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Highlands

A holiday in Scotland may not be classified as ‘a holiday abroad’ – but despite having an English speaking population it’s definitely a ‘different country’! Everyone seems to claim that in the ‘seasonal sense’ Scotland’s climate is a couple of months behind England’s.



This it seems would certainly apply to The Highlands of Scotland where the mountains – particularly the Cairngorm plateau – can claim to be the highest peaks in Britain. And, of course, it’s also the most northernmost point in the whole of Britain. I had always wanted to visit Scotland, and when we finally set forth on a family holiday there by car, I was filled with pleasurable anticipation. We were heading for the Scottish Highlands. It was April and our holiday destination was to be ‘Aviemore’ – where we had reserved a self catering apartment in this ‘sporting holiday complex’.

With William Wordsworth’s famous poetry line ringing in my ears, ‘Oh to be in England now that April’s here’, we left the confines of London where Spring had already sprung, and looked forward to the prospect of breathing the fresh Spring air of Scotland. Although right up until the ultimate precincts of Scotland, the journey involved travelling on the motorway, it did seem to be a ‘very long haul’, and, as we had previously planned, we stopped off for a night’s stay en route at Golders Green.

As we drove across Scotland the next day we paused briefly beside Loch Lomond, and gazed out at the beautiful blue translucent stretch of water than glinted serenely beneath the rays of the sun. It was indeed a sight to remember!

Then we continued on our journey, but somewhat to our surprise, found ourselves driving along the teeming streets of Glasgow! My husband had taken a ‘wrong turning’ somewhere along the route, and it took us some considerable time to extricate our vehicle from the unceasing traffic throng! But, finally, we ‘made it’ – and at least we could now claim to have visited the city of Glasgow! As we travelled northwards the scenery became more and more spectacular – with soaring snow capped mountains seemingly lining our route. It also grew progressively colder by the minute……

We even had to turn on the car’s radiator – normally an unthinkable procedure during the month of April….. We seemed to be the only motorists travelling along the route. And this sense of total isolation was a wonderful experience. Then, without any warning, the car stalled, and its engine ‘petered out’! And it refused to be re-ignited! We found ourselves ‘all, all alone’ – isolated within the grip of the massive mountain range…..

There wasn’t a building in sight – nor was there another motorist who could have come to our aid. We fought off our mounting waves of panic! Perhaps the car had become temporarily over heated? We waited a few minutes in tense silence. And the interior of the car grew colder and colder – as did we! Then, with bated breath, we all watched as the car’s ignition was again turned on! And it worked! The car sprang into life, and we moved forward once again. But we made no attempt to turn on the radiator. It was definitely preferable to be cold and mobile – than freeze to death in a stationary vehicle……

It was already dark by the time we finally reached our Aviemore resort. But we had stopped en-route at a ‘chippies’ shop and bought some ‘fish and chips’ – which we ate in the car, and which proved to be the ‘best fish and chips’ we’d ever tasted in our lives! (My husband however tested his ‘taste buds’ by buying a portion of Scotland’s celebrated haggis – which we later learnt is purported to be ‘rich sausage meat made from spiced liver, offal, oatmeal and onion and cooked inside a bag made from a sheep’s stomach’.)

Our self catering apartment at the Aviemore resort appeared to be very pleasing. Located on the first floor, and equipped with central heating, it consisted of a fully equipped kitchen, a bathroom – and a bedroom! We had assumed that it would be a three bedroom apartment, but no, there was only one bedroom!

However, it was a huge bedroom, and had four beds – all widely spaced apart. It was certainly more spacious than a caravan, and being equipped with central heating, it was also a warm bedroom. Aviemore certainly seemed to be a lively location, with a surfeit of bars, seemingly within close proximity to the ‘accommodation area’. But it was not until the following morning that we fully appreciated all the sporting facilities that were on offer. There was a huge indoor swimming pool, and an equally large ice skating rink, and access to a ski-slope.

Furthermore, there were bars, cafes and restaurants that catered for every need. And there was an ‘on site supermarket’ as well. In fact, we could have remained at the resort and not moved out of its precincts for the duration of our stay! We certainly made full use of both the swimming pool and the ice skating rink on a daily basis, but we did venture forth on a couple of sightseeing expeditions. While it was still April in reality, here in the Highlands of Scotland it had reverted to February – if not January - ‘weather-wise’, and it was very cold. But the air was fresh. And one night we even had a snow storm – and woke up to a white world!

In the course of our week’s stay we drove across to the famed ‘Loch Ness’. The loch itself proved to be a spectacular sight, lying as it did beneath a rugged mountain range. There was no sun in the sky on that particular day and the water looked dark, and almost vaguely menacing! But no ‘Loch Ness Monster’ made any sudden appearance! There was just a vast expanse of still water backed by towering mountainous terrain.

However, it was definitely an interesting sight to behold, and we were glad we had made the effort to come and view it. Our other sightseeing excursion was to Culloden – the barren moorland where the horrendous ‘Battle of Culloden’ had taken place in April 1746. As many as 1,500 Scottish Highlanders had been slaughtered by the English in this particular battle, which has been described as ‘a turning point in the history of the Scottish nation’.

The English forces had been led by The Duke of Cumberland. And near the former battle site stands a stone known as ‘Cumberland Stone’ – where it is claimed the Duke of Cumberland sat as he watched the carnage that was taking place. The scene was a sorrowful reminder of a particularly horrendous episode from the past – and we all left the site in a singularly sober mood.

The Aviemore complex, however, was definitely a ‘fun resort’, and we all thoroughly enjoyed our stay there. A holiday in Scotland is something that everyone should aim to undertake, for there is so much that can be combined the course of a stay in the country. And I made a resolve that I would return to Scotland one day – and select Edinburgh as a holiday resort next time…

Roberta Crookes has worked as a newspaper journalist throughout most of her life, writing news stories, editorial features, advertisement supplements, and reviews. And in the course of her work she has interviewed many famous people from all walks of life. She has also managed to combine parallel careers in both journalism and acting, and, being Welsh speaking from North Wales, her main television featured parts have been Welsh language roles with BBC Wales.