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EACH weekend we ask well-known faces from across public life to share their favourite place. This latest instalment sees Laura Main, who plays nurse Shelagh Turner in Call The Midwife, talk about her love for a picturesque Scottish spot that she has been visiting since childhood.
LAURA MAIN, ACTOR
Where is it?
A remote cottage near the lovely village of Ballater, at the edge of the Cairngorm Mountains in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire. And conveniently just over an hour's drive from Aberdeen, where I was born and raised.
Why do you go there?
We've been going as a family ever since I was a baby. The scenery is so beautiful. We all absolutely love it there and enjoy spending time among the clean air and peace and quiet.
We know Ballater well now and the many adventures – big and small – that you can have there, although there are always new places to discover. It's a home from home, but holiday-style. It's familiar and exciting. Why travel far when we have paradise practically on our doorstep?
How often do you go?
At least once a year, otherwise I find I begin to miss it and crave a visit if I don't get my fix.
We went on holiday there every year when I was growing up, and then, when my eldest sister had her first child, we started going on holidays to Ballater again. For over a decade now, we've gone on an annual two-week summer holiday there.
Even in the intervening years, when I was in my twenties, and we didn't rent a cottage, I'd make sure I'd get a day trip out that way at least once a year and climb a hill or mountain to enjoy the fresh air, exercise and stunning views. It's a great place to reset and a wonderful change from London life.
How did you discover it?
My parents loved the area and fancied renting a cottage for a holiday. They found it in a brochure picked up at a travel agents because, of course, this was pre-internet. It turned out to be absolutely idyllic and a family tradition was born.
What's your favourite memory?
I have so many great memories. Climbing Lochnagar mountain for the first time, swimming in the River Dee on sunny days, stargazing with no light pollution, seeing wildlife and going into Ballater to get an ice cream and visit the toy shop.
But mainly, it's the feeling that you get from relaxing and spending time with loved ones.
Who do you take?
It's not me doing the taking – that has always been on Dad. And now it's three generations holidaying together. We're a close family and it's wonderful spending quality time in each other's company. I love getting to be auntie and hanging out with my nephews and niece.
What do you take?
Hiking boots and bikes, a swimming costume and waterproofs. You need to be prepared and ready for any type of weather.
I know that some people like to know that sunshine is guaranteed for their holiday, but it's because of the varied climate that Scotland is so green and lush. And when you get a sunny day, there really is nowhere else in the world that I'd rather be.
It was incredibly hot when we were there last summer – we went for dips in rivers every day. I managed with my cossie, but the kids have wetsuits and I think I'll get one too, so it doesn't need to be a heatwave in order to join them next time.
A word of warning: rivers can be very dangerous, so take great care if you do this.
What do you leave behind?
Connection with the outside world. There's no WiFi in the cottage and I don't even get a phone signal on my mobile.
You can go for a bit of a walk and find a signal if you're desperate, but it really helps with switching off from everyday life and being present with loved ones and your environment, without having to rely on self-discipline to not look at your phone.
Sum it up in five words.
Beautiful. Peaceful. Magical. Restful. Adventure.
What other travel spot is on your wish list?
I need to get to know more of the UK and find other places that I love to escape to that are a little closer to London, where I live. But I find nothing makes me feel the way that I feel when I'm in the Scottish countryside. There really is no place like home.
Laura Main stars in Call The Midwife, BBC One, Sundays, 8pm. Catch up now on BBC iPlayer