It was a great location for friends and family from different parts of the country, and despite steady autumnal rain, the journey was enjoyable, with mist lying over the hills making the lochs look moody and dark. This made quite a contrast to my last visit when the lochs were sparkling, reflecting the vibrant blue of the September sky.
Situated just outside Cairndow, in a brand new purpose-built centre, The Fyne Den’s mission is:
"To be a happy, caring, fun and visionary hub for families, staff, customers and children to come to and enjoy.
We want to be a positive example of what quality care and learning for children and practitioners can be in a sustainable and community based setting.
We want to provide a venue that unleashes imagination and unshackles curiosity and creativity for our cared for children and visitors alike.
We want to help our next generation to develop and grow and discover in the most innovative, inspiring and natural environment we can provide."
Judging by the service we received for Fraser’s party, they not only met, but surpassed this ambitious mission.
The two staff members could not have been more helpful or engaged, and set out the buffet and snacks and were more than happy to provide caffeine-fuelled hot drinks for the adults.
A large “sandpool” offers a great space for play, and more “risky” activity can take place on the overhead wooden climbing area.
At the other side of the venue, Fyne Village was a child’s dream – with pristine play areas including a construction site, café, hair and beauty salon, health centre, market, garage and filling station.
When I say a child’s dream, it seemed to reignite childhood memories in some of the grownups - the shops and hairdressing salon being a particular draw.
"We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing."
George Bernard Shaw
There is also an outdoor area, but the rain did not let up, so none of the adults were too keen on outdoor play. The children on the other hand…
By the end of the party, pristine would not be the most relevant adjective to use, but suffice to say the children (from 6 months to 12) had thoroughly enjoyed themselves and taken imagination to a new level. Tears were only in evidence at the end of the party, along with cries of “I don’t want to go home!”
The Fyne Den has an interesting story, not least because it is a non-profit making charitable business, established in 2004 to address the lack of childcare in Cairndow. However, it took them 15 long years of fundraising, and the new purpose built-facility was eventually opened in January 2020. They were only open for 2 months before COVID-19 forced them to close, so like many other businesses they are only now finding their feet and starting to generate income and build a customer base.
Great care and attention has been given to the layout and design to encourage free and imaginative play. Absolutely everything from the wood in the adventure zone – where children can “climb, clamber, balance and hide”, to the range of (mainly wooden) realistic accessories for the “shops and businesses” in the Fyne Village is of the highest quality.
On arrival, as I turned off the main road to access the car park, I noticed a sign for the Clachan Power Station. Instantly I was transported back to 1970, and the Girl Guide Diamond Jubilee international camp that was held in a large field near the Power Station.
Hundreds of Guides had gathered under canvas, but in true Scottish summer style, torrential rain and high winds caused the River Fyne to burst its banks, blow over latrines and tents and flood the entire campsite. We were evacuated to local community centres and schools and I remember spending the night in the school at Inveraray.
Earlier in the day, Princess Margaret had arrived by helicopter and outdoor inspections and activities were hurriedly shifted under canvas. I remember us all being encouraged to sing gung-ho Scottish songs to raise our flagging spirits, most of which had lyrics mentioning home and homeland. I’m afraid this had the opposite effect on me, and I fervently wished I was warm and dry and back in my own bed. I'm sure it was character building.
Over 50 years later, my second visit to the same site was much more enjoyable, and the rain not quite as heavy!
Isn’t life strange.
"Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child's soul."
Take care, lead well