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Into the Valley.

Byline: PAUL CORNEY

LOCATED in the heart of the Cairngorms, the Macdonald Aviemore Highland Resort offers boundless opportunities to experience golf in the breathtaking scenery of the Scottish Highlands and includes numerous outdoor activities all year round and the best of Highland hospitality.

The resort has been the focus of an pounds 80m redevelopment by a consortium led by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts which includes the Bank of Scotland and Tulloch Construction Group.

There is now a varied choice of accommodation to choose from. The Aviemore Inn is a spacious, bright and airy hotel with restaurant and bar facilities with superb views - the 62 rooms overlook either Craigellachie nature reserve on one side of the resort or Cairngorm Mountain on the other.

Designed for families, the Academy Hotel is comfortable, yet practical.There are 102 large family rooms in a lodge style and the dining is informal.

Boasting the finest views of the Cairngorm Mountain from anywhere in Aviemore, the Macdonald Four Seasons Hotel has 88 rooms, a restaurant, bars and function suites.

The Macdonald Highlands Hotel has 151 rooms, a stylish restaurant with magnificent views, private dining and a cocktail bar.

And there are 18 lodges nearby in the ancient Caledonian pine forest, each offering a spacious living room, fully fitted kitchen and en-suite bedrooms.

Like the accommodation, you will also find a wide choice of dining options at the resort.The informal Highland Food Court and Giovanni's Ristorante provide ideal dining options for all ages. The Steakhouse is a favourite with local diners and is situated nearby in the resort's Macdonald Dalfaber Golf and Country Club and for that special occasion, Aspects Restaurant offers inspirational cuisine and fine wines to wet the appetites of most connoisseurs.

The vast majority of visitors to Aviemore are there for one reason only and that's leisure. Seasonal activities offer a wide range of options such as skiing, fishing, gorge walking, mountaineering, quad biking, water sports including white water rafting and now championship golf.

Within the resort, there is the Highland Leisure Arena offering a superb 25-metre pool and Jacuzzi, steam bath, sauna and relaxation rooms and a state of the art techno-gym and gymnasium.

And if you fancy a bit of shopping, a visit to the resort's "Brands are Gathering"will tempt the most extravagant shopaholics into making a purchase or two. Brands include Folli Follie, Hunter, Ralph Lauren, Burberry, DKNY and Timberland for kids, Joules and Dr Brinkmann. There are also outlets for shoes, home and kitchenware and gifts.

As for the golf, the new Spey Valley Course has to be seen to be believed. Opened in July 2006, this is Scotland's newest championship course and features nearly 7200 yards of spectacular golfing fairways and the most breathtaking scenery in the Highlands.

From sparkling water features fed by mountain springs to the brooding mass of Braeriach and Bynack in the distance, it will not be long before Spey Valley is nominated for the title of "Most scenic Championship Golf Course in the world".

The lay-out has been designed by Newcastle's Dave Thomas, who believes that this course is his best to date. And considering he sas been responsible for Cardrona, the Roxburghe and the Hunting course at Slaley Hall, as well as a raft of courses abroad including San Roque, that comment alone will encourage golfers from all over to make the journey to Aviemore.

Spey Valley measures 7118 yards off the blues, 7017 off the whites and 6653 off the yellows.Even if you play from the ladies tees it's still nearly 6000 yards, and is one helluva test!

But it's not the only golf course atAviemore worth playing. Only six miles to the north, you will find one Scotland's finest treasures - Boat of Garten Golf Club.Designed by James Braid and opened in 1898,"The Boat" is not only a demanding test of sporting skill but also a magnificent setting for the game.

This course measures 5876 yards of the back tees and has a par of 70. It might be short but I would suggest you leave the driver in the car. There is little room for error, "The Boat" requires well placed tee shots and even more accurate approach play.Watching a visiting fourball play one of the holes, three of the guys insisted on using their big armoury from the tee and I gave up counting after they'd lost eight balls between them - two five irons would have done the job.

The Boat of Garten offers the visitor a warm and friendly welcome and a very high standard of catering, I can fully recommend the all day Scottish breakfast.

Aviemore maybe a four and a half hour drive from the North East but it's a journey you will not regret making.

CAPTION(S):

DRAMATIC: Spey Valley boasts some majestic scenery; WIDE OPEN SPACES: The Boat of Garten course has some lovely tree-lined fairways.
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Aug 27, 2007
Words:817
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