Apart from Cuil Bay, one of my very favourite places is Speyside. When I haven’t been there for a while I start pining for the ancient forests (‘scuse the pun), the wild hill-tops, the cake-shops and the reindeer.
It’s a great day-trip from Cuil, about 1.5 hours drive to Kingussie, and this trip we took in the Autumn gives an idea of my perfect day.
Morning: We were up early and out in the Caledonian Pine forests close to Carrbridge by 9am. The kids actually enjoyed the wander, especially when we found a few Chantarelles. They are exactly the same colour as the yellow of fallen birch leaves so we kept dashing off to patches that turned out to be nothing but leaves…
By 10am Landmark was open and the children clamouring to get on the water-slides, ropes courses and mini rollercoaster of this outdoor theme-park . It might have rides, but it also has the educational red-squirrel trail, a steam powered saw mill, horse logging and other things to make it bearable.
I, meanwhile, stayed in the forest for a tramp into the wild centre. Surrounded by Scots pine and cowberries and with shafts of sun beaming through, a female capercaillie flew across my path and a flock of tits twittered through the canopy. Eventually even I had to separate myself from this mesmerising place and head over to be centrifuged on the runaway timber train.
Afternoon: After a picnic on a heathery knoll we dragged the offspring off to Loch an Eilein where I planned a family swim in its icy waters and a brisk forest walk. This was downgraded to a leisurely forest walk once I had stripped down to my swimmers and felt the gale force breeze on exposed skin. We discovered the joys of laying a trail of arrows made of sticks in teams and trying to outfox the other team by laying in wait to pelt them with pine cones.
All too soon it was time to hot-foot it to Inchriach Nursery before closing time to eat awesome quantities of cream cakes and squeeze in with platoons of others to gaze entranced at the hundreds of birds on the feeders right outside the picture window. We saw a greater spotted woodpecker, but no red squirrel this visit.
And the joy wasn’t even over yet! It was 445pm and the sun was still shining when we headed into Inchriach Forest, a National Nature Reserve. The plan was to find Chantarelles and we really did! It was almost a miracle that the kids didn’t get lost the way that they darted off into bits of forest way off the path to seek out clumps of the fragrant fungus. Once we had gathered a little bit more than I felt comfortable with and discovered a hamlet of improvised shelters, we headed back to the car and, in an attempt to suck the very marrow from day, on to swim at Feshiebridge. The joy of deep, cold and very fast flowing water was tempered somewhat by trying to ensure the children didn’t jump in after me.
The final jigsaw piece of the perfect-day plan would h
ave been a gin and tonic on the verandah of the Loch Inch Watersports restaurant as the sun set. However, they were hosting a wedding so, after daughter 1 had a dip it the loch and we had started to become a midgie feast, we headed home, stopping at the Moulin Inn and Brewery at Pitlochry for dinner on the way back to Glasgow.
A Perfect Day.