Here is a quick review from Declan Doherty, one of our readers who sent in his trip report on how he got from Dublin to Glencoe, Scotland. By organising a ferry through and travelling through Northern Ireland he was able to realise his dream ski holiday with his kids at an affordable price.
Skiing for the first time with my family in Scotland
Taking 2 adults and 4 children for a week in the Alps is an expensive proposition, worse still, what if they didn’t like it ?
Making skiing affordable
I did some skiing in my twenties and always planned on taking my children on a ski trip before they grew up, but at over three grand for a week in the Alps, I just couldn’t afford it. It was always in the back of my mind that this was something they would remember forever, so I decided to look into cheaper options, fly to France find some cheap accommodation away from the slopes, rent a car and drive there each day. No. We need a 6/7 seater and they don’t come cheap. So I had to look for another option, Glencoe mountain resort has 19 runs 7 lifts and the longest and steepest runs in Scotland.
Taking the ferry to Scotland
P&O ferries (www.poferries.com) from Larne to Cairnryan costs €430 for the 6 of us with an SUV and a roof box, but it was the weekend Scotland hosted Ireland in the 6 nations at Murrayfield. The ferry was smaller than I expected, but had a kids room, a cinema and a quiet room for the adults, as well as a bar café and shop. We got the 10:30 ferry and arrived in Scotland at 2 hours later. The drive to Glasgow took about two hours, then another hour and a half through the spectacular Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National park. With about fifty minutes left in our journey the snow-capped mountains came into view and we wondered which one was ours. With no sign of any habitats, the roads still clear of snow and the sat-nav reporting another 20 odd minutes to Glencoe we saw the sign for the mountain resort and drove in. At the foot of the mountain was a snow free car park, coffee shop, equipment rental store and the “Hobbit huts” this didn’t look like I thought it would.
Kings house hotel, Glencoe
I tried to book the equipment for the next day, but was told to come back in the morning, everyone was excited and rearing to go, so we left mountain in search of our accommodation. We drive back onto the road and turned left. Less than three minutes later we found the Kings house hotel (www.kingy.com), it was in the middle of nowhere, about 100 meters from the road but with no other building for miles. You could smell the smoke from the log fire before you got into the place and it looked like it smelt, homely, friendly and inviting. We checked in at the bar and unpacked the car, we had two rooms, one with four beds and one with two, so the girls and the youngest boy got the big room. To keep the kids going before dinner we put on our jackets, gloves and hats and went for a walk along the frozen stream that runs between the back to the hotel and the mountain, encountering some friendly but majestic looking deer along the way. Dinner and a drink or two was very welcome, but we had an early start so off to bed.
First day skiing
When I opened the curtains the following morning the Stag from the night before was there looking right at me, and the snow was falling. We ate a full Scottish breakfast and drove 3 minutes to the mountain. Saturday morning was a bit of a rush, but we hired the equipment and purchased the lift passes and headed up over the mountain in the chair lifts. When we arrived at the top it was like another world. We managed to find the button lift, but the nursery slope was badly signposted. We eventually managed to find it and the kids had a ball, there is a coffee shop on the slope but the menu is limited, there is also a self-careering lodge for those with packed lunches. Between the two of us we did venture a little further up the slopes but spent most of my time, on the nursery slopes with the kids, Sean (13) was snowboarding, Emma (11) had the knack from the start, Liam (7) got a little annoyed because his little sister was better than him, but had it mastered by the end of the day and Aoife (6) was the star of the day, and could stop, start, turn and use the lifts by the end of day one.
We got our lessons from YouTube
Scotish Aprés Ski
The lifts stop at 4pm so we headed back at about half past three, because we rented the equipment for two days we had to take them with us, but we had a roof box and the hotel has a drying room which was great. A pint and a few games of pool. Then off to the rooms to wash and change for dinner, comfort food, hot, filling and homemade. After dinner we retired to one of the reading rooms to enjoy the fire, the notice of the window claims that this is one of the top ten views in the world and I would find it hard to disagree with them.
Good value ski weekend
For breakfast the next morning I tried the haggis, I won’t do that again. Then we packed up, loaded the car and paid the bill. The total for accomodation was £400.20 for the six of us for 2 nights for everything, we had put everything on our room (the nearest bank is 22 miles away and the bar doesn’t have enough change to cater for all the guests) dinner, drinks, sweets, crisps, breakfast, everything but the games of pool.
Day two at Glencoe slopes
Back on the mountain we had to buy the lift passes again, but if you have you passes from the previous day you get a discount, and off up the lifts again. This time we all know where to go and what to do, we got off to a flying start and it got better by the hour, I had been warned about the cold, but the sun was out for most of the weekend and so the factor 30 was required. We all had goggles, in case the weather turned, but we didn’t need them. We were enjoying ourselves so much that we left the mountain just a little too late and missed the boat. The girl from P&O didn’t charge us the reissue charge which was great. We got the 11pm boat back to Larne and had the kids in bed by 2:30am.
What it costed
- Adult weekend equipment rental is £25
- Skis and skipoles only are £15
- Kids weekend equipment rental is £20
There are lift passes for full days, half days, weekends, mid-week, students, adults, seniors, over 80s, kids, families, beginners and discounts for second and subsequent days check out the website for details www.glencoemountain.co.uk/winter-home.html.
Total cost for the weekend was €1230. That was from the time we left the house to the time we got back and included fuel, food and drink, transport, accommodation, equipment, and passes. Irish citizens are covered by the NHS and don’t require travel insurance, although I did get it for this trip as I was entering the unknown with young kids.
Lessons are also available, but you should try to book these in advance. The web site for the accommodation is www.kingy.com, it was just magic and suited the type of weekend we were after
Tips for next time
During my research I realised that it’s better to book the ferry in advance, then watch the weather forecasts before booking the accommodation (about 2 weeks beforehand) there are a number of resorts in the highlands so you can pick the best one for you closer the time, I had the resort in Fort William as a backup if Glencoe wasn’t looking good, don’t book lift passes or equipment until you arrive, just in case the weather is bad, you can always drive to the next resort, there are lots of them. When I go back I will travel out on the Saturday, Ski on the Sunday and the Monday as the mountain is a little quieter.