We recently visited the Cairngorms National Park for a dog friendly, self catering break on the Rothiemurchus Estate with Hidden Highland Retreats.
Hidden Highland Retreats: Rothiemurchus
Hidden Highland Retreats are six unique, individually decorated self-catering properties located on the Rothiemurchus Estate. Sleeping from two to six guests (plus four-legged friends) they’re surrounded by nature and beautiful Highland scenery – making them the perfect place to embrace the great outdoors, or perfect the art of doing very little.
The Rothiemurchus Estate: Cairngorms National Park
The Rothiemurchus Estate has been in the hands of the Grant family since the 16th century. It consists of acres of ancient Caledonian pine forest, loch, river, moorland and mountain. The estate’s ethos is to cherish the land, protecting and conserving it for generations to come. And when it comes to food – their philosophy is zero food miles – from field to fork. The Rothiemurchus Estate is my kind of place.
There’s lots to see and do on the estate too, besides enjoying the beautiful scenery. You can go on a Hairy Coo (highland cow) safari, have a treetop adventure, clay pigeon shooting, axe throwing, archery, pony trekking, yoga, cycling and more. Boredom is not an option on the Rothiemurchus Estate.
Read on to find out how we spent our time on the estate, during our stay at Achanahatnich House – The largest of Hidden Highland Retreats self-catering properties.
Day One in the Cairngorms National Park
I make no secret of the fact that the Cairngorms National Park is one of my favourite places in Scotland, so it’s always good when an opportunity to spend time there arises. Keen, to prolong this visit as much as possible, we left Edinburgh early to travel north, so we could fit in a scenic walk before lunch.
Walk – Feshie Woodland & Frank Bruce Sculpture Trails
We started our Cairngorms adventure at Feshiebridge, with two short walks – one new to us, and the other an old favourite.
There are three short trails at Feshiebridge, we’ve done two of them before the River Feshie Trail (1 1/4 miles) and the Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail (1 mile, wheelchair accessible). The third is the Feshie Woodland Trail (1 3/4 miles) – we started with that one, since we hadn’t done it before.
We set off, following the course of the River Feshie and soon reached a lovely old stone bridge spanning the river, we continued to follow the course of the river, stopping briefly to watch a large buzzard circling overhead.
After a while, the path turned away from the riverbank and climbed uphill, into some lush, green pinewood. We spotted several ant hills by the side of the path. They were a hive of activity. I find ants fascinating, and can never resist watching them at work.
After completing Feshie Woodland Trail, we decided to explore the Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail too.
Frank Bruce was a self-taught sculptor from Aberdeenshire, who lived in the Cairngorms National Park. He loved the natural world and worked with fallen timber found locally.
The Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail opened at Feshiebridge in 2007 – Bruce died two years later. He wanted his work to follow the cycle of life, and for his wooden sculptures to return to the earth they’d once sprung from as saplings. No two visits to the trail are ever the same, and with each passing visit, the sculptures are succumbing more and more to the elements – just as the artist intended.
Lunch – The Barn at Rothiemurchus
After our morning ramble, we were ready for lunch. When we find ourselves in the vicinity of Rothiemurchus, there’s only one place we’re heading for lunch and that’s The Barn at Rothiemurchus – the estate’s dog-friendly cafe.
The Barn is a favourite lunch spot of ours. The food is simple, unpretentious and consistently good. They have a doggy menu too, so it’s no wonder the boy enjoys visiting as much as we do.
He had a lollipop from the doggy menu during this visit, while Mr G and I had delicious homemade soup, scones and coffee.
Walk – Cairn Gorm
After lunch, we headed to the viewpoint at Coire na Ciste, beneath the Cairngorm Mountain car park. From there, we followed a trail, over a small burn and onto the lower, heather-covered lower slopes of Cairngorm – the most famous mountain in the national park.
We were delighted to be surrounded by mountain scenery again. While we enjoyed the sound of silence, the boy waded into a bog, turning his wee white feet into muddy trotters.
We walked for thirty minutes or so, before turning to retrace our steps back to the car. We stopped en route, to dook the boy’s feet in the burn, restoring them to wee white feet once more.
Rothiemurchus Farm Shop, Rothiemurchus Estate Centre
It was almost time to check out Achnahatnich House – our hidden Highland retreat, but first we had to stock up on some provisions for our stay. Luckily, there’s an excellent farm and gift shop on the estate – and it’s dog-friendly too, so we didn’t have to take it in turns to choose goodies.
Inside, my head was immediately turned by fragrant nick-nacks. After a browse, I decided to buy a reed diffuser for our bedroom.
Next, our attention turned to food – well, drink to be more precise. I was drawn to some cute little bottles of pre-mixed cocktails, then some locally made fudge and fancy dog biscuits. We left the farm shop with cocktails, sweeties and assorted goodies, including Aberfeldy oatcakes, Baron Bigod British Brie (the best Brie on the planet), some Aberdeenshire cheeses and Galloway ice cream.
Hidden Highland Retreats: Achnahatnich House
Now, it was time to check out our Hidden Highland Retreats home for the next two nights. A stone’s throw away from the farm shop, we turned onto a private road, which snaked through woodland. The further we travelled, the happier we were. We love a bit of isolation, especially when it’s scenic isolation.
After driving for a few minutes, we reached the end of the road and Achnahatnich House. It was gorgeous.
Achnahatnich House was built in the early 20th century and was originally a tenant farm house. It’s still surrounded by farmland today.
Achnahatnich House – the grounds
The house sits in a large enclosed garden, with a spectacular mountain view. There isn’t another house to be seen either – it’s heaven. Behind the house, a path leads uphill to an enclosed sit-oot-erie (or a table and chairs for non-Scots). With a little elevation the view is even more spectacular, making the sit-oot-erie the perfect place to enjoy a picnic, or glass of wine on a warm summer night.
Achnahatnich House – the interior
The interior of our dog-friendly Highland retreat was just as impressive as the outside. The design theme was Scandi inspired, but with lots of traditional Scottish farmhouse details too. It was light and airy, with calming accents of blue and some bold pops of yellow.
We loved it.
Downstairs, was a spacious farmhouse kitchen, with a wood-burning fire, comfy seating, dining area and well-equipped kitchen. There was a utility room just off the kitchen too.
We found a welcome pack with bread, milk, jam, eggs and other tasty treats waiting for us. The boy was delighted to find there were doggy treats for him too. Truly dog friendly places, always cater for dogs.
At the other end of the house was a formal lounge. It was bright and sunny, with a wood-burning fire, plenty of seating, and a selection of books and games to keep guests entertained. For me though, gazing at the view would be entertainment enough.
There was also a twin bedroom with a private bathroom downstairs.
Upstairs, were two double bedrooms – one with a private bathroom, complete with Jacuzzi bath, and the other with a roll top bath and walk in shower. Both rooms were beautiful, but we chose the en suite one – who doesn’t love a roll top bath?
One of the things I loved about the interior of Achnahatnich House, was the use of upcycled, vintage furniture pieces as well as new ones. It gave the house a feeling of continuity, history and a homely touch.
After familiarising ourselves with the house and grounds, then unpacking, it was time for dinner – and we were in for a real treat.
Dinner – Anderson’s Pizza, Boat of Garten
We discovered Anderson’s wood fired pizza last year. At the time they were based on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Grantown-on-Spey. They’ve since moved to Andersons Restaurant in Boat of Garten – a ten minute drive from Achnahatnich House. Andersons make the best pizza in Scotland – they’re so good, that no other pizza comes close – who could resist?
We were crazy excited as we drove to Boat of Garten to collect our order – pepperoni, nduja and chilli oil for me, and pepperoni, chicken and black olive for Mr G.
We ate our pizzas in a woodland car park on the outskirts of Boat of Garten. They were every bit as delicious (even more so) than we’d hyped them up to be. We returned to Achnahatnich House full, happy and ready to spend a lazy night by the fire.
A relaxing first night night at Achnahatnich House
And that’s exactly what we did when we got back to Achnahatnich house – I lit a fire in the lounge, Mr G poured us a drink and the boy settled on his blanket for a snooze. It was perfect.
Later, I wound down for bedtime with a good book and soak in the roll top bath.
After a day of fresh, Highland air sleep came easy to us all, and we drifted off to the gentle hoot of a nearby owl.
Day Two in the Cairngorms National Park
We woke the next morning and lay in bed, enjoying the stunning view from our bedroom.
Once we were up and ready, we headed downstairs and tucked into Rothiemurchus Estate black pudding, haggis and toasted bloomer for breakfast. It was delicious.
Walk – Loch an Eilean heart of estate.
We started the day with a walk on the Rothiemurchus Estate at Loch an Eilein.
Besides walking, the area around Loch an Eilean is great for bird spotting. Within minutes of arriving we saw a great spotted woodpecker – much to my delight. After it flew away, we set off on a ramble, following a path around the loch.
We soon reached a vantage point, with a view of Loch an Eilein Castle. The 13th century fortress stands on the small island that gives Loch an Eilein its name.
The boy went for a paddle in the loch, while Mr G and I picked juniper berries and crushed them to release the delicious aroma of Scottish gin.
Our ramble took us past Forest Cottage. The fairytale cottage is another of Hidden Highland Retreats holiday lets on the Rothiemurchus Estate.
A little further on, we left the path skirting Loch an Eilein and turned off to follow part of a long distance hiking route which cuts through a rugged mountain pass called the Lairig Ghru. After nineteen miles or so, it reaches Braemar in Royal Deeside.
We followed the route for an hour or so, passing heather-covered moorland, shimmering lochans and Caledonian pine forest. It was a lovely sunny morning, filled with the sound of birdsong, including the hypnotic call of the cuckoo. I saw my first damselfly of the year too – summer had arrived.
Back where we started the walk was a welcome oasis for three weary, hot ramblers. A little gallery/coffee shop called the White Croft Company. We popped in for cold drinks. They sold doggy ice cream too, so the boy was in luck.
After leaving Loch an Eilein, we drove to nearby Glenmore to buy takeaway soup and sandwiches for lunch. Back at Achnahatnich House, we ate lunch in the garden.
Normally, when we’re out and about exploring for the day, we don’t take time to stop. This time we decided to linger in the garden for a while and enjoy doing nothing in particular. It felt decadent, but switching off is important. The secluded and tranquil setting of our hidden Highland retreat was clearly rubbing off on us and encouraging us to relax and unwind.
Our idle afternoon flew by and before we knew it, it was four o’ clock.
Some water based fun in Loch Morlich
Suitably rested after our lazy afternoon, we took a short drive to Loch Morlich for some water based fun.
Loch Morlich has a nice sandy beach, making it one of the best places for swimming, paddleboarding and kayaking in the Cairngorms National Park. We did all three during our visit. While Mr G pumped up one of our paddleboards, I slipped into the water for a swim. It was nice and refreshing. I felt instantly invigorated and awake. As I swam, the boy watched me from the shore like a lifeguard.
After my swim, we took it in turns to use the paddleboard, Mr G as a SUP and me as a kayak. He loves stand up paddleboarding, while I prefer the speed of kayaking.
Once we’d had our fill of water based fun, we drove to nearby Aviemore for dinner.
After spending time in and on the water, we couldn’t resist trying the town’s award winning fish and chip shop. It was a good choice – our suppers were tasty.
Another perfect night at Achnahatnich House
Back at Achnanhatnich House, we repeated our tried and tested great night in formula from the night before – fire, wine and relax. And for the second night running, the TV remained switched off.
Achnahatniuch House, was best enjoyed, in quiet conversation by the fire, soaking up the relaxing ambiance of the house and completely switching off from the hustle and bustle of the outside world.
Our two night stay in the Cairngorms National Park with Hidden Highland Retreats simply wasn’t long enough. I could happily have spent the summer at that lovely old farmhouse, enjoying the view, the quiet calm and indulging in blissful idleness.
Our dog friendly break at Achnahatnich House was part of a paid partnership with Hidden Highland Retreats, however all opinions are my own.
Until next time …