Author Archives: JW Patrick

Harvest Moon Holidays, East Lothian

20140913_192433A deserted beach, fresh air and no screens!

One balmy evening, last September, we stood atop a sand dune on the ‘Forth Riviera’ looking down at a white sandy mile-long beach and saw not one single person. It was hard to believe we were just a thirty minute drive east of Edinburgh. As we admired the stunning views of the Forth estuary and the Bass Rock, the kids bombed down the sand dune on the sledges they’d just borrowed from the ‘glamp site’. Continue reading

Forest Holidays, Argyll

jamesphone-2014-055A luxury lochside retreat on Loch Long

Sitting in a hot tub on the shore of Long Long with a glass of wine while admiring the stunning views of the forest flowing down the mountainside almost into the loch, it was hard to believe we were little more than an hour’s drive from Glasgow. The former campsite on the Ardgartan promontory is now owned by Forest Holidays and in this fantastic location they have built 40 luxurious self-catering log cabins as well as a café and shop. Forest Holidays work in partnership with the Forestry Commission so there is a strong emphasis on creating eco-sensitive holidays. Continue reading

Cornish Pasties vs. Bridies

When my Scottish grandparents spent a weekend in Cornwall they naturally had to sample the local specialty. But when the waitress turned up with the Cornish Pasties my grandfather said, “Ooh, they look like Bridies.”

“They are not!” snapped the angry waitress, “they were made fresh today!”

[Bridies are a Scottish Meat-filled pastry!] and they look a bit like Pasties.

A Canadian Guilt Trip

canada-227Travelling to Canada? Don’t forget to pack your hair shirt and handy travel whip. Because no matter how low-impact you intend your visit to be you’ll still be made to feel guilty. “Take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints” isn’t enough for Canadians who would prefer their signs to read: “Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints and flail yourself in penance for the damage wrought by the footpath you are standing on and the road that brought you here.” Continue reading

Thinking of driving in Italy?

Here are a few helpful pointers to improve your driving experience in Italy:

1. If you are a man, never drive in the slow lane. It is demeaning.

No Italian man willingly remains in the slow lane. Any Italian man forced to drive in the slow lane, such as a truck driver, will keep two of his wheels at all times touching the white line of the fast lane and will veer across the white line at regular intervals, particularly if they think you are about to overtake them. Continue reading

Hilton Coylumbridge, Aviemore

Hilton Coylumbridge, Aviemore

Our Family Opinion

Aviemore has a long-held reputation as a family-friendly destination. My own family used to visit regularly but it has been nearly thirty years since I last stayed at Coylumbridge Hotel. Returning with our own young kids brought back a flood of happy memories. (Though I was a little disappointed to discover that they no longer had one of those original table-top space invader games in the bar).

There’s just something special about Aviemore surrounded by snow-capped mountains that combines a wonderful feeling of getting away from it all while also providing  ample facilities to keep the kids amused.

Coylumbridge Hotel lies just a mile or so outside Aviemore town centre and is absolutely ideal for families with young children. It has two pools, including a toddler pool, a huge soft play (plus games arcade), two mini golf courses, an outdoor play park and an adventure centre where they can provide you with skis and bikes plus mini-quads, trampolining, skating, all weather sledging and a climbing wall.

The hotel also offers a range of supervised evening activities for kids and there are four bar and dining areas where the staff are all incredibly relaxed about toddlers and young ones haring madly about. There is also a spa and a gym if mum or dad subsequently require some quiet time.



The Family Rooms  (2+2) are ideal and are probably the best designed rooms for families we have seen in a hotel. There is a diagonal wall in your room creating a little enclosed bunk bed area for the kids with their own TV on the wall. The kids absolutely loved having their own ‘room’, while mum and dad appreciated  it even more.


Food and Drink

The main dining room, the Inverdrurie Restaurant, offers a family-friendly menu of local produce or a self-serve all-you-can-eat buffet with a selection of classic Italian dishes in the evenings and in the mornings, a Full Scottish breakfast. The evening buffet was actually pretty tasty and the famous Hilton breakfast is excellent. The kids particularly adored the DIY Mr Whippy-style ice cream maker and the waffle maker too.

If you are paying full board (DB&B) you can put your dining allowance towards a meal in the Bistro and pay the difference, if you fancy a sirloin steak and chips, say. Our burgers and chips in the Bistro were superb so we’d probably recommend eating here. Do book ahead though as it’s much smaller than the main dining room.

The Soft Play centre has an American Diner for hot dogs etc. but this closes before six. There is also a sports bar over at the activity centre, the Woodshed Bar, where children aren’t allowed after 8pm.

Family Friendly Ambience and Activities

As the evening activity session didn’t accept under-fives, we sat in the main foyer lounge bar with a pint and all the other parents, while the little kids ganged together,which was really nice. Once the over-fives returned everyone migrated over to the conference room where there was a kids disco one night and a DJ the following night. Our younger child loved the discos and playing in the hotel public areas whilst the older one enjoyed making new friends at the organised evening kids club at the soft play.

Things To Do in Aviemore

Obviously, in winter there is skiing and snowboarding (with a range of available lessons) but the nearby Cairngorm chairlift is well worth a visit in summer time too. The views are breath taking, the kids enjoy the ride and there’s a decent hot choc or Latte waiting at the top.

We also visited the Landmark Forest Adventure Park which is a giant woodland playground. There’s a pleasant treetop walk plus rides such as mini-roller coasters and plenty of slides and climbing frames etc. (It’s probably not a wet-weather day out however).

The nearby Rothiemurchus estate has plenty of action-packed outdoor activities available, including archery, canoeing, fishing, mountain biking and pony trekking. Loch Morlich and Loch Insh have lots of watersports such as sailing and kayaking. Loch Morlich especially, with its long sandy beach is a delightful place just to hang out, picnic and splash about – particularly if you have dogs.

In previous visits to AvieSam and Anna at Santa trainmore we’ve also enjoyed the Strathspey Steam Railway (Santa Express & Teddybear Weekend) and the Cairngorm Deer Centre, both of which we’d recommend. The Highland Wildlife Park, an offshoot of Edinburgh Zoo and new home of Edinburgh’s famous Polar Bear is less than 10 minutes away. There be wolves here too…

In Conclusion

Aviemore makes a great weekend away as there really is just so much to see and do in the area. Even Coylumbridge Hotel itself has enough activities on site to keep the kids entertained for at least a couple of days, particularly if it’s wet out. It has a relaxed and chilled atmosphere, the staff are friendly so it really has to be one of Scotland’s top family destinations. We had a fantastic weekend and can’t recommend it enough.

Do check out their 5 Night Toddler Break Special Offers on selected dates throughout the year , which seem to offer fantastic value.

Taychreggan, Oban

Picture 040Stunning lochside country hotel on the banks of Loch Awe

Perhaps best visited without the kids…..but children are very welcome!

This hotel is a former winner of “Most Romantic Hotel”, Taychreggan Hotel is a stunning haven of peace nestling in its own bay on the shores of glorious Loch Awe. The hotel lies at the end of a seven mile single track lane where you find yourself pausing to give way to fearless Red Deer in no hurry to get where they’re going. Then, as you order your glass of wine and wander down to the hotel’s private jetty or the lovers’ bench out on the promontory – the only sounds you will hear are wildlife and the gentle murmurings of fishermen chatting half a mile away out on the Loch…  So this place is probably best for older kids then, though children are welcome. Continue reading

A Wee Whinge at Calmac

The family drove up to Mull for the bank holiday weekend in late May all the way giving thanks for the invention of the portable DVD player. Calmac’s Oban-Craignure Ferry was briskly efficient though seeing my very pregnant wife begging strangers for a 20p pence to use the Calmac toilets was a little grating. They charge you at both Oban and Fionnphort, the ferry port to Iona as well, which although busy, is hardly Grand Central Station. Ho hum.