It is possible to explore the majestic Scottish highlands with two small toddler in tow - especially when there's a luxury cottage that’s a real ‘home from home’ involved!
A week’s holiday for a family of four in self-catering accommodation, following a monster run – the Loch Ness Marathon!
Zoe West, 35, husband Christian West, 35, and their two daughters, Tippi West, 3, Heidi West, 1.
Millness Croft is ideal for children under 5 as it’s all on one level and caters extremely well for babies and toddlers. It’s cosy, yet spacious enough for a family of four to enjoy a week’s break in pure comfort.
It’s best to visit Scotland with young children during the warmer months as there’s so much to do outside amidst stunning scenery. A lot of the child-friendly activities close down from the end of September.
We took an hour’s flight on EasyJet from Luton Airport to Inverness. Millness Croft is roughly a 30- minute drive from the airport. Don’t forget your passport if you’re flying!
Millness Croft cottages certainly cater for children. From cots with bedding to highchairs, booster seats, bouncy baby chairs, changing mats, sterilisers, baby baths, toys, books, potties, and monitors, they’ve really thought of everything. They even provide outside ride-on toys. It’s best to let them know your requirements in advance so they can have them ready for when you arrive. Fraser Cottage has a fenced garden, which is great for containing very little ones.
When my husband suggested a family trip to Scotland so he could run the Loch Ness Marathon, I was slightly apprehensive. Scotland in October with two small children? I looked at the possibilities and was relieved to find Millness Croft, a set of three luxury self-catering cottages a short drive from Inverness Airport and right near Loch Ness. So, with newfound confidence I agreed.
We entered the 120-acre croft and found Grant Cottage, our little private haven in the forest overlooking a pretty stream. It may have been chilly but the sun shone and the autumn colours were in full bloom.
Following a warm welcome from Neil the owner, Tippi, 3, and Heidi, 1, flew straight in and emptied a bag of toys all over the floor. I felt at ease. In fact, staying at the cottage was very stress-free. All on one level, there were no worries about stairs, and everything had been considered including frog-character bath towels for the little ones, children’s DVDs and books, bed guards and even fresh eggs from the chickens. On owner’s advice we had pre-booked a Tesco delivery, which arrived as we did.
The cottage is perfectly furnished. Inviting rugs adorn wooden floors and big plush sofas, a flat-screen TV with Freeview, a sumptuous bathroom with spa bath, and bedrooms with beds so snug it is hard to leave, make this modern cottage feel cosy. And even though there are only two bedrooms it doesn’t feel small at all.
Millness Croft is quite remote, but our cottage had a great decking area where the kids played on ride-ons and a quick walk to the adjoining field to feed the chickens meant there were things to do. But, we wanted to get out and about as well. To do this we needed the car quite a bit, which was fine, we just had to be organised.
There is a wonderful children’s farm in nearby Beauly – home to small rare-breed animals, which are perfect toddler-height. Heidi particularly loved the cute Llamas. There’s also a huge sandpit with ride-on diggers, a little adventure playground and a wonderful shop selling homemade chutneys, sauces and gifts for mums.
We found a visit to Urqhart Castle quite hard work as Heidi didn’t want to stay in the buggy and it was rocky ground, so we drove to Aviemore in Cairgorms National Park, home to ski-ing and outdoor adventures. Our children were a little young for this but we visited the Cairngorms Reindeer Centre, which Tippi enjoyed once she realised they flew Santa about, and then found a great soft play area at the Hilton Coylumbridge hotel called The Fun House - perfectly timed to coincide with a brief downpour.
On the last day we realised we couldn’t come all this way and not take a boat out on Loch Ness, so we booked up for an hour’s trip. It was a perfect end to the week. The sun came out, the Loch looked amazing and Tippi and Heidi loved running about in the warm seating area, even looking at the scenery every now and again, although Tippi took some convincing that she wasn’t about to come face to face with the Loch Ness monster.
We all adored the cottage. It was a real home from home, and I still miss those warm cosy nights dancing in front of Strictly Come Dancing – It Takes Two with the girls. And the best thing - the fresh Scottish air meant they slept soundly. We really didn’t want to leave.
Christian ran the marathon in 4 hours 7 minutes. We were all very proud. Brighton Marathon next apparently!
The Larder and Children’s Farm at Beauly. Feed the rare-breed animals and enjoy the big sandpit with ride-on diggers and playground at the delightful Tomich farm, just a 20-minute drive from Millness Croft. Visit www.robertsonstomichfarmshop.co.uk or call +44(0) 1463 782181.
Jacobite Cruises. Explore Loch Ness on board a private chartered boat. With an inside and outside viewing area and the opportunity to take a one-hour trip, it’s enough time to give you and the children a treat, and not too long before boredom sets in. Visit www.jacobite.co.uk or call +44(0) 1463 233999.
The Fun House at Hilton’s Coylumbridge Hotel. If it’s raining, this is a sure-fire way to cheer up the children as there’s a large soft-play area, ten-pin bowling, mini-golf and a diner. And if you just fancy a coffee, relax in the family-friendly foyer and lounge, which children love to run around in. Visit www.hiltonaviemore.co.uk
The nearest shop is a 15-minute drive, so it’s a good idea to stock up while you can. There are a couple of decent brands of baby food but the selection isn’t extensive. Book a Tesco delivery for a stress-free experience.
Phone places before you visit. Many venues stated they opened 7 days a week all year, which wasn’t necessarily true as we found out when we turned up at Bogbain farm for a spot of plate-painting, only to find the place deserted.
If you have very small children try to book Fraser cottage, which is the only one with a fenced garden. Millness Croft is in a lovely remote setting, which means you don’t have everything on your doorstep. It might be a good idea to take a few car-friendly toys, time your children’s naps carefully and plan, plan, plan.
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