Sunday 18 March 2018

Visit Nairn

The kids only had two key criteria for picking a location for our Scottish holiday last year - they wanted to be near the beach, and they wanted to be able to visit Loch Ness. Armed with these expectations, I began trawling the Sykes Cottages page in earnest 'til I found a cute looking cottage that fit my budget and would do us nicely for the week - and thus it was decided we were staying in Nairn! 

I'd never heard of the town before, and the place itself had little to do with our initial decision to head there - but we loved both the time spent in Nairn and it's usefulness as a base for exploring some gorgeous areas of Scotland. Here's my guide to visiting Nairn: 

The Nairn Highland Games

Completely by accident, we'd booked to arrive in Nairn on the same day as their annual Highland Games. This did mean that instead of a leisurely drive to the highlands, arriving late afternoon for a relaxed check in just in time for tea - we wanted to make sure we were hitting Nairn before lunch time!

Before the official opening there was a free-to-enter kids race, and we wanted to make sure we were there for that as it might be the youngsters only chance to say they've competed in a Highland Games! Being there so early meant we could grab prime spots to watch the rest of the day's events unfold! 

A particular favourite event was the Tug-O-War... I never realised before that there are actual Tug-O-War tactics and the like! We had a favourite team to cheer for and it was really exciting watching the competition unfold! 

The events that make up the Highland games ranged from fairly standard athletic events involving running and jumping, to those that definitely felt more highland-specific (which usually involved throwing something heavy), but really we were all there for the Caber Toss! 

The Caber Toss feels like the quintessential Highland Games event, and was the headlining game of the day. It was a brilliant thing to see, and I can't begin to get my head around the strength and skill that must be involved in manouvering these massive cabers! 

There was a fair in town to accompany the games, and it was only a matter of steps away from the games arena to the rides, games and flashing lights of the fair. When we needed a break from watching (it was really exciting but it was a long afternoon with two children who'd already sat still for hours in the car on the way!) we didn't have to go far for exciting distractions! 

The contrast between the busy noisy fair, and the quiet peaceful town throughout the rest of the week was quite something! It was really fun to have this here on our arrival day but I'm glad it cleared out the next day! 

Where to Eat in Nairn

I didn't expect a small town on the Scottish coast to be culinary hotspot, but we ate really well in Nairn. The Sun Dancer restaurant was a firm favourite, for it's fantastic beach front location and views across the Moray Firth as much as its food! 

Apparently you can sometimes even see frolicking dolphins from the restaurant! 

We had been warned that me might need to book a table, but since it was just round the corner from where we were staying it cost us nothing to call in and see about availability and luckily they managed to squeeze us in! There's a small but carefully considered menu, with vegetarian options alongside meaty ones, and there's always fresh fish! 

You know I'm all about the puddings, and the Sun Dancer was also the site of my first Cranachan - a Scottish dessert made with whipped cream, whisky, honey, rasperries and oatmeal.... this alone would be worth a return trip to Scotland! 

For something a little less formal, there's a small cafe underneath the restaurant - great for an Ice Cream stop on a beach day! I was also impressed with the Tearoom At The Links - another one right by the beach, great value and with vegan options!

A few other local eateries came highly recommended so I probably wasted an opportunity by choosing to eat at the caravan park restaurant one night, but I figured it'd be relaxed and child friendly as well as being only a couple of minutes walk from the house, so I really don't regret my decision! 

An extra night in town and I'd have hopefully found myself at The Bandstand Restaurant, because eating is always better with a sea view! 

Where to Stay in Nairn

There's a couple of accommodation options in Nairn - the Muthu Newton Hotel is a grand looking place where you might be lucky enough to spot the resident highland cows, and there's a caravan park complete with onsite entertainment right by the harbour. I love a cosy holiday cottage though, and we found the perfect place for us at Coorie Doon

Coorie Doon literally means 'cosy down' and that's exactly what we did! The living room came complete with DVD's, board games and blankets aplenty for snug nights in.

And I've rarely been as comfortable and content as my time spent in that gorgeous bathtub after a long day at the beach! 

There was plenty of sleeping room for everyone too - the kids shared the downstairs bedroom,...

... while the adults 'cosied down' upstairs! I think the kids liked being on a separate floor - the 'independence' of being a whole floor away also meant they were closer to the kitchen and the TV!

There's also a small single room just off the upstairs double, perfect if you have younger ones that need a closer eye kept on them.... one of ours kept threatening to sleep in there if her brother annoyed her but thankfully they managed to stay friends all week so we could enjoy the upstairs in peace! 

I didn't do a whole lot of cooking in the kitchen - I was on holiday too of course so anything much more complicated than 'sandwiches' was not on my itinerary - but it was a bright and cheery area great for preparing snacks and putting together picnics as well as that most important of kitcheny tasks, making a brew! 

We booked through Sykes Cottages, as we've booked a few places with them in the last few years and never been less than thrilled with our accommodation, and the cottage owners too were great at providing info about the house, the town and the surrounding area (as well as providing an always-welcome bottle of wine - cheers guys!) 

The Beach in Nairn

I'd mentioned that the proximity of a beach was one of the top requirements of the trip, and we probably spent more time on Nairn beach that we did anywhere else! 

In fact sometimes we spent a little too long for my liking on the beach considering it wasn't exactly sunbathing weather, but the youngsters never wanted to leave - so mornings, afternoons and evenings were spent walking, exploring, digging, sandcastle-building, snoozing, raft-creating, paddling and ice-cream eating!

 The beach was only a couple of minutes pleasant walk from the house, so it was hard to say no if they wanted to go over - and it is a lovely beach, with miles of soft sand and not a lot of people (a great combination!) I loved how easy it was to find plenty of space for ourselves, even though we were there in August! 

As well as a couple of cafes already mentioned, there was a play ground, paddling pool and mini golf course just a stones throw from the beach too, as well as the harbour for watching the boats come and go.

I'm really glad we stumbled across Nairn for our holiday, and I can definitely recommend it for a lovely, relaxing family trip! 

(And when I say 'relaxing', I don't mean to imply there wasn't loads of exciting things to do in the area - I was going to include some of my favourites here but I figure this is already too long, so I'll put together some of my favourites for a separate post!)

Have you ever been to Nairn? I'd love to know some of your favourite UK towns for holidaying! 


  1. The self catering cottage looks amazing. We used to go to cottages before buying our caravan. I love cooking, so it was something I wanted to do while away too. The Highland Games look like fun to watch. What a great holiday.

    1. I'm not much of a cook, but it's nice to have to option to make your own meals - even if it is just a leisurely bowl of cereal in the morning, or supper cheese-on-toast! It's my favourite kind of holiday!

  2. It sounds a fantastic holiday! What excellent timing with the Highland games- I would LOVE to see those, especially the last event! You sound like you had some great meals and the beach looks beautiful! WHAT a gorgeous looking cottage- you did really well with that!!x

    1. I'll admit, it was a pretty long afternoon waiting round for the last events! Totally worth it though, a very cool thing to see!

  3. I always adore your travel posts Kel, you always include so much information, it's so handy. The Highland Games look like loads of fun and I love those views across the beach too - stunning! - Tasha

  4. That cottage is lovely! Glad the kids stayed friends, haha. We're hoping to visit Scotland for the first time this year!

    Corinne x

  5. What a gorgeous post! Your cottage does look lovely. We've stayed with Sykes Cottages before, and were impressed. What great luck that you were there for the Games, too...

  6. What a wonderful place to visit! The cottage looks heavenly and you timed the holiday just right :)

    I'm hoping to visit Scotland again this year, though I've never been to Nairn.

  7. Coorie Doon looks so lovely! :D


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