“ Holiday cottages located in the village of Nethy Bridge near Aviemore, Scotland „
I discovered this cottage initially about four years ago, on a random internet search for wheelchair accessible holiday cottages in northern Scotland. Fhuarain Forest Cottages popped up, and having looked at their website, of the two available cottages then, Badanfhuarain seemed the most likely to suit us.
I showed my husband the site to see what his reaction would be - which resulted in a phone call for more info, leading eventually to us having the best family holiday we had ever had in the summer of 2007. Since none of us had wanted to leave (that was a first), we were keen to return, but weren't able to until this year, due to our financial circumstances becoming somewhat stretched by becoming homeowners later the same year!
So for the first two weeks of August, the dog went off to the kennels, and we packed ourselves up and travelled up to Nethy Bridge, roughly half way between Aviemore and Grantown-on-Spey, and within sight of the Cairngorm mountains. As requested, we rang Valery and David, the proprietors, when we reckoned we were about half an hour away so that they knew when to expect us.
The cottage is set in a clearing in a large area of Scots pines (Abernethy Forest, part of the old Caledonian Forest), beyond the village of Nethy Bridge itself. Also located on site is the Lazy Duck Hostel, which is a bunkhouse, and a campsite for four tents. The home of the proprietors is also here. The cottage is approached down a rough track, with forest either side, and you really feel that you're going down a wooded tunnel to a secret place.
At the end of the track is a gate, normally kept closed as they have a collection of rare waterfowl on site, and directly ahead of you as you drive in is the cottage, surrounded by a wooden fence with roses scrambling over it. To your right is an enclosure with Soay sheep and chickens, and to your left the camping ground.
We were met by Valery, who welcomed us back and went over the details of our stay, and reminded us where everything was, and informed us of any changes that had happened since we were last there.
After eleven hours on the road (including stops), we unpacked the van into the cottage and collapsed in a heap to recover.
The accommodation consists of 3/4 bedrooms to sleep five, a sitting / dining room, a very well-equipped kitchen, a bathroom (well, a wet room, more on that later), and a utility and drying room.
There is the chance to borrow equipment such as a hoist or a shower chair if you need them, they're actually kept in a locked room off the utility room, so they don't have to come far if you suddenly realise that you need them!
The cottage is heated by storage heaters, but there is an open hearth in the living room, with logs and peat available. Mobile phone reception is patchy at best, so the fixed line telephone is a Godsend. It's charged by call, with you receiving a call back after replacing the receiver each time you ring out, with the message on the other end telling you how much the call has cost. You keep a record of these and pay up on the day that you leave. Electricity is charged likewise by meter reading, Valery read the meter as we unpacked, and came to read it again just after we'd loaded our stuff to go home. Any breakages are also chargeable. There is wifi available, but we have never made use of this.
The bedroom arrangements are quite ingenious. The master bedroom has a standard double bed, a dressing table, a second chest of drawers as a bedside table to one side of the bed, and a bedside table to the other, both having lamps. There is very good floor space for wheelchair transfer both at the side and at the end of the bed, whichever is most practical for the user. The wardrobe is a very clever floor space saving idea, as it consists of a corner rail with a curtain drawn across it. There is a single room off the main bedroom, which could be used either for a child or a carer.
The other bedroom is split into two single rooms by way of a curtain. Our daughters love this room, particularly as their 'home' arrangements are reversed. Our youngest can swap her smallest bedroom status for the largest space, while our eldest bags the tiny room behind the curtain, tucked under the eaves. The larger room has two sets of drawers but no hanging space, while the smallest has a small hanging rail, and a small beside cabinet. I have a feeling that the big chest of drawers in meant to be shared, but little daughter filled the lot, and our big sis ended up living out of her case - good job she's tolerant!
The kitchen is very spacious, has a lot of cupboards which are well stocked with crockery and glassware, with plenty of storage space too. Equipment-wise, there's a fan-assisted electric oven with hob and extractor hood, quick-boiling kettle, toaster, fridge, washer/drier, dishwasher and a microwave. There is also a small freezer in the utility room.
The other feature of the room is the window, not so much for itself but for the view! There's a lovely vista down to the duck pond and the pine woodland just beyond it, but just outside the window is a bird feeder full of peanuts. Now if you put peanuts and Scots Pines together, you do, just occasionally, get a red squirrel. The first time we stayed there were a couple there every day in the morning. We saw fewer of them this time, but I suspect this may have been at least in part due to the owners' lovely young working cocker spaniel racing around the site! There were plenty of birds visiting instead, and we kept a spotters' list for the fortnight.
This is located off the kitchen, and is actually a wet room. If you've never come across one of these before, all that it means is that it's a wheel-in shower room, where the whole floor has been sealed and waterproofed. Don't worry, there's a loo and washbasin in there too! The shower has a fold-down seat, and rail and curtain around it (not a glass wall, it's completely open plan). There's also a large heated towel rail.
The utility room contains the aforementioned small freezer, a drying rack for muddy boots, deck chairs, large containers for logs in colder weather, and the hoover, broom dustpan & brush are all here too. Outside the back door, there are the bins, one for general rubbish, one for recycling, and one for ash, either from the hearth or from the chiminea situated in the cottage garden.
The village shop is a bit of a walk down (and of course back up) a steep hill, it's probably a couple of miles, and we've never yet attempted it. It's a Spar with the village post office at the back, and we usually drop in on the way back from a day's exploring. For more comprehensive shopping, Grantown-on-Spey has a lovely high street with a decent selection of local shops, pubs and eateries. The Co-Op, the huge hardware shop, Bookmark (the bookshop) and the tiny but full to the brim greengrocers are our favourites. There's a Tesco in Aviemore, along with several outward-bound type shops, and more places to eat, along with a main line train station, and the beginning of the Strathspey Steam Railway, which is well worth a trip!
It is a great base for exploring the area, there are heaps of tourist attractions and walks (and a huge folder full of leaflets and local info sits on the cottage bookcase for your perusal of an evening). Places that we have visited include Landmark at Carrbridge, the Highland Folk Museum (both of which I've reviewed separately) , Revack Highland Estate, the Cairngorms, the Reindeer Centre, and the massive Rothiemurchus Estate including the beautiful Loch an Eilean, where it's possible sometimes to watch ospreys fishing. Further afield there's Loch Ness and Castle Urquhart, dolphin watching at Chanonry Point on the Black Isle, Inverness itself, and this time we discovered a very nicely refurbished beachside cafe on the west beach at Lossiemouth. There's also the whiskey trail, for those that are interested!
Now I said that it took us a while to be able to afford to visit again. It isn't cheap, and is very much a treat as far as we're concerned. It set us back just over £1000 for the fortnight at the beginning of August, but since we didn't go away at all the previous year, we reckoned that an average of £500 for two summer holidays kind of worked out ok! Aside from excuses though - we were more than happy to fork out that amount for the privilege of being able to stay there again, it is a wonderful home from home, and the location is magical. Many's the time that we've wished that we had moved up to the area when we had the chance!
I should also stress that this cottage is not exclusively for people with mobility difficulties - it's available to anyone!
9/12/13 - sadly this cottage now seems to be unavailable, although the site is still open for camping. I believe that the ownership has changed. This is the current web address: http://lazyduck.co.uk/
I shall be keeping an eye out for further developments. If this really has gone, it will be a sad loss to the provision of ideal accommodation for wheelchair users in this area :(