By Elaine Hunter
We’ve landed lucky. The sun is scorching hot, the children are on the beach; happily digging holes and we’re sitting watching them sipping ice-cold drinks as the gentle waves roll in. It’s hard to believe we’re not in the Mediterranean.
But we’re not. We’re in the Highland town of Nairn on a white sandy beach that seems to stretch for miles; looking out onto the Moray Firth.
Our hotel – Golf View Hotel & Spa – is just a stone’s throw away behind us; perfect when you have small children and need to nip back for this and that; not having to pack a huge bag of provisions for the day is a perk most mothers could get used to on holiday.
Our three-night stay at the cliff-top hotel is reminiscent of how you would imagine wealthy Victorians holidayed… in absolute luxury. We are waited on hand and foot and when you are used to the hustle and bustle of ordinary life with three boys under six; this kind of treatment is to die for.
We are given a family suite for our stay – which is like a small apartment, with a hall; a bathroom; the children’s bedroom – with two sets of bunk beds; and then a separate adjoining room that doubles as the parents’ bedroom and a living room.
This is family hotel accommodation at its best. There’s no shoe-horning us into the tight out-of-the-way corner you might find in many other hotels because the suite is spacious, luxurious and top quality – perfect for parents who want a secure and relaxed holiday environment for their family.
There’s also a pool that looks onto the stunning sea view; which is ideal for young families; and also a small spa – a welcome haven giving busy mums a chance to relax and unwind. There’s everything here in this hotel for a relaxed stay, but Nairn does have a whole lot more to offer of course.
With its stunning sandy, Blue Flag beaches and promenades it’s not hard to work out why it became known in Victorian times as the ‘Brighton of the North’. Plus its rare climate will make sure you see more good weather than many other parts of Scotland; apparently Nairn has more hours of sunshine and less rainfall than towns just 10 miles away. So it’s a great destination for a family holiday in these days of recession and ash clouds; plus it really does offer a good range of accommodation, from top hotels to holiday parks.
Hollywood actress Tilda Swinton, who lives in Nairn with her family, put the small town on the global map when she held the Cinema of Dreams here in 2008. The world’s film industry descended on the town to attend – catapulting it into a must-go world-class destination.
Nairn also has two championship golf courses, both set close to the shores of the Moray Firth; so one can only imagine what the Americans and Japanese think of it when they come to play on these idyllic and historic courses. The Nairn Golf Club was founded in 1887 and has hosted many top tournaments, including the Walker Cup in 1999 and in 2012, it will host the ladies equivalent, the Curtis Cup. So golfers will feel very at home here.
For parents of older children, who are looking for a little bit more to do than playing on the beach and the pool; there is an excellent chance to see dolphins here; as the Moray Firth is also home to one of only two colonies of dolphins in the UK. You can even take a pleasure cruise for a closer look or just to enjoy being out there on the sea – cruises are available most days, for little more than a tenner.
Of course, Nairn makes an excellent base for exploring other places like the Clava Cairns, Fort George, Cawdor Castle, Brodie Castle, Inverness and Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness.
We head for the latter which is regally sited, overlooking the historic loch.
Now here’s the history… Urquhart is one of the largest castles in Scotland, and has a long and colourful history. It was built in the 1230s and seized by the English in 1296, by 1689 it had fallen into decay. Most of the existing buildings date from the 14th century and include the Grant Tower (16th century) the best-preserved part of the complex.
But our children just want to look out for the Loch Ness monster, and as luck would have it, our three-year-old middle son, jumps with joy, convincing all of us that he saw it jumping in and out of the lapping waves. “It’s purple,” he declares to his slightly older but amazed brother; who is now scrutinising the still dark water.
Once back in the hotel, we have requested an earlier tea – to feed the children before the allotted time of 6pm on the menu. Unfortunately, dining before 6pm in the hotel seems to put the kitchen under pressure – and despite being promised an early eating slot; we are left waiting and finally served at 6pm. As parents of young children, we feel this is too late – but it’s the only criticism we have of the family-friendly hotel. Pull this slot forward and allow tea to be served between 4.30 and 5.30pm; and you wouldn’t be able to fault the Golf View Hotel for catering to the needs of families.
As the sun goes down on another fun-packed day, we retire to the comfort of our suite; put the children down as their home routine allows and settle in front of the television with a couple of freezing cold beers from the bar. Golf View is a home from home, offering a fabulous holiday destination that will leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated.