your energy and spirits. When I got the opportunity to teach in the UK not long ago, I seized my chance almost immediately and made the long journey north, several times.

The journey itself to any location in the UK is always a joy. Whether you choose to rent a car, take a tour bus or fly, each method of transport is unique. When travelling to Scotland, however, I insist you take a train. There is just something about a peaceful, coasting train ride through the English countryside, followed by a plodding climb up the fields and hills of Scotland.

My senses were certainly stimulated that early summer weekend on the train from Paddington. It is particularly fascinating when you pass the border of England and Scotland. There was no wall of Hadrian proportions barring potential invaders - rather a modest looking fence, much like a farmer's boundary, separating the two countries.

Aviemore itself is a town and tourist resort that can be found in the Cairngorms National Park in the Highlands. The town itself is known for its ski resort - Britain's most visited during the winter months. However, what drew me to the place was the prospect of hillwalking in the Cairngorm Mountains. The railway station at Aviemore offers a particularly majestic view of the Cairngorms. There are plenty of things to see, and Aviemore - with its surrounding ancient forests, lochs and rivers - is one of the finer spots in the whole of the UK, summer or winter.

In terms of accommodation, The Cairngorm Hotel is right in the middle of town. And after a day of exploring the peaceful surroundings, there is no better way to wind down the evening than sitting with your friends by the open window and sipping on a "Sheepshaggers Gold" or "Tradewinds." The days do tend to go by quietly, but there are pubs and nightspots within the town itself if you fancy that as well.

Dell Lodge Source
For those seeking more of the "good life," there are holiday cottages in Aviemore you could only imagine in your dreams. Quaint, pretty, splendidly serene. One option is the Dell Lodge in Aviemore, a Georgian country house by an ancient Caledonian forest in the Cairngorms. It is run by a couple who organise several interesting activities and workshops, from yoga to bread-making and even playing the ukelele. They offer a weekend package for those who are interested. I think it's a spectacular idea for a relaxing weekend. Alexandra Topping, from the Guardian, wrote a great piece on this very location, detailing the experiences she had on a weekend at the Dell. Reading by the fireplace in the winters, or biking nearby in the summer, accentuated by plenty of food, drink and good cheer, the "good life" is surely a lovely prospect to consider.

For me, this part of Scotland is summed up best by Alexandra after she had just spent a few hours mountain biking through the forest: "The key is that the activities draw you into the surroundings, engage you over dinner, and stimulate mind and body...'I think people are starting to realise that checking your phone all the time doesn't make you feel great,' says Louise. 'This,' she adds, spraying through mud, 'makes you feel great.' "

Aviemore, another jewel of the United Kingdom.

Vital Links:

A 'Good Life' at the Dell Lodge in Aviemore - the Guardian article

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