Whilst searching for family and walking friendly self-catering accommodation for our recent winter trip to the Cairngorms, I came across the Glen Beag Mountain Lodges, located at the Spittal of Glenshee – just south of the official boundary of the Cairngorms National Park and the Glen Shee ski station. With off-season deals for short stays and the lure of a hot tub, we decided to give the Glen Beag lodges a try for our 4 night mid-week March break. Here’s how we got on…
The Glen Beag Mountain Lodges are four attractive wooden Scandinavian style cabins tucked into the hillside above Spittal of Glenshee in Perthshire, right on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park. All four cabins at Glen Beag have their own outdoor hot-tub. The two larger cabins also have their own sauna – a tempting prospect for winter visitors after a snowy walk or cycle! For dog lovers, two of the Glen Beag cabins also accept dogs for a small nightly fee. With prices ranging from £225 for a 3 night, off-season stay at the smallest cabin to £750 for a week at the height of peak season in the largest lodge, there is something to suit most budgets as well as plenty of incentive for visiting out of season (there is also a discount for last minute bookings).
Location-wise, the Glen Beag lodges are easily accessible for those visiting the Cairngorms from the south. Edinburgh and Glasgow are two hours away and Edinburgh airport is around 1hr 45 by car (unless you drive during rush hour as we made the mistake of doing)! Aberdeen and Inverness are also only a couple of hours to the north but with the whole of the Cairngorms National Park between the Glen Beag lodges they are perhaps less logical transit points for a stay here.
The area itself is stuffed with activities for the outdoor enthusiast. With several beautiful walks, including a Munro ascent, possible from the Glen Beag lodges themselves and instant access to the road network through the Cairngorms and its cycling routes, this is a great jumping off point to explore the Cairngorms National Park. There are a couple of good walking options from the lodges too for those with younger children or visiting with families in the colder months and who don’t want to go too high or try anything too taxing. You can find details of two of these walks here – the Dalmunzie Hotel Pushchair Walk & the Glenlochsie Lodge & Forest Walk. Day visits to Braemar and Pitlochry are easy and a drive over the famous Cairnwell Pass – Britain’s highest stretch of road between Glen Shee and Braemar – is worth the short drive from the lodges in itself. For those snow-bunnies visiting the Cairngorms in winter, you can even pitch up with your skis to the UKs largest ski resort just up the road with 40 km of piste to enjoy when the white-stuff is plentiful.
The Glen Beag lodges are fairly private and we were able to enjoy the dramatic views up the glen from our hot-tub at Clashmore without being overlooked. There are two smaller 3-star cabins and two larger, newer 4 star cabins. The two larger cabins are next to each other (handy if travelling as a larger group and using both cabins) but still offer a good degree of privacy. Each cabin has a good-sized outdoor patio area and barbecue facilities and has its own drive-to-the-door parking spot. The cabins are uphill though so in times of deep snow, you may have to leave the car at the lower car-park and walk up. Bike storage is available upon request from the owners. In Clashmore at least though, there was plenty of covered porch area with a handy post to lock our bikes to and keep them close at hand.
Unable to justify a larger cabin we plumped for the mid-sized 3-star Clashmore lodge. Clashmore has two bedrooms – one fairly compact double and a twin bedroom with room for a travel cot. In addition there is a small bathroom with an over-bath shower, sink and loo and an open plan living area with a small tv and DVD player, settee, kitchen table and kitchen. The cabin is compact – it is definitely designed for guests to be out and about during the daytime. We sadly had to leave our daughter with her Grandparents for a few days as she was a bit under the weather and the wind-chill was due to be around -10 when we were going to visit so did not get to test run the cabin with her but she definitely would have gone a bit crazy in such a small space if we’d had to have had any stay-at-home rainy days with the tv a little too small and set-up a bit high for tiny tots to have a dvd morning. The size of the bathroom would also have made bathtime a little tricky for a wriggly toddler in need of close supervision. A cotbed (bring own linen) and high-chair are available upon request although as we didn’t bring our daughter in the end, we didn’t test these out.
If you just need a base and somewhere to relax in the evenings or are visiting in the summer when the warmer temperatures give you use of the ample outdoor space then this would be perfect and why would you want to spend a moment indoors unless absolutely necessary with such glorious countryside right on your doorstep?
The interior of Clashmore was comfortable although a little tired in places. Linen and towels were provided and were clean although our bedlinen did have scorch marks – again, the interior of our particular cabin could perhaps do with a refresh. The kitchen was well-stocked with equipment and served its purpose. Washing machine, fridge,toaster, kettle etc, are all provided as well as an oven, grill and hob (the hob takes a while to heat up but works fine once it’s got going). The cabin does have a handy porch for muddy boots and wet coats.
The views from the windows at Clashmore are lovely. From the kitchen, bathroom and main bedroom windows there are uninterrupted views north towards the Glen Shee ski station. Waking up and opening the curtains for a bedside view of dramatic mountain scenery is quite special and you really do feel completely away from it all. For those raring to get out and explore the surrounding area, a folder of ideas for walks, cycling routes, local attractions and places to eat is available in the cabin (although it did need a bit of a refresh when we visited – looked like a previous guest may have forgotten to return details of some of the walks!)
Heating is not included in the cabin fee and is payable depending on your meter reading when you leave. We stayed during very cold weather and we like to be super-warm so had our heating on almost all the time and it cost us an additional £24 for four nights. Unfortunately, despite looking like it ought to, there is no cosy log-burning fire in the cabins but the heating provided does work fine and the owners will put it on for you in advance of your arrival if you let them know what time to expect you.
At the end of the stay, you are expected to strip the linen from the beds and have a general tidy up and clean with the equipment provided. Rubbish has to be taken down to the bins at the bottom of the hill as you leave. All fairly standard stuff for a self-catering lodge! The owners are friendly if you need anything and based in their own cabin nearby but otherwise they keep to themselves and you don’t need to see them at all if you prefer for your entire stay.
Overall, The Glen Beag Mountain Lodges are a good base in a fantastic location and we would definitely consider staying there again, although perhaps in a larger cabin if travelling with small children. Whilst the size of our particular cabin made it better for a summer than a winter stay for families with small children, the experience of sitting in the lovely hot tub admiring the glorious views up the glen whilst the cold wind whistled around us and the snow covering the surrounding hillsides definitely made it a romantic place for a winter trip too.
In its favour, this is a spectacular location for a self-catering lodge with easy access to plentiful walking and cycling routes in the Cairngorms. Glen Beag feels a million miles from the hustle and bustle of the real world and in the height of tourist season, I imagine would offer more privacy than staying in one of the larger villages in the Cairngorms. On the downside, Clashmore itself was a little cramped (though bigger cabins are available) and a little tired although nothing to spoil our stay. Our biggest gripe (and one that could be easily fixed) was that the hoover provided for the end of stay clean obviously needs freshening up as despite our best efforts and not having a pet with us, the cabin smelt slightly of dog after our vacuming efforts at the end of our stay. Luckily, that was the first and only time it did! For those who like to be close to shops and ‘walk out’ in the evenings, the location may be a little isolated but otherwise this is a great spot to escape from it all and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Cairngorms.
To read more about the Glen Beag Mountain Lodges or book, please visit their website.