A Family Adventure in the Cairngorms

Blending Family Fun with Outdoor Adventure

I was recently up in the Cairngorms with Jo and the kids for a short break which we packed full of outdoor adventure. Since having kids we found our wings clipped quite dramatically, but over time, as we’ve adjusted to the new life of being parents, we’ve begun to see how we can incorporate outdoor adventure with quality family fun time.

Our stay in Grantown-on-Spey was the best family adventure trip we’ve had to date. Our family fun involved a trip on the Strathspey Steam Railway, visiting the excellent and quirky Reindeer Centre and watching the amazing ospreys at Loch Garten, all peppered with red squirrel spotting and plenty walks in the woods.

With our new-found impetus to get our own ‘fix’ of outdoor adventure, as well as family adventure, we were able to create a holiday that allowed Jo and I to get in a few wild swims and we even made our own version of a triathlon!

Loch Morlich

On the way up to Aviemore in the car, Jo had it fixed in her mind that she would be swimming in Loch Morlich that day -when she has a fixed idea, she sticks to it! The weather was overcast and the top of Cairngorm was shrouded in cloud.

I wasn’t really feeling it, but Jo pressed on and soon enough she was swimming out into the loch.

I stayed on the shore keeping an eye on the kids until it was my turn. A quick change into my wetsuit and I was in. I’ve always fancied a dip in Loch Morlich and here I was. I was a bit underwhelmed (unlike Jo, who had been whooping with delight), but I think this was to do with the weather which didn’t create the setting for a glorious, blue-skied swim.

Still, it was nice to be there and, despite freaking out at seeing rocks looming up at me as I headed back to shore (I have a deep, subconscious sense of panic when I see things on the bottom, though I’m gradually overcoming this by doing more open water swimming) I felt chuffed to have finally swam in Loch Morlich. As ever with such swims, the feeling afterwards is always one of wanting more.

Loch an Eilein (family triathlon)

After spending the following day concentrating on family fun, it was time for us to get our trailrunning fix. Thinking ahead about where to go and how to split the role of parenting to allow us both to run meant we’d devised our own version of a triathlon; run, swim & baby/toddler walking.

Knowing Loch an Eilein would be good for a run and suitable for pushing a buggy round, we also fancied the adventure of swimming across to the castle on the island. So, the plan was set; Jo would run round the loch while I walked with Ferdi and Rosa. She’d go until she caught us up, then it would be my turn to run and when I reached them we’d head to the little beach to take turns at swimming out to the castle.

The weather was glorious and we were both thankful that progress with Ferdi and Rosa was slow (the woods are a source of wonder for both adults and kids if you embrace the imagination, so there was no need to rush!) which meant that neither of us had to do a great deal more than the single lap.

Once we’d both had our turn of trailrunning it was time to get ready for our swim. I was first up, so suited and booted I gingerly waded in. I was feeling a bit nervous. I know this crossing is relatively popular, but we didn’t know of any hidden currents or the like, so there was an element of the unknown. This is what makes a good adventure, of course, but it does keep you alert.

The water was a clear, peaty brown and the temperature was nice after the initial gulp.

On reaching the castle I felt delighted. I was living my own mini-adventure! Once on the island I made sure I had a good poke around the remains of the castle, which must have been a substantial building at one time, before getting in and heading back to our ‘adventure base’. I passed the baton to Jo for her turn and by the time she’d returned and was dried and changed we were both glowing with the endorphins of the physical exertion of the run and swim as well as being delighted with the brilliant way our family triathlon had turned out. What a winning formula!

Loch Morlich (skin swim)

On the day we were due to leave we visited the Reindeer Centre near Loch Morlich before going down onto the beach to take in the beauty before heading south. The sun was out and the temperature was high. This wasn’t the Scotland we know!

We played on the beach and had a little paddle, but I could feel the lure of the water. After weighing up how much time we had, the fact I’d no swimming trunks with me and the obvious question; ‘why was nobody else swimming?’, I got an ultimatum from Jo; “If you’re going in, you better go in now because we’re leaving in half an hour.”

There it was. In 30 minutes there’d be no option to go in. I had to do it.

A quick strip down to my boxer shorts and I waded in for a ‘skin swim’. The water was warm in the shallows, but I was dreading how cold it would be without a wetsuit.

When it was deep enough to hunch down and start swimming I didn’t hesitate. It was amazing! The water was cool, not cold. It was perfect. As I swam I felt that warm/cold tingle over my body and I felt alive! The mountains and forest ringing the loch made the scene glorious and the clear, peaty water was sublime.

I swam for about 15 minutes and was loathe to come out. This was an impromptu swim, but the conditions aligned themselves to create an experience that was simply stunning.


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