The sheer fact that I have all but abandoned you for the past few months is testament to the hectic pace that has replaced our old lives. With Little R now 7 months old, life in our household is very much go go go. Bottles, nappies, cries, laughs, toys, tears – and all before 7am!
So that’s why we were waiting with such anticipation for our very first family holiday. It was either going to go one way or the other… we would get the rest, relaxation and quality family time we have all been craving, or the chaos would be tenfold in a new environment 7 hours from home. Fortunately for us, it was the former…
With Andrew turning 40 in March, I had been planning for a while how we could best mark the occasion, and pre-baby I somewhat defiantly decided that a new addition would make no difference to how we would celebrate (ok maybe a slight difference!) Hence I booked us a week away, a 7 hour car ride from home, in Loch Ness. A surprise which I revealed to Andrew through the medium of cake! (Baked by Mepop Cakes – yum!)
Once the initial dust had settled from our daughter’s dramatic entrance into the world, reality kicked in and I started to question our holiday location. Is that just too far to travel with a 6 month old? Is she going to be comfortable/warm enough in a lochside lodge? Is there going to be enough room in the lodge (let alone the car) for all our extra luggage?
We decided to add in a couple of stops, one in Perth on the way up, and one in Stirling on the way down – with plenty of breaks on each journey so we could all stretch our legs and let Robyn scream at some unwitting strangers for a while.
The plan was set…. so here’s how we got on…
Getting in the car
So i know what you’re thinking – does this seriously need it’s own section? Well in fact, I’m afraid it does, since this previously simple task now requires a small military operation if we’re all going to make it out alive (and anywhere near “on time”).
In the good old days, we used to be able to pack our modest cases into the boot of the car, leave a note for the cat sitter, and off we go. But that was far from the case for this particular trip.
Little R had been cranky for a few days leading up to our departure, culminating in a full blown meltdown that coincided with our mammoth task of fitting half the house in the back of the car. Unable to put her down long enough to even take a pre-ride wee, this meant only one pair of hands to pack, and the other to bounce the baby.
Stress levels already peaked and dreading the first stint of our cross country journey, we managed to set off, without leaving too many essentials behind. So there we were… Scotland bound!
Staying on Loch Ness
When we finally made it to our accommodation (on day 2 of travel following an overnight pittstop at Premier Inn Perth), we were blown away. Having had such a great experience booking through Hoseasons for our babymoon back in May last year, I had found Loch Ness Highland Lodges through them – another fantastic location. A stunning cluster of lochside lodges, complete with hot tub, overlooking the atmospheric Loch Ness.
Inside, the lodge was much larger than I had anticipated. We had booked a two bedroom lodge which meant we had a separate room for all the baby clothes, changing station and general bits and bobs we didn’t want cluttering up the place.
The view was stunning, and ever changing. If you watched for long enough, you could see the weather coming down the loch. It was mesmerising. One afternoon I sat in the hot tub just watching as grey clouds meandered down the loch, and the little waves got bigger until there was a cartoon-like rain cloud just above us. It really was breathtaking at every time of the day!
And oh. The hot tub! Bliss. Utter bliss! When we had booked our babymoon last year, I was unable to fully appreciate the hot tub then since I was pregnant, so I made sure I got my money’s worth out of it this time! (Note – there WAS a bathing suit on under there!!)
A different kind of holiday
Before having our little pudding, I was insistent that nothing would change. We would still be able to go on the same kinds of holidays and do the same kinds of things. And to a certain extent, that is true. Loch Ness is definitely somewhere we would have visited before, but there was one main difference…
With previous trips we’ve gone out of our way to find unusual and exciting things to photograph – capturing a real flavour of the area. But not this time. Our main focus was on capturing moments. Just the small things that would, to the outside world, appear completely insignificant, but for us, are the kinds of memories we will cherish as a family.
Little R’s first time on a swing…
Playing chess in the lodge as it rained outside…
Capturing the beauty of wonderment in her eyes at the sight of a rainbow…
These are the things we value now. We still appreciate beautiful architecture and quirky eateries. But they all pale into insignificance when the light of her little smile shines so much brighter.
Something else which was quite different from this trip compared to trips pre-baby was the lightness of our itinerary. Ordinarily I would have found things to pack our days with, making sure we got the absolute most out of our stay. But for now it was simply time away together that we needed. Away from routine, a change of scenery, and a change of pace, if we could get it!
Some days we just sat in the lodge, playing with little R, playing board games, reading. Being a relatively remote location really helped to disconnect, turn off and focus on our little family.
That being said, there were a few things on our list that we wanted to see and do. So here’s some of our highlights…
Inverness was a 40 minute car ride up the Loch from where we were staying so we decided to make a day trip out of it. We first enjoyed a family swim at the Aquadome – a nice, clean, pleasant pool with decent changing facilities including a family cubicle which came in very handy!
With the little one suitably worn out, we took advantage of the temporary calm to visit Leakeys Bookshop – a charming little store housing hundreds of second hand books. In days gone by I could have whiled away a whole afternoon browsing the shelves. But I was grateful enough to simply see it… and capture the odd photograph!
We browsed the shops, stopped for a quick selfie outside of Inverness castle, and enjoyed a simple lunch at a local Whetherspoons (gone are the days of holiday fine dining!)
Cruising on Loch Ness
A great highlight of our trip was a boat ride on the loch itself. We may not have spied Nessie herself but it was such a magical trip! I was so pleased I’d strapped Little R into the baby carrier for this one, as a pram wouldn’t have given us the mobility we needed to fully appreciate the experience. There were a lot of different sailing options but we went for a simple 30 minute cruise up to Urquart Castle and back again.
Taking the scenic route
On the first leg of our journey home, we had booked a stopover in Stirling – giving us plenty of time to take a more scenic route back down the country. And it was spectacular. Driving through Glencoe in particular was like being on a film set. The backdrop was so dramatic – made even more atmospheric by the misty weather…. Wow!
During the trip, I kept questioning whether it was what I was hoping for. Was I enjoying it as much as previous trips? Everything was different. No fancy dining. No cool bars. No live music. But since returning home, and looking back at the moments we captured – all I want to do is go back and relive it! This was one of the best trips we’ve ever had, and yet it was one of the simplest and least hectic.
Andrew summed it up when he said that it didn’t really matter where we went. The quality time together was what was most important. And I think that goes to show that a great holiday isn’t always about the coolest accommodation, the best weather and the fanciest facilities (although our lodge was wonderfully cosy!) It’s about spending time together, making memories as a family. Where to next…?!
How did you find your first family holiday together? Was it different from the trips you took as a couple? We’d love to hear where you went and how you got on. Comment below or join us on Twitter @LoveinMindBlog