After the buzz and revelry of the festive season, January can be anticlimactic, which is why it has earned the reputation of being the gloomiest month of the year. However, it needn’t be. This is the perfect time for a trip to the Cairngorms to give your spirits that much-needed boost, with its plethora of unique and quirky places to stay. So, escape the summer crowds, jump on those January offers and come and play in the country that has just been named as one of the best places in the world to visit in 2017 according to Rough Guides, second only to India.
Live Like a Laird, or a Monarch in the Glen
You can’t possibly feel gloomy when you are staying in a place fit for a King and there are plenty of highland locations that will make you feel like royalty. For example, stay in TV’s ‘Glenbogle’ Estate and you can walk in the footsteps as the Monarch of the Glen himself. Real-name Ardverikie offers six holiday cottages on its estate, which boast stunning scenery on their doorstep. Similarly, you can stay a few hundred yards away from the iconic Blair Castle, in one of the lodges on the Blair Atholl estate.
Or, if you want to go the whole hog, you can actually stay in the castle on Glentrium Estate in Newtonmore. The castle, which has eight bedrooms, has all the frills a Laird of the Manor could possibly expect, including a drawing room, smoking room, library, orangery, home-cinema, beauty spa, sauna and gym.
If it’s pure luxury you’re after, then the Cairngorms is full of gorgeous lodges decked out with all the mod cons and indulgences you could want. For example, the uniquely-designed Spey Lodge nestled in Rothiemurchus Forest. Or the Clova Hotel’s luxury lodges perfectly located for walking at the foot of the gorgeous Glen Doll landscape (but only 90 minutes north of Edinburgh). Or, if you wanted to be waited on hand and foot, then you can book into one of the Park’s luxury boutique hotels, like Muckrach Lodge in Dulnain Bridge.
Whichever option you choose, you’ll definitely avoid that dreaded back-to-school post Christmas feeling.
Get Back to Basics in Nature
Following all the present-unwrapping and over-indulgence of Christmas, many of us crave a simpler life, more in touch with nature. There is nowhere better to do that than the utterly unique and award-winning ‘Duck’s Nest’ in Nethybridge.
Aptly named, this 2 person cosy wooden bolthole is perched on the side of a pond so your only neighbours will be the waterfowl. Miles from the din of the city, this spot of tranquility will remind you of the simple pleasures in life, prompted by the nest’s quirky facilities, such as the rain-fed shower, the stargazer window above your bed and the light-by-candle. If there are more of you, the “Lazy Duck” location is also home to an equally quirky ‘hut’ hostel and bothy.
If ecotourism is what you are after then there’s also Ecocamp Glenshee’s glamping 6 pods, available all-year round near Blairgowrie. Unique past times such as Llama treks, spoon carving, felting, wild walks and beaver and stag watching are available on site, as well as fabulous forest trails, rivers, mountains, skiing and the Cateran Trail! To top it all off, the Pods drop off and pick up guests.
Have a Bit of ‘Hygge’
Go with the hype about ‘hygge’ and take a leaf out of the Danes’ book by creating cosy evenings, infront of the roaring fire or log burner. Or wrap up and sit on the decking, under the stars, wearing your favourite woolly jumper and slurping on your favourite hot drink (hot chocolate and marshmallows anyone?). The Cairngorms is the ideal place to do this as it’s spoilt for choice of exquisite wooden chalets.
There’s even Scandinavian inspired holiday lodges in a mini ‘village’ within the Macdonald Resort. Great North Lodges also has a brilliant selection of different sized luxury wooden chalets, many with hots tub, sauna and log stoves. Another perfect Hygge Highland home with a twist is the grass roofed Norwegian log cabin on Glen Tanar estate. It feels authentically Scandi and it is – the wood was shipped over especially in the 1930s!
For a small town, Aviemore is brimming with brilliant beauty specialists that will make sure you feel tip top to bring in the New Year, and completely reinvigorated after a day in the great outdoors, followed by a massage or a facial.
There is Cairngorm Beauty Therapy, situated on a very quiet part of the industrial estate, is ideal for customers who want to make the most of the tranquil surroundings and their indoor 5 person hot tub and infra red sauna. There’s also Vital Beauty and the Retreat, where you can also get your hair cut, and Relax, Rewind and Revive.
Water is also therapeutic and staying in a property that overlooks it is bound to get the relaxed vibes flowing. One of the Cairngorm’s most unique and luxurious cottages is situated directly on the banks of Loch an Eilein, which means residents get to enjoy a stunning view all day and, when the walkers are long gone, they have the entire loch to themselves.
For those brave enough, winter wild swimming is an excellent way to blow away the cobwebs and get the endorphins pumping. Alice Goodridge, of Wilderness Scotland, is one such enthusiast who says:
“In the Cairngorms, we are lucky to have some of the most beautiful lochs and scenery on our doorstep. I love the feeling it gives me,” she says. “I love feeling connected to nature and the fact that my swim will be different every day. I love the post-swim euphoric glow – the happy tingling feeling I get when I start to feel the warmth returning to my skin.”
Holding Your Horse or Hound Close
Like swimming, stroking your pet has proven to be therapeutic, too, and with many holiday lets, dogs are welcome (just let owners know in advance). You can even bring your horse to Mar Lodge, the grandiose former hunting lodge of the Duke of Fyfe. And, with the estate being home to 4 out of 5 of the highest mountains in Britain, there are plenty of stunning tracks to trot around.
Break the Boring Routine
If it’s the hum drum of January that gives you the blues, then mix it up by booking a stay in one of the Cairngorm’s novel holiday properties, which will immediately pull you out of autopilot. In addition to the quirky accommodation that we’ve already mentioned (like the Lazy Duck, for instance) there are a plethora of others. For example, the ‘Secret Bothy’, a revamped Victorian, listed cottage in Killiecrankie. Or how about staying in a hand crafted gypsy caravan in Newtonmore? Or a wigwam in Badaguish? Or a treehouse in Glenshee? Or an old station coach in Cromdale? If you’re game, the Cairngorms has got it!
Don’t Break the Bank
Better still, after the expense of Christmas, a January break won’t break the bank as many lodges and hotels offer special discounts at this time. For example, Great North Lodges is offering discounts on short breaks in January. Similarly, at this time of month you can take advantage of a 10% discount at Glenbeag Mountain Lodges in the Spittal of Glenshee. Many others have off season and late availability rates, so it’s well worth a call to find out. Bear in mind too that many of the lodges, even the most luxurious ones, are really affordable once you split the cost by person, particularly the larger dwellings. Perhaps you didn’t catch up with all your friends or family over the festive season, now is the perfect time to organise a get together!
See all the accommodation on offer in the Cairngorms here: www.visitcairngorms.com/accommodation
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