Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending North Hop Aviemore. Mr B and I had attended the inaugural festival in Inverness way back in 2014 and we had a great time, but unfortunately we hadn’t made it back in 2015 as we were on holiday. When the press invite popped into my email inbox, there was no hesitation in snapping those tickets up! Mr B was gutted he couldn’t make it, but my friend Nicole was more than pleased to accompany me.
The venue was the MacDonald Hotel Resort in Aviemore and I was intrigued to see how their Osprey Arena conference centre could be transformed into a beer hall, street food scene, gig venue, dance floor and cocktail lounge all in one room … but once you were in the huge arena, it was really easy to forget where you were and there was plenty of room to enjoy the surroundings without being uncomfortably squished with other festival-goers. A perfect atmosphere for a relaxed session of après ski entertainment, food and drink (and judging by the photo, a good place to still keep track of the Scotland rugby score)!
As with all the other North Hop festivals, the session ticket price gives you access to a five hour session of music, a festival programme, a half pint glass and at NorthHopAvi, a beer token to get a half pint of the special festival brew from St Andrews Brewing Co bar or the festival cider from the guys at Thistly Cross. We both went for the farmhouse cider and it was really tasty, with just a little fizz it was a great start to our afternoon! I returned not too long after for a half of my absolute favourite elderflower cider.
For beer fans there were no less than 6 breweries on site offering a range of cask, keg and bottled beers to enjoy there and then, or to take away. There were a lot of IPAs to choose from, alongside amber ales, porters, honey and wheat beers. Nicole tried the Wooha wheat beer which she described as
darker and drier than usual wheat beers, but pleasant to drink. Not so banana-ish as is usual with wheat beer
Of course you can’t go to a festival and not have an option for food, and the North Hop team had secured a small but great selection of street food snacks and meals. Edinburgh-based Shrimpwreck had the seafood covered with their awesome looking fish finger sarnies, shrimp buns and food of the moment tacos. From Inverness came giant paellas from La Tortilla Asesina, and Aye Love Real Food kept their meat feast fans by way of their scotch eggs, haggis bon-bons, sausage rolls and hot dogs. The MacDonald Resort catering team also got into the street-food spirit by serving up some Teppanyaki dishes. Sugar fans weren’t overlooked as chocolate brownies were on offer from Linton & Co, and I picked up a selection of the visually stunning Caithness Chocolates (more on these in a post coming soon) to take home. The North Hop team also had secured some great deals if dining on-site between sessions (we went to Giovanni’s Italian restaurant where we got both of our mains free, so we only paid for dessert, even though the stated offer was a buy one main, get another free. After being good citizens and querying the bill, the staff were still insistent that the bill was correct – so we embraced the uber cheap dinner!).
If a momento of the day was what you were looking for, you could snap up some North Hop merchandise, Dapper & Coo clothing or Harris Tweed accessories in the market, and take a trip in Audrey, the photo-booth caravan!
I haven’t even got onto the music yet! We had a great time toe-tapping to the sounds of Footerin’ Aboot who were really popular with the afternoon crowd who even were happy to dance, and we caught a bit also of Hollie Atkinson in the evening. It was great to see a mix of acoustic and bands on offer, as well as the playlist of tunes in between times.
North Hop also caters well for those who like their gin, fizz or other spirits. Bars from Poco Prosecco, Dunnet Bay Distillers (home of Rock Rose gin), Caorunn (still my No1 fave), Tomatin Whisky and local newcomer Inshriach Gin had their own area for guests to relax with a dram or cocktail of their choice. My Caorunn bramble cocktail was very drinkable and moreish, having a sweet hit on the first taste, swiftly followed by a neat sour lemon note.
For those who are enthusiastic to meet the makers behind some of Scotlands best loved drinks, there were also special Hop Sessions. We bagged places at the Inshriach Gin Hop Session where we met Walter, who had officially been in the gin business for 24 hours (as the first batch of his Inshriach Gin had only arrived the day prior to North Hop)! We got a taste of it and Nicole (who has more to say about neat gin than me!) was a fan of the 43% strength, saying;
very drinkable neat. Smooth even though very juniper. Not botanical which is really nice. Reflects the fresh smells and nature of the national park. Why put tonic in it?
Then of the 57% navy strength;
which was a pretty good way to end our 2017 North Hop experience! However if all this talk of cocktails, delicious food and great music has made you jealous then no fear, because you can still get your North Hop festival fix in Aberdeen and Glasgow in 2017!
Thank to Michelle and the North Hop team for the invite to North Hop Aviemore – the best yet! I was not obliged to write up my experience.