We spent the last week up on Royal Deeside with my parents and it proved the perfect place to be really active as a family. For starters we were staying in a lodge at Craigendarroch with a hotel on the site. This meant that we had access to the hotel pool and spent up to an hour each day in the water. My children have been having swimming lessons and loved practising their skills and acting a bit like dolphins. The grown ups also got a chance to do some swimming and show off some tricks such as underwater handstands and swimming between legs. Just wish we could swim more often as a family back home...
One of our biggest active adventures was an all day bike ride. My son only learned to ride a bike without stabilisers in May but really loves spending lots of time on two wheels. His big sister enjoys showing off her cycling skills too so a family bike trip sounded like a fabulous idea. We hired bikes from a local centre and on the only sunny day of the week set off on our adventure:
We aimed to head off through some forest trails on the north bank of the Dee that had newly been opened. First of all we had a short ride along a quiet road (just as well when your 5 year old can't cycle in a straight line!) Things started off well as the gates on the track were bike friendly with special handles to open them on the top whilst sitting on a bike.
Really annoyingly it was on this trip that my iPhone played up about taking photos and I also managed to lose virtually all the ones I did take :-(
Along the forest trail it was a lovely ride although my son did struggle with the uneven surface and had a few bumps. At one point we had to ford a stream that entailed me carrying over children and their bikes! Then we must have taken a wrong turn on to a very narrow footpath with some steep descents:
Once again Mummy the sherpa carried down the children's bikes down the steep hill. We had a lovely walk pushing the bikes along the banks of the Dee - although my daughter was caught by a salmon fisherman who wrapped his hook around her handlebars! We paused for lunch by the Cambus O May suspension bridge. The bikes needed manhandling over the turnstiles on each side. Once again this gave me a good bicep workout...:
On this side of the Dee there is a bicycle route built on the old railway line. This surface proved a lot easier for everyone especially my son. We pretty much whizzed back towards Ballater. There had to be plenty of rest stops for tired little legs - especially ones that managed to cycle through nettles at the side of the track...
Back in the town we had some time left on our bike hire so headed off to a river side car park and picnic area where the children practised mountain biking skills by going round and round over a humpy course. It was amazing they had any energy left after a 7 mile bike ride! Even more surprising they still wanted to go swimming after we got back...
The next adventure was on the Friday when we hiked around Loch Muick. The weather forecast wasn't brilliant but it didn't deter us or the children. The key to keep them going was to have them looking out for all the local wildlife such as deer:
We also had regular snack stops at various points to keep up their energy levels. It didn't seem to matter that at times the rain was coming down in torrents the children just kept on going - even if granny's big umbrella was sometimes needed to keep the worst of the rain off:
Keeping the grown ups safe by leading us across the rocky bits and finding the least puddly bits of path must have clocked up another couple of miles. There was a feeling of triumph to reach the top of the Loch (you can see how wet it was by the fact the camera was damp too!):
It all brought back memories of my childhood spent youth hostelling and camping in all sorts of weather. Hopefully it will encourage my children not to just be fair weather hikers. It was amazing how few moans there were on our 8 mile walk so let's hope we can keep it up and extend all our stamina. To sum up the walk here is my daughter's verdict on the day:
Now we are back home and we aim to keep up the momentum during the summer. We have proved to ourselves that it doesn't matter if its raining when we go out getting active (though my waterproofs could have been more effective!) which is just as well if this summer carries on the same way it has started...
Breaking update: all the exercise paid off as I have lost weight (OK only half a pound) despite eating and drinking more than normal whilst away!