So, for my 40th birthday weekend we got together with a few old pals and headed North. Quite often the wee group of weegie snowboarders and general outdoor enthusiasts that I belong to head towards Aviemore, but don't really love Aviemore itself. Normally we get a cottage or something in Boat of Garten, Carrbridge, Nethybridge... smaller places near to Aviemore.
This time I wanted something bigger than those wee villages but definitely not Aviemore. Fortunately for me a mate had heard of the Craggan's outdoor centre in Grantown on Spey. I'd been through Grantown a few times and liked the look of it, so called them up. Big Keith couldn't have been more helpful as I hummed and hawed about numbers and activities.
We went up on Friday night. With my wife by now pregnant, we stayed in the An Cala guesthouse in Grantown, where Val and Keith have deservedly earned their 5 stars from the Scottish Tourist board. With most of the gang having headed up on Friday, we had a cracking meal at the Garth hotel on a beautiful summers evening.
On Saturday, we hired some bikes from the outdoor centre and set off on a wee ride down to Boat of Garten. Unfortunately, Nicola managed to turn what should have been a tricky wee manouvere through a stream into a full blown plummet into a ravine... Always wear your helmet's kids! Nasty cut to the face and a couple of black eyes, meant she had to trek out to Aviemore for a clean up and tetanus check... But you don't knock a Glasgow girl so easily and she was back in the afternoon for glass or two of celebratory fizz!
The rest of us then spent Saturday afternoon larking about on the pond, learning the basics of kayaking and playing some great games in the pond, before finally learning how to enter the water from the slide.
Saturday night was mainly spent up at the Bothy. Just a few kms into the hills from the outdoor centre, the bothy is right beside a bigger bunkhouse, where a stag party of 27 guys were supposed to be staying. The guys were in terrific humour, but they headed out into the wilds of Grantown whilst we built a bonfire and sat about enjoying the simple pleasure of good craic with old friends and enough beer to float a battleship.
On Sunday, Finlay and I headed down to Carrbridge for 9 terrible holes of golf on a cracking wee course, whilst the rest of the gang drank coffee and read papers in the glorious June sunshine of the Scottish Highlands - what a waste of a morning!