Lakes, Lochs & Skinny Dipping
Is it ever possible to feel romantic on a family holiday in October with a 9 month old baby, a puppy and a 12-hour road trip to Scotland? Amidst the inevitable chaos, this is actually one of our most spectacular vacations.
Our journey is broken up with 2 nights in the beautiful Lake District.
Unbelievably this is the first time I have ever visited this tumbling Beatrix Potter land and I’ve fallen in love immediately. The George and Dragon Pub in Clifton is our chosen home for this stopover. This 18th Century Coaching Inn is pet friendly and perfectly located for exploring. It greets you with open log fires, happy staff, comfortable beds, and a cherished menu of local produce and real ales. Autumn is definitely the best time to visit. The lakes and surrounding hills blaze in the low-lying sun, making our welly walks in the crispy outdoors very delectable.
A friend urged us to explore Borrowdale, arguably the most beautiful valley in all the Lakes. Secret beaches lined with trees and kissing stumps surround the south shores of Derwentwater. You cannot help but stop and breathe in the views, and each other. The water here even tempts one of us for a quick dip. Blood pumping and feeling revitalised, we walk back hand in hand, baby in backpack and puppy trying to catch the soggy briefs drying in the wind behind us. We return to the pub, grab two Bloody Marys and take them straight up to our room, both our babies now sound asleep.
After a long but breathtaking drive we finally arrive in the wee coastal village of Glenelg, Scotland. High up in the mystical highlands, where poets come to weave words and drink whiskey, Glenelg is a place where you can truly escape from the world. Mobile phones are now useless and the winding roads are desolate but has everything you could wish for; A charming pub, a village shop, long beaches and the enchanting Wagon Café just a short bike ride away selling carrot and beetroot cakes, real coffee and local Celtic craft.
Glenelg is also a great location to visit the magnificent Isle of Skye. The Glenelg-Skye Ferry, still just about running this time of year, is one of world’s last manually operated turntable car ferries. Some couples even choose to get married on it. After the initial shock of paying £20 return we cross the Kylerhea Strait with seals swimming beside us. Once on dry land, we follow a single road carving through the heather and marsh and continue until we reach the southern point, Aird of Sleat. When the road stops, the hiking boots come on. Again, glorious sunshine spurs us on for a family hike. After about an hour, we reach a cove of soft white sand. With not a sole in sight, just the waves and us, we sit for a while, eating our bananas (and sandy pebbles!) before braving a quick skinny-dip (of course) in the ice blue sea. I can see why this island is one of the best destinations in the world.
Our return drive back to the ferry takes us past one of Scotland’s most romantic hotels, Kinloch Lodge. As a surprise birthday lunch, I have booked us a table at its Michelin Star restaurant and try out their new five course Tasting Menu. It is true, Kinloch is wildly romantic. Nestled on the tranquil shoreline of the sea-loch Na Dal in Sleat, surrounded by hills and native trees in a spectacular of colours. It is the highland home to the MacDonald family and is steeped in history and love. Thankfully, the atmosphere at this cosy country lodge is surprisingly relaxed and informal. We feel totally at ease with our young baby and giant buggy in tow, and who at this time is wide awake and wanting to play with the bread rolls. The small prim dining room adorned with silverware, tartan and white linen is charming, as are the lovely people serving us. As expected, the food is delicious.
Maybe it’s the right time of year, with few people around, the chilly air outside and the sun always shining – We are worlds away from the bustle, the grumps and the grime. Life is peaceful here. We can now assure other bewildered new parents that a little luxury and fine dining in a romantic setting is still possible. After 9 months of disarray and exhaustion, the intimacy and togetherness as a new family, which this trip has enabled, is what we will take away with us, along with the lakes, lochs and castles, the mountains and the naked views.
The George and Dragon Clifton, Near Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2ER
Standard rooms start at £190 per night and an additional £10 for the dog
Tel: 01768 865371
Glenelg, Kyle of Lochalsh, Ross-shire, The Highlands, Scotland
A two-bed rental property in Glenelg starts at £86 per night
Booked through www.homeaway.co.uk
Or try the village pub www.glenelg-inn.com
The Wagon Café, Corrary Farm, Near the Dun Trodden Broch, Glenelg, Scotland
Open everyday except Saturday 10am – 4pm
The Glenelg-Skye Ferry
Runs from Easter to October, £20 return for a family car of 4
Kinloch Lodge, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland, IV43 8QY
Tel: 01471 833333
Lunchtime Tasting Menu costs £80 per person not including wine, or whiskey of course.