There are several almost legendary child-friendly hotels in Scotland. One is the Crieff Hydro which I took my firstborn to when he was three months old and another is the epic Hilton Coylumbridge in Aviemore. Set in the absolutely stunning Cairngorms National Park (makes me proud to be Scottish) I’d heard tales of Hilton Coylumbridge, I’d seen the happy photos, I’d read the marketing and the magic that is their renowned toddler breaks but was it all true?
CHECK IN & RESTAURANT BOOKING
We rocked up in our family wagon for the 3pm check in like many chirpy families ready for a fun-filled, children-orientated, early rising weekend of ‘quality time’. It was easy and swift to check in, helpful staff and a really convivial lobby/lounge area. Then we were passed to the restaurant reservation desk, which was new to me, but the restaurants are so busy it is essential. With lots of block family bookings and families desiring to dine at roughly the same time it’s best to book your table days before you arrive if you have something special in mind.
We were offered two restaurants, The Bistro which is a la carte, or the Italian buffet dining in The Inverdruie restaurant, and offered dining times of 5.30pm or 8pm. Thankfully the early sitting was perfect for us both evenings.
We’d booked a two bedroom family suite which was ideal. Mr Toddler and Mr Baby shared a room: Mr Toddler got his own bottom bunk and Mr Baby was in a travel cot. Both rooms had televisions and one morning our infants both sat in the travel cot watching Milkshake for half an hour whilst we dozed. No idea how we got away with that one.
The first night we ate in the a la carte bistro – here you put your dinner allowance towards the menu, and obviously if you order more than your allowance you pay for it. The crayfish and bacon starter was spot on. Children under ten ate free off the children’s menu, and all portion sizes are the same whether you’re feeding a ten year old or a ten month old so we received an astronomical amount of food for both children, the upside was we helped finish their desserts.
The second night we dined in the Italian buffet, The Inverdruie. All food was covered by our room rate so we didn’t have to worry about the bill, apart from my prosecco tab. The food was varied enough for all generations – lots of child friendly pastas and meatballs but there was seafood and meat for older children and adults. The dessert table was heaving under treats, and the chocolate fountain was a popular repeat destination. I felt relaxed with the boys as there were lots of families around, but also hikers and skiers without kids so there was a mix. The waiting staff were notably good with the babies, helping us with high chairs and even entertaining and engaging them whilst I dashed up to the buffet for food. It really helped and was appreciated.
Other dining options include the American Diner located within the Fun House, and there’s the Woodshed, a cosy spot with log fires roaring in the winter, decking for the summer months, and an adult only space from 8pm (but tots can do their damnedest till 7.59pm).
If you book a family suite this includes access to leisure facilities including indoor pools, gym and outdoor play park and free kids’ club at the Fun House. We went out for the day to the wonderful Highland Wildlife Park but it was bliss, after traipsing through the snow for hours, to take the babies for a swim back at the hotel to warm up. One tiny detail is that the jacuzzi is part of the pool so there’s no age limit on it as the water temperature is perfectly safe for all – how fab is that? – if you haven’t seen a toddler experiencing a jacuzzi for the first time I suggest you change that if you get the chance. Very amusing, that’s all I can say, and grins from ear to ear, utterly delighted with himself. There’s also a slide for tots but if you’d prefer to swim without small people there’s an adult only session between 5.00-6.30pm every day. I loved the glass that surrounded the pool as we watched the snowflakes drifting down from the warmth of the water – picture postcard material.
If you have a well groomed tot they can hit the spa – baby massage is available up to nine months old, and the Teen Experience is available for 13-17 year olds.
As well as this hotel being remarkably child-friendly and a real destination for multi-generational family gatherings, it’s also on the doorstep of one of the biggest playgrounds in the UK. I think Aviemore is hard to beat for outdoor activities, sports and adventures all year round – if you want to feed reindeer you got it, snowboarding, done, a steam railway, no bother, sailing on a loch, you can do that, finding polar bears, yip, a funicular to the top of a mountain, you can do that too. You cannot get bored in Aviemore. As your tots develop and get older there’s simply a new challenge, adventure or sport waiting for them. We put Mr Toddler on skis for 15 minutes, he’s only two but you’ve got to start somewhere!
We drove from Aberdeen to Aviemore which took just over two hours, Scotrail trains also service the station. There’s no lift in the Hilton Coylumbridge – staff will help with luggage but if you’d prefer a ground floor room be sure to book it.
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