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Craggan Outdoors in Peak Season with some Speyside Canoeing!

Filed in Blog by on August 21, 2018 • views: 472

River Spey Canoe Trips in the Cairngorms

Visit number four to Craggan Outdoors sees me arrive in the close aftermath of a scorcher of a summer that has seen local and international visitors continue to heartily embrace what Scotland has to offer. Peak season is a frenetic time for outdoor businesses at the best of times but it’s been fantastic to hear how well Keith and his team have been doing. The enticing mix of activities that they have to offer has delivered great results so far, with July having been their second busiest July ever, and I sneak into this latest batch of activities with the renewed excitement of someone who has spent too long in the city in recent weeks. The ideal time for an escape up the River Spey methinks!

The Activities

River Spey Canoeing Adventures

Canoeing is something that I must admit I have not done in many a year. Very definitely the more relaxed version of the kayaking that I’ve been enjoying a lot of lately, it’s an opportunity to cruise along the Highland’s rivers at a relaxed pace. The River Spey may be the fastest flowing river in the land but, following this astonishingly dry summer we’ve had, the pace had slowed to cruising levels and our group of 5 canoes operated at easy pace. In my more adventurous dreams, I’ve always imagined canoeing my way around beast-infested waters in South America. Appreciating the sounds of the jungle and praying to all that is holy that nothing unwelcome doesn’t jump aboard to join me. While Scotland doesn’t offer up those kinds of thrills, this whisky-lover was completely awed at the thought of experiencing this purest of whisky-making rivers in this most immersive fashion.

river spey canoe

Perhaps what I like most about canoeing is that it’s a crowd-pleaser. Whether you are a young family looking to do something together, a group of friends after a laugh, or a team of colleagues in need of a release, it will not disappoint. Craggan Outdoors, as ever, have a very experienced team of staff that are used to any and all kinds of guests, and their abilities. Practical insight, plenty of laughs and hot juice – something of a well appreciated trademark I’m coming to realise – will accompany and, whatever the weather, canoeing has enormous versatility. In summer, the River Spey canoe trip sees shallow water and the chances of going in are very slim. Some exertion is required to keep the boat moving but, all in all, this is much more of a chill-out activity than most that you’ll experience over water.

canoeing on the river spey cairngorms

Surrounded by the epic Cairngorm peaks and Cromdale Hills, kept eagle-eyed by birdlife and leaping salmon, and in good company, it’s of little wonder that this is such a popular activity and a great way to spend a half-day, or longer, at nature’s pace.

While canoeing in the Cairngorms was very much my primary focus on this occasion, visit number 4 did give me a look at some of the other goings-on at Craggan Outdoors….

Mini Quads

With the school holidays now drawing to a close, this represents a bit of a last hurrah for the little ones as they can go out with a bang. Suitable for 6-11 year olds, these 50cc mini quads can pick up a fair speed in the tyre-wall enclosed track that Craggan Outdoors has on-site. It was obvious that the safety of the youngsters is paramount, with a thorough briefing and a tests laps on a smaller circuit of the track being given, prior to the main track being opened up. Giddily mischievous wee faces then follow as the daredevils test their control and ability on the quad, all under the watchful eye of an energetic instructor who runs up & down the inside of the track in order to pay close attention at all times.

Footgolf and Disc golf

As well as a 9-hole par 3 golf course, Craggan Outdoors has also in recent years added both footgolf and disc golf, also in 9-hole course formats. Disc golf sees disc, – or frisbee as they’re often called – throwing taken to a new level as participants leisurely make their way around the course – that runs alongside the main golf course – with the disc golf baskets your ultimate target. Like golf, both your long and short game will be challenged, often with maddening repercussions. Expect lots of laughs and incredulity along the way but you definitely can’t take this one too seriously.

I’ve also been hearing more and more about footgolf in recent times….the sport of kicking a football around a golf course with the aim of getting it in an enlarged football-szied hole. What utter lunacy you may be thinking! Not what Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus – or Pele and Maradona for that matter – had in mind? Perhaps not, but it’s damn good fun! My first shot off the tee was dismally shanked as my years away from a football field scoffed their disapproving revenge. But, fortunately, the sport I loved most growing up came back to me and I somehow bent in a 30-metre beauty around a pond that would have had Ronaldo chuffed in order to save my par. It’s all a bit mad as you try to get your head around the merging of these two great sports but, as a huge fan of both, it does oddly work. There’s no denying that golf can be an infuriating game and I’ve swung more than my share of irons in rage but footgolf is all much more fun, despite its relative difficulty. Don’t knock this until you’ve tried it!

In both cases, discs & footballs are provided, or you can bring your own, and you can opt for 9 or 18 holes, or indeed a combination ticket with 9 holes of each. There is also has a mini disc golf course that is ideal for family groups with little ones, with the holes all much shorter in length and self-contained in a smaller area, so less daunting in scale, but still giving a taste for the game.

Where to Stay

My summer visit also gave me the opportunity to get an experience in Craggan Outdoors’ Glenbeg Bunkhouse and Bothy. The latter is a stand-alone converted steading that accommodates groups of up to six people, while the former can sleep up to 27 people across three bunkrooms in what is a large converted farmhouse. The Glenbeg accommodation is ideally suited to those seeking something a little remote and largely cut off from the digital day-to-day stress-bringers. Both are cosy and characterful bases to support your outdoor activities. The accommodation is just a couple of miles from Grantown-on-Spey, but the lonely single-track road out there very quickly ensures you leave habitation behind & gives that feeling of convenient remoteness. Gently rolling hills surround and the prospect of campfires – there is a firepit on sight surrounded by log seats – late-night card games and ghost stories quickly take shape.

Kitchen facilities and basic practicalities ensure relative comfort and definite warmth, but this is the more rustic partner to Craggan Outdoors’ Ardenbeg Bunkhouse in which I stayed previously. It’s simple, it’s functional and it facilitates what you are very likely to be after – a change in pace and proper immersion in the Cairngorms.

landscape view

My final visit of this season of visits to Craggan Outdoors will be in October, as the season closes and reflection on another busy year will kick in. With almost all of the Craggan Outdoors activities now under my belt, stay tuned to find out my closing thoughts on a year of education and fun for this lover of the outdoors.

Neil Robertson is a travel blogger, broadcaster and marketer who spends his time finding the best bits around his home country of Scotland, in his guise as Travels with a Kilt. Particularly fond of the outdoors and history, he can generally be found up a Munro, poking around ruins or chasing his drone around a loch. This year he will be working closely with Craggan Outdoors as they progress through the various stages of the tourism season – with plenty of sporty participation from their outdoor activity centre activities along the way. You can follow his adventures both on this site and over on his Scotland travel blog.

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