After joining Hilton Grand Vacations in 2015, Owner Johnny Duckworth has taken full advantage of his vacation ownership. As a Premier Elite member with home resorts in Carlsbad, Washington D.C., and Myrtle Beach, travel is an important part of his family’s lifestyle. Newly retired, Mr. Duckworth and his wife had a summer vacation of a lifetime in Scotland at the Hilton Grand Vacations Club at Craigendarroch Lodges. Here is his story about Craigendarroch timeshare ownership.
The Vacationeer: How did you book your Craigendarroch stay?
Mr. Duckworth: My wife and I traveled to Scotland two years ago and stayed at Craigendarroch Lodges. After returning home, we realized that we didn’t see everything there is to do, and wanted to go back. When we booked our second stay I used the website primarily. I love how easy to navigate and straight-forward the HGV website is. I needed to book well in advance, but I knew that. When I book any vacation, I always book the HGV reservation first and then my airline tickets.
The Vacationeer: Can you share a few highlights about your vacation to Scotland?
Mr. Duckworth: This was the type of vacation where you can truly unwind and relax. The property is inside the national park and it is so peaceful and quiet. You are immersed in nature, listening to the sounds of the water flowing through the River Dee as you hike, cycle, or drive through the woods. It’s perfect.
The location of Craigendarroch Lodges is so ideal in the sense that you can get in your car and go out on day drives where you are exposed to miles of diverse scenery. The forest, the valleys, and the coast are all close by.
You are close to so much at Craigendarroch, so these convenient drives were a highlight of our stay. We did a drive down to Stonehaven and Edinburgh, and another drive across the Craigendarroch National Park into Loch Ness. We explored so many castles and miles of boundless coastline. The lodge is close to Aberdeen which is a beautiful city filled with public art to see displayed on both old and new architecture.
We did a drive to the coast to the village of Stonehaven and ate at the Bay Restaurant, which claims to have the world’s best fish and chips. This is a tiny, very casual restaurant on the water. When you walk in you can see the name of the boat and even the captain’s name that caught the fish that day. They also display the name of the farmer that grew the potatoes served on the side. Everything is prepared fresh after you order. It is a must-do experience in Scotland!
Even though Aberdeen is closer to the property, I highly recommend flying into Edinburgh and renting a car. The drive is gorgeous and so easy.
The Vacationeer: How were the Ballater accommodations at Craigendarroch?
Mr. Duckworth: The rooms are nice and spacious. We reserved a one-bedroom plus, so we had two private balconies and two full bathrooms. It was also a nice perk to have two separate TV’s so I could watch golf and my wife could watch her shows.
The Vacationeer: Besides the rooms, what were some of your other favorite things about your Ballater accommodations?
Mr. Duckworth: The property has an incredible leisure center, actually it’s one of the most well maintained I’ve ever seen! There are two swimming pools and a hot tub and spa with a steam room and sauna. There is also a fantastic formal sit-down restaurant on property, as well as a huge open bar area that has an incredible view of the valley floor.
My very favorite part of the property would have to be the staff, in particular, the General Manager, Ms. Monroe. The evening we arrived, she hosted a welcome reception for all guests that included a presentation about the area and nearby villages. She invited people from the local towns to come in and speak about what to see nearby castles and events like the Highland Games. Ms. Monroe genuinely cared about the travelers on the property and went out of her way to make sure we were enjoying our stay.
I really appreciated that there were so many activities and things to do. We received a flyer of what was going on that week, including activities like a pub quiz night, steak night, and Queen Victoria’s 200th birthday celebration exhibit.
The Vacationeer: How did the Craigendarroch timeshare ownership enhance your vacation experience to Scotland?
Mr. Duckworth: The planned events and activities both on and off property were a big part of our experience. The access to a concierge gave us advice on what to do during our stay. For example, I have an interest in farming back home in Texas, so they told us about a farm tour where cattle are raised. When we took our tour, we enjoyed baked goods in the farm cafe and talked to the owner, learning that he sells registered Aberdeen bulls all over the world.
The Vacationeer: What are some things to do in Ballater?
Mr. Duckworth: There are so many things to do in the Victorian village of Ballater. Ballater is 43 miles west of Aberdeen and less than a mile from Craigendarroch Lodges, with places to shop, and great pubs to eat in. There are festivals and events year-round, such as the Duck Festival in June, and the Ballater Highland Games in August. You are also a close drive away to Balmoral Castle; the Queen’s summer home.
There is an old train station in town that Queen Victoria and Albert used during their own travels. Now, there is a museum with the train carriage that they used to travel in. There are a number of small restaurants, whisky distilleries where you can sample, bookstores, and an old church right in the town’s center.
I played golf at the Ballater golf club. I love to golf (although I don’t consider myself a great golfer), and this course was fantastic. It parallels the river, so you can listen to the sounds of the water as you play.
The Vacationeer: How has HGV improved your lives as a traveler?
Mr. Duckworth: We love HGV because you have diversity to choose from when you travel. We’ve traveled to Scotland, Italy, California, Washington DC, Utah, and Myrtle Beach. Each property is so consistent and we’ve never been disappointed with a lack of quality or comfort on our vacations. I also love how professional the company is run. There aren’t people making excuses for things. If there is a problem it gets taken care of.
It only took coming back from our first trip for my wife and me to say that we were so glad we did this!
The Vacationeer: What value do you see in being an Owner with HGV?
Mr. Duckworth: I value the professional staff at each HGV property we’ve traveled to. If you like traveling to the same places, again and again, I highly recommend you get to know the staff on property. You can email or call them ahead of your trip to touch base, and it’s always so nice to see familiar faces when you travel away from home.
One of the reasons we joined was because HGV offered so many different types of vacations. We could travel with our family, and we now have so many options for just my wife and I. So I would say the diversity of options gives HGV so much value for us.
The Vacationeer:Do you have any best practices to share on how to best use your points on an international trip, with HGV?
Mr. Duckworth: Get to know the website. It’s so clear about your options, booking rules, and how many points you need per trip. Also, don’t be afraid to call a Club Counselor. When we booked our first trips with HGV to Scotland and Italy, I called a counselor and they offered so much help on the best time to travel, and how to maximize our points with room size.
The Vacationeer: Where are you off to next with HGV?
Mr. Duckworth: In February we are going to the Westminster Dog Show and we are staying in one of the HGV New York City properties. We also have a trip planned with friends to Sunrise Lodge, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club in Park City, Utah.
Are you ready for a trip to the forests of Scotland staying in our Craigendarroch timeshare ownership? We hope this story has given you a little insight on things to do in Ballater, and our accommodations in Ballater.