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Lagganlia: A great destination for a weekend break with friends

Written by Fiona

May 23 2024

Lagganlia is an outdoor activity and accommodation centre located at Feshiebridge, near Kincraig, in the Cairngorms. It offers a range of places to stay and plenty of things to do on-site, and close by. I recently enjoyed a two night weekend break with friends, including seven adults and five children.

What is Lagganlia?

During week days in school term-time, Lagganlia Outdoor Centre, which is owned by City of Edinburgh Council, is a popular base for school residential groups.

The centre is a legacy project of the late George Boyd Anderson, a Scottish philanthropist and environmentalist.

Anderson, a keen skier, wanted the children of Edinburgh to experience the joy of his much-loved sport and he set about building the dry ski slope at Hillend, close to Edinburgh, which opened in 1965. He then bought and gifted land in the Scottish Highlands to the citizens of Edinburgh so that pupils could experience learning on the “real stuff”.

Today, Lagganlia Outdoor Centre is an outdoor learning venue. It was opened in 1970 by the Duke of Edinburgh and Anderson’s signature is the first name in the visitors’ book. If you have a child at a state school in Edinburgh they may well visit Lagganlia as part of a residential activity trip.

Children stay in the lodges and main centre there are on-site activities, such as archery, dry slope skiing, high ropes and climbing, to enjoy. Residential experiences focus on off-site adventurous education in the wild locations throughout the National Park.

Accommodation at Lagganlia

Lagganlia also has a commercial enterprise and offers self-catering accommodation in five lodges of various sizes and activities for the wider public. The main centre is also available for large catered groups

Weekend stays of Friday and Saturday nights are available throughout the year. Midweek and week- long stays are also available during school holidays.

Our lodge, Caerketton, slept 17 in five rooms with two single-bed rooms, two four-bed rooms and a six-bed room. The configurations are a mix of bunks and beds. The larger rooms also have en-suite shower rooms, while the two single-bed rooms share a bathroom.

The decor and furniture is simple but quite modern, especially the kitchen. Most of the bedrooms are bunk-house style accommodation in Caerketton.  Other lodges have single and twin room options.

There is also a dying room in the lodge for wet kit. The grounds include firepits and barbecues for general use.

Prices vary depending on the lodge size. The two-night stay at Caerketton Lodge was £895. This works out at £26 per person if fully occupied.

There are also camping pods for two people to book. There are plans for development of three luxury family pods

A weekend with friends at Lagganlia

Our group of friends arrive from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness at Caerketton Lodge over the course of Friday afternoon and evening. We each place weekend bags of outdoor kit and clothes into one of five rooms, varying from one bed to six beds (three bunks), and then unpack numerous bags of food and drink into kitchen cupboards and the fridge. We always over-cater for our trips way but we figure it’s better to have more than less of what we need.

With baked potatoes placed in the oven, a salad made and a range of toppings to suit all dietary requirements ready for heating or dishing up, we gather around the large dining table or on nearby sofas in the big open-plan kitchen-dining-living area at the centre of the lodge.

Over a drink or two, we catch up on chat and gossip having not been all together for several months. 

Our group –  including myself, hubby G and his 15-year-old nephew Ethan from Inverness; Lynsey and Tony and their three children, 13-year-old Noah, 10-year-old Poppy and seven-year-old Finn from East Dunbartonshire; Jen and Stewart and their 10-year-old daughter Niamh from North Lanarkshire; and Ben one of my old school friends, from Edinburgh – like to meet up for short breaks a few times each year.

Lagganlia offered a great location for all of us to reach, as well as being at the heart of a fantastic outdoors playground near Aviemore and the Cairngorms.

Over our evening meal, we turn our thoughts to tomorrow’s activity and having checked the weather we decide that the nearby Munro, Sgòr Gaoith, from Glen Feshie, would be a good target. There is an option to complete a loop or an out-and-back route but both total around 14km (8 miles).

Among our group are seasoned Munro baggers, as well as several first-timers, but the mountain has a path all the way to the summit and only a few steeper sections and an overall ascent of some 900m, so we reckon it should be possible for everyone.

Lagganlia: A Saturday of activity

We enjoy a fairly late start of about 10am to allow for a good night’s sleep and a proper breakfast. Because Lynsey was training for the Jura Fell Race, she needed to complete a run and headed off early with Stew another nearby mountain, the Corbett Meall a’ Bhuachaille.  

Stew reports later that Lynsey was definitely easily fit enough to tackle the famously tough Jura race, while he had struggled “just a bit” on the Meall a’ Bhuachaille circuit, from Glenmore. The route includes some 550m of ascent over a distance of around 9km and they manage this before we all set out for the Munro.

Meall a’ Bhuachaillie is one of many destinations in the area for a run or walk. See my choice of 5 great walks while staying at Lagganlia.

There is talk of a dip in a local loch or the River Feshie later on, if we arrive back in time, or a trip to Loch Insh Outdoor Centre, just along the road, where there a many different activities for people of all ages to enjoy on land and on the water.

Group hike of Sgòr Gaoith

Leaving a small car park at the base of Sgòr Gaoith, we climb on a path through an area of majestic pinewoods. The trees line a steep cleft in the land, although we note that many of the ancient Caledonian pines have been felled, presumably by the fierce storms of recent times. 

The Munro is, in fact, situated in Invereshie and Inshriach National Nature Reserve and the pinewoods form part of a the largest single area of Caledonian forest left in Scotland extending from Glen Feshie to Abernethy. It was therefore very sad to see the extent of storm damage.

As we gain height, the views behind us reveal the undulating landscape of Badenoch, surrounding the villages of Kincraig and Kingussie, and north to the Monadhliath mountains.

Our larger group soon spreads out a little, with people walking at different speeds and enjoying the chance for more conversations. 

It was the amazing scent of the pinewoods that I most love during this part of the walk. It was also cool amid the trees, which was helpful because the path was sometimes steep and the air temperature was rising despite cloud cover and this meant I quickly warmed up. 

At a junction in the path, we regroup, have a quick snack and then head onwards and into more open moorland. The slopes were almost entirely bare of trees and covered in heather. 

We were all grateful for the path to show us the way because it means we don’t need to worry about the children running on ahead a bit and we can focus on our chat, rather than the navigation.

The gradient also lessens and for the next hour or so we stroll along companionably, some of us moving between different small groups to talk, while others encourage the children to keep going when they feel it has been enough of an adventure already.

When you are new to walking mountains, the distance can seem off-putting but once you have become familiar with the rewards of gaining a summit, the activity often becomes addictive.

The youngest among us, Finn, appears to have far more energy than anyone else and practises his “parkour” skills, running and jumping from rocks, exploring river beds and chasing the front walker up the hill.

Higher up, I get talking to a man from Glasgow, who tells me he is a keen Munro bagger. We fall into step and conversation for the next 20 minutes and I greatly enjoy his stories of life, work, family and other Munros. 

Looking back, I realise I have pushed on faster than our group, so I return down the hill and walk alongside Ethan for a while. It is his first Munro and while he says he is enjoying the hike, he was starting to wonder when we would make it to the top. 

The second half of the ascent includes a couple of steeper sections to reach a bealach between Sgòr Gaoith and another mountain, Carn Bàn Mòr, before a final stretch on a much reduced gradient along a high plateau. 

The summit of Sgòr Gaoith is at 1118m elevation and located on the edge of dramatic crag. If it had not been for thick clouds we would have been able to see the huge mountain of Bareriach to the east and also down to Loch Einich. 

We caution the younger children to stay away from the edge as we approach the top, where we all sit for a while to refuel on sandwiches, crisps and chocolate. There is a collective sense of achievement, especially as Finn, Noah and Ethan have bagged their first Munro.

The descent is always much easier with a group and before we became chilled by the mist, we gather ourselves up and set off. Again, we all drift between smaller groups to enjoy a range of different conversations.

Walking in a group might be slower overall but it brings great rewards of having plenty of time to be in each other’s company. No matter who I found myself walking with, the conversations were greatly enjoyable, from Finn telling me about why he is so good to skiing, to Noah’s favourite school subjects, to Poppy’s list of nine Munros bagged so far, to Niamh asking if we could now go for a loch swim because that is her favourite outdoors thing to do, to all manner of topics being discussed by the adults. 

As it turned out, by the time we make it back to the car park and then to the lodge again, the vote is to stay put, have some relaxation time in the lodge and then light the barbecue.

With wine and beers already poured and the kids happily eating snacks and chilling out with their various electronic gadgets, the afternoon quickly turns into evening and a filling meal of barbecued food and salads. 

One of the parents commented that the lodge is perfect for families because “you don’t have to worry about the kids breaking things or making posh furniture dirty”, plus there is plenty of space outdoors next to the lodges for running off energy or playing football.

A Sunday stroll and dip

After the Munro the day before, the consensus was for an easier-going Sunday before everyone departs for home. Ben had consulted the local map and suggests we walk from Lagganlia along the River Feshie to a pool near Feshiebridge, where we might be able to swim.

Again, we are shocked by the number of fallen trees on the river bank and we need to climb over, under and around some of the larger trunks to continue on a path.

It is a short but fun walk and perfect for kids who are a little tired. We find a shallow entry to the water for the children to enjoy a paddle, while Hubby G and I venture into deeper waters for a swim. The water is cold but wonderfully refreshing. 

As we swim, we see other people walking on the long-distance trail, The Speyside Way, which heads through Feshiebridge. Upstream, we had earlier spotted a group having fun in whitewater sections in small inflatable crafts. Later, a couple of wild swimmers arrive to take a dip, too. They tell us they are enjoying a weekend in the area to swim and dip in dozens of different waterways, including lochs, lochans and rivers. 

The walk back gives us swimmers and paddlers a much-needed warm up. Our checkout time is noon (we asked for a slightly later checkout than detailed on the website), so we have time to gather together our bits and pieces, give the lodge a quick clean and tidy before bidding each other farewell. 

We decide we will leave a trip to Loch Insh Outdoor Centre for another time. 

While it had been a short break, we all said how mentally restored we felt. Time spent with good friends, exploring the great outdoors and getting away from busy lives and work is always a joy.

To find out more and make a booking in one of the lodges or camping pods, see: Lagganlia.

Also read: 14 reasons to stay at Lagganlia and 5 great walks while staying at Lagganlia

  • I was gifted the lodge stay at Lagganlia in return for an honest review.

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