What an amazing run of gorgeous sunny weather we’ve had here in Scotland over the last few months, I mean seriously good weather! Made me slightly annoyed with myself for going back to my summer job (even though I am outside all the time), meaning less adventures. So, after getting home early from the office a couple of weeks ago, I had all good intentions of writing some blog content. With the sun streaming into my office and the kettle hadn’t even finished boiling, I had a light bulb moment! So I sent a text to Dude (who was out on the golf course) – Me: “fancy going camping?” Him: “What, now? I’m just finished at golf, we’ll talk about it when I get home.” In the time it took him to get back from Kinross I had decided on where to go and upgraded the trip to pods and not canvas. A trip to Braemar for two nights was booked!
That all started about half past two in the afternoon and by half six we were unpacking the car at our temporary home, a Fog Pod at Braemar caravan park.
Braemar Caravan Park
Just a ninety minute drive from Perth, through Blairgowrie and on to the very dramatic scenery of the Spittal of Glenshee, an alternative route through to the highlands of Scotland instead of the arterial A9 route. Plenty of places to stop and take photos, admire the view, wild camp or go for a walk. Look carefully and you will spot red deer on the hillsides too.
Surprisingly, for me, we didn’t even stop once for any photo opportunity, the pub was calling us!
Braemar Caravan Park is situated on the south of the village and is literally the first thing you come across after passing the “Welcome to..” sign. After checking in with an onsite warden, we quickly unpacked the car and made haste toward the nearest hostelry. No, sorry, that is a blatant lie! We walked to one of the suggested places to eat, which happened to be the furthest away and has the world’s longest driveway (slightly over dramatised. Can you tell I was hungry and wanted a spritzer?), only to be greeted by a sign on the doorstep reading “Full for food bookings this evening.”
Grumbling and moaning, with possible suggestion it may have been better to have phoned them in advance? Or maybe if that damned sign would have been better placed at the end of the driveway! Anyway we walked back in to the centre of Braemar and continued our quest for grub. Unsurprisingly, everywhere was busy and why wouldn’t it be in the height of summer. Hallelujah, the chip shop came to our rescue. We ate our fish suppers outside on the bench and it was delicious. Washed down with Scotland’s favourite fizzy orange juice drink, Irn Bru.
Back at the pod and we settled in nicely. Sleeping bags all laid out on the single beds, milk and bacon in the wee fridge and we settled in for the evening reading our books. Perfectly content.
The pods comfortably sleep four people in single, bunk bed style with comfy mattresses. We chose to bring with us our sleeping bags but you could also take your own bed linen.
Basic but complete with a mini fridge, a microwave, a kettle and a square table with four chairs for dining. We also found two really comfy camping chairs, on which we placed on the porch – perfect for morning coffee. Dude had packed our small gas camping stove so we could have bacon sandwiches each morning and unless you will be eating cereal or eating out I would suggest you did the same during your stay. Or you could order fresh croissants to be delivered each morning at the campsite office.
With two shower blocks on the park there are no queues, they were spotless and the water was nice and hot too. Probably the best shower block I have ever used on any campsite.
During our stay there were no issues with noise, unruly children (or adults) and the bunnies roamed freely providing an alternative live TV programme.
Mar Lodge Estate National Nature Reserve
Since this visit I have seriously questioned why on earth it took us nearly three years to get out here! It. Is. Stunning. Even the drive up to the main car park is filled with plenty of photo opportunities. The main car park where we set out from charges a small fee for the day but if, like us, you are a member then all you have to do is display your car park pass.
The estate, managed by the National Trust for Scotland, covers 72,500 acres and has been recognised as a National Nature Reserve, helping to protect the remains of the ancient Caledonian pine forest and in turn the red squirrels and pine martin that call it home.
For those who like to wander the hills, as part of the Cairngorms National Park there is no shortage of them here, including Scotland’s second highest mountains, Ben Macdui.
Dude and I, on our first walk opted to follow the Mar Lodge Estate circular route from our “25 walks from source to sea book.” Just four and a half miles of low trails and glimpses through the trees along the glen, across the river Dee and back around. After seeing lots of cars in the car park we were expecting to see alot of people and we didn’t see a single solitary soul.
The heather was just starting to show it’s deep purple hue bringing the hillside alive. It really was quite something. I was hoping for big blue skies and whispy clouds for this walk but instead we got big clouds and it didn’t really make the photos I had in mind. it did however make our walk cooler.
I was really taken by the clear water of the river. Perfect, and in the heat, incredibly inviting. Sadly in my rush to get the car packed up I hadn’t packed anything to get changed into for a cold water swim but be assured I have a chosen spot for a return visit.
The estate is a cracking place to visit and a pure playground of delight for families, walkers, cyclists, photographers and….. Just everyone. In fact, it’s so good that when we woke up the next morning we didn’t want to go home. I trotted off down to the office before our official kicking out time and asked if it was possible to stay third night. Woop, woop, it was good news!
With breakfast inhaled so not to waste another second we decided to go back to Mar Lodge Estate and this time venture further afield with a linear walk out to Derry Lodge.
Following the well maintained, waymarked trail through Glen Lui we eventually came to the former hunting lodge nestled alongside the pines and Lui Water (river). We were warned that it could be busy here but the only sign of life was a National Trust for Scotland vehicle parked up.
It was here that we first took notice of just how low the river was, exaggerated by the wide river bed and just a trickle of water running through. All the sunshine that we have all been enjoying was surely taking it’s toll on nature but this was visually noticeable. We crossed over using the narrow bridge and continued further to see what was along the glen to discover more trails, heather, grande vistas and an invitation to walk for longer. How could we not accept?
That evening we returned to our pod after dinner, fulfilled and chuffed that we had just set out on our impromptu adventures. Exactly what we moved up here to do and sometimes life gets in the way and it’s easy to forget the freedom we are lucky to have. A trip to Braemar was the perfect time for a wee mid-week break and re-charge our batteries. We are most definitely not going to become strangers to this captivating part of the Cairngorms National Park, it’s practically on our doorstep!