“ Kingussie / Scotland „
Stag weekends and nudity traditionally go hand in hand. Whether it be a gang of cheering mates and a suddenly prudish stag at a dodgy lap-dancing club, or a terrified, defenceless man tied naked to a stanchion on the A1 and miles from home, armed only with a visa card and a wistful dream of incredible stamina and clever editing.
But not me, I said.
Definitely not me. I'm too old for such japes. And besides, the dads were coming. And no-one needs to sit opposite their future father-in-law whilst you get danced at, before all going to stay at a static caravan park because it was the only 8 berth accommodation on offer in the area.
So for my stag weekend, My Best Man and I decided that it would be the perfect excuse to get some skiing done. On punishment of death at the hands of my fiancée should anyone injure themselves.
As there were half of the party who were complete beginners, we didn't want to enforce a weekend in a remote Alpine village and pay the Eurozone's inflated prices.
We consequently settled on another foreign land whose apparent national hero, Jack Niclaus, is featured on the banknotes.
And a country whose English language newspapers contain almost no information on English premiership football whatsoever.
The oddly alien place we'd chosen was Scotland. Frontier of the deep fat fryer.
We found our accommodation, Nuide House, through eliminating the majority of the options on offer with our lengthy list of essential requirements.
1. Space for up to 10 blokes.
2. Not far from the skiing and drinking.
And Nuide House in Kingussie, Inverness it was.
Describing a house without sounding like I'm channelling a dead estate agent, is harder than I thought.
Deceptively Spacious is the term I'm trying and instantly failing to avoid.
Up colse, it's massive but from the online pictures the house look fairly modest. Once inside, there's plenty of room for everyone to spread out.
The ground floor, first explored by the few members of the group who'd naively not instantly dashed to claim the decent bedrooms, consisted of a large living room, complete with sofa seating for about 14, a large dining room with room for 12 seated, a small "snug" TV room, breakfast room, modern kitchen, and a cloakroom. And a room under the stairs that promises much excitement but delivers nothing but the back of the staircase. And a large cupboard that hid the 2 boilers. And a short side hallway leading to a back door, where the coal shed is.
Told you we'd explored it.
Go up the wide staircase, and you have a choice. Turn right on the stairs and you'll find two large, en-suite double bedrooms with fitted wardrobes. And in each, a happy new claimant of the room. This part of the house was also the only spot in the house that I encountered mobile phone coverage. If I stood on one leg.
Back across to the other side of the landing you'll find a separate bathroom and a large twin room, with access to another jack and jill bathroom. And once again, both incredibly comfortable looking cradles were claimed.
On the Second floor, up some of the narrowest, steepest stairs I've ever encountered, were two further twin rooms. One of which - the smaller of the two - would be my room for the next 3 nights.
Usually, when a man goes away with his girlfriend, the first thing he does after arriving at his accommodation is to carefully unpack.
We, to a man, dumped our bags before heading downstairs to have a beer and one by one became distracted by the open log fire that hadn't yet been built.
With 8 men in a room, we inevitably discussed the best technique for proper fire building, before putting a lot of firelighters under a pyramid of 4 of the biggest logs we could find in a wicker basket that hid a surprising amount. We got through the entire weekends supply of logs by about 11pm on the Friday night. It wasn't even that cold.
The house, although described as being in Kingussie, is 3 miles outside the actual village centre, on a farm just off the A9.
This meant that we never properly saw Kingussie itself other than through the car window on our way to the house from the airport, via a huge Tesco in Inverness. It looked nice though. You know, shops, pubs, fields.
Our theory was, if you're going on a night out where you need to drive 3 miles to a small village, you may as well drive for about 10 more minutes and visit the better known town of Aviemore where there are a wider choice of pubs and shops.
After a "quiet night in" on the Friday night, and a disappointing day on the slopes on Saturday daytime, we were all ready for a decent pint or three on Saturday night.
Surprisingly, we'd done our research. That is, one of us had read the good pub guide, and it had mention of the "Two Hoots" public house, handily plonked on the main road through the town. In the 17th century.
A meal there cost us from £7 for a burger, up to £15 for a big lump of steak, and their local selections of draught ale was highly palatable.
Confusingly, all over the inside of the Two Hoots, aside from all the old skiing paraphernalia, there were bright yellow posters advertising "BIRO".
It wasn't as we first thought, an unnecessarily high profile attempt at selling a pen, on closer inspection, the posters said:
(The Black Isle Rock Orchestra)
(nb. Not an orchestra)
In The Club from 9pm
That was all we needed to know. We calmly ignored the fact we were about to go and see a band named after a pen, who also felt the need to explain their apparent lack of violins and oboes.
The Club turned out to be just a downstairs extension of
As it turns out, their name was the least of their worries. Everything they played was just a bit faster than the original. I think the drummer got paid per song.
At one point we heard the start of 7 Nation Army by The White Stripes and made ready to dance drunkenly, but it sounded more like a jovial ditty, and the only dance that would suit the music was a sea shanty. The band didn't seem to mind, they were distracted by a woman improvising a stage dive off a speaker, only for her to land squarely on her face owing to the lack of interest from the 5 or 6 people in the 'crowd'.
Back at the house, re-loaded with two huge sacks of logs picked up from a petrol station on the way home, we lit a huge fire even though it was about 2am. Just because we could.
Nuide House, alongside its benefit of size and location, is also surprisingly reasonable in price, too.
We booked for a weekend in February, Friday to Monday, for £575, plus £25 payable on arrival for fuel costs. Had there been the full 10 of us, our 3 nights would have been just £60 each. And it's not like you'd be crammed in like holiday in a static caravan, whose boasts of "8 berth" should take a leaf out of BIRO's book and carry a disclaimer of "This caravan Sleeps 8, just not all at the same time"
www.holidaycottages4u.co.uk have the house listed, and we booked though them, but the house owners do appear to have Simon Fuller handling the marketing because they're also on pretty much every cottage website in cyberspace.
I know I enjoyed the access to the skiing and the nightlife that we had while staying at the house, but it was all only accessible by having a car, Avis being our preferred brand on this occasion, but only as they could offer the best price.
If you want to know how I got on skiing, then go here:
I'd go again.
Enjoy the beautiful Scottish country side. This comfortable 5 bedroom cottage has lots of space for the entire family and is far enough from the city, but close enough for the necessities.