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Our Highland fling! The Cairngorms is a breath of fresh air for all the family

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our highland fling the cairngorms is a breath of fresh air for all the family

Space, horizon and plenty to do were the criteria for our family holiday. So, rather than heading to overheated beaches in southern Europe we settled on the Cairngorms.

And that was long before we had even heard of the coronavirus pandemic. Buoyed up by Springwatch, I sold the idea to our boys, aged four and seven. Our plan was to spend a couple of nights in unashamed luxury at the Fife Arms in Braemar, before heading deep into the Cairngorms National Park for a more bucolic experience.

The Fife Arms made an impression from the moment we pulled up — the architecture of this 19th-century coaching inn is majestic, and Iain Fowler, the porter dressed in tweed plus-fours, gave us the warmest welcome. But it was the inside that packed the real punch.

The Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands on a sunny winter morning

The Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands on a sunny winter morning

The Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands on a sunny winter morning

I knew it was going to be opulent — but imagine a psychedelic cross of the Natural History Museum, the V&A and the White Cube art gallery and you’ll get the picture.

The hotel is the brainchild of art dealers Iwan and Manuela Wirth, who have lovingly restored it into a 46-room treasure trove stuffed with 14,000 artefacts. We had afternoon tea under Picasso’s Seated Musketeer in the tartan-clad drawing room.

While we munched on beetroot and orange battenberg cake, and sipped whisky tea, curious walkers popped in to look at the Picasso, and at Lucien Freud’s Child Portrait Annie, which hangs in reception.

The Fife Arms at Braemar was built in the 19th century and sits over a tributary of the River Dee

The Fife Arms at Braemar was built in the 19th century and sits over a tributary of the River Dee

The Fife Arms at Braemar was built in the 19th century and sits over a tributary of the River Dee

What’s more, the hotel has a royal seal of approval — it was opened by the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay, (that’s Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall). There are even some rather good watercolours by Prince Charles hanging near the dining room.

With all the fabulous art: a Gerhard Richter, Man Ray photographs, a grand Pieter Brueghel the younger, a Martin Creed and colourful glass chandeliers by Matthew Jackson and Subodh Gupta, you might think this would be a dangerous place to bring two boisterous boys. But they were transfixed by the tsunami of taxidermy: the flying stag, an impressive wall of ungulate heads, red squirrels galore, grouse and flying birds.

They also took up residence in the hotel’s games room. For their exhausted parents, Elsa’s art-deco cocktail bar was more the ticket, named after the Twenties Italian born fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who used to stay at nearby Invercauld House.

The drawing room with a roaring fire at the eclectically designed Fife Arms

The drawing room with a roaring fire at the eclectically designed Fife Arms

The drawing room with a roaring fire at the eclectically designed Fife Arms 

The next day we joined forager Natasha Lloyd and her dog, Rosie, for an adventure in the driving rain.

We learnt about wild garlic, ancient woodland and extensive fungus systems. She even got my elder son, Noah, picking stinging nettles.

And what of Braemar itself? Simon Blackett of Yellow Welly Tours (yellowwellytours.com) ushered us into his Land Rover and took us around the Mar Lodge and Invercauld Estates as well as Braemar Castle.

We stopped at viewing points to admire the sweeping River Dee and some mighty Munros (Scottish mountains over 3,000 ft) and were amused to see one hirsute gentleman receiving an open-air shave from his girlfriend.

Braemar Castle in the morning sunshine near the Cairngorms National Park

Braemar Castle in the morning sunshine near the Cairngorms National Park

Braemar Castle in the morning sunshine near the Cairngorms National Park

We stopped at the games park, where the Highland Games are held on the first Saturday in September every year and which the Queen has never missed — Balmoral, after all, is nearby.

Then it was time to move to Milton Cottage, which is half a mile up a bumpy track near Loch Pityoulish in the north-west corner of the Cairngorms. Culture shock set in as we went from extreme luxury to an alarmingly rustic retreat.

This white cottage is rickety and basic (think peat-brown bath water and low ceilings) but it had what we needed: notably a sweet sitting room with fireplace and a functioning kitchen. Its real virtue was its location: Milton Burn flows past a mere 20 metres away, and we were in splendid isolation with walks galore on our doorstep. When our nature walks got too much, we explored Aviemore and the surrounding area. First up was a trip back in time on the Strathspey Steam Railway — we jumped aboard at Aviemore and took the 20-mile round trip to Broomhill.

Invercauld House - in Royal Deeside near Braemar - was built in the 16th century

Invercauld House - in Royal Deeside near Braemar - was built in the 16th century

Invercauld House – in Royal Deeside near Braemar – was built in the 16th century

Stations are decked out with bunting and hanging baskets, diehard Monarch Of The Glen fans will note that Broomhill is Glenbogle station. And the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre and museum is worth visiting for younger children. The herd was introduced in the 1950s and has flourished.

The highlight for the boys was the Highland Wildlife Park, a cold-weather zoo with polar bears, snow leopards, wolves, snow monkeys, yaks and bison. And not forgetting the Scottish wild cats, which look like large domestic tabby cats.

The Landmark Forest Adventure Park is a fun day out; there are rides, rope climbing, a red squirrel trail and a new dinosaur kingdom. Not that you have to pay to have fun in the Cairngorms: a game of beach football on Loch Morlich was spectacular and we loved the isolated beauty of the beach on Loch Laggan.

It turns out we were in good company — a few days later the James Bond crew arrived to film in and nearby Ardverikie. Proving to the boys, as if it were needed, that the Cairngorms are the place to be. 

TRAVEL FACTS

Rooms at The Fife Arms from £250 and suites from £795 including breakfast (thefifearms.com). Milton Cottage from £60 a night (airbnb.com). 

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US billionaires gained $845 BILLION during the first six months of the pandemic

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us billionaires gained 845 billion during the first six months of the pandemic

America’s billionaires have reaped a windfall during the first six months of the coronavirus pandemic, gaining a collective $845 billion even as jobless claims hit record highs and millions were thrown out of work.

The gains represent a 29 percent jump in net worth for America’s billionaires, according to a join report on Thursday from Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies, a politically liberal think-tank. 

The report, based on data from Forbes, shows how the richest have prospered during a pandemic that has crushed small businesses and wreaked havoc on the economy.

In dollar terms, no one gained more than Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, who saw his net worth increase by $73.2 billion, to $186.2 billion, between March 18 and September 15.

This table shows the gains of the 15 richest billionaires in America, who gained a collective $400 billion, or nearly half of the total gains of all billionaires

This table shows the gains of the 15 richest billionaires in America, who gained a collective $400 billion, or nearly half of the total gains of all billionaires

This table shows the gains of the 15 richest billionaires in America, who gained a collective $400 billion, or nearly half of the total gains of all billionaires

In dollar terms, no one gained more than Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (above), the world's richest man, who saw his net worth increase by $73.2 billion, to $186.2 billion

In dollar terms, no one gained more than Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (above), the world's richest man, who saw his net worth increase by $73.2 billion, to $186.2 billion

In dollar terms, no one gained more than Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (above), the world’s richest man, who saw his net worth increase by $73.2 billion, to $186.2 billion

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also saw handsome gains during the pandemic, nearly doubling his net worth to $100.6 billion

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also saw handsome gains during the pandemic, nearly doubling his net worth to $100.6 billion

Tesla CEO Elon Musk's wealth soared, with his net worth skyrocketing 274 percent to $92 billion over the six-month period

Tesla CEO Elon Musk's wealth soared, with his net worth skyrocketing 274 percent to $92 billion over the six-month period

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (left) nearly doubled his net worth to $100.6 billion, while Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s (right) net worth skyrocketed 274 percent to $92 billion

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also saw handsome gains during the pandemic, nearly doubling his net worth to $100.6 billion. 

On a percentage basis, Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s wealth soared, with his net worth skyrocketing 274 percent to $92 billion over the six-month period.

Bill Gates, the second richest man in the world after Bezos, saw more modest gains, adding a mere $18.3 billion to his net worth. 

Oracle chairman Larry Ellison gained $20.2 billion over the last six months, and stands to gain even more if President Donald Trump approves his company’s proposal to partner with TikTok parent ByteDance to keep the Chinese video-sharing app running in the U.S.

It comes during a period of historic economic and physical suffering for most Americans. 

Over 50 million Americans lost jobs in the pandemic, with nearly 14 million still unemployed. Meanwhile, nearly 200,000 have died from the virus, with a total of 6.6 million infected. 

Oracle chairman Larry Ellison gained $20.2 billion over the last six months

Oracle chairman Larry Ellison gained $20.2 billion over the last six months

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett saw his net worth rise by $15.7 billion

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett saw his net worth rise by $15.7 billion

Oracle chairman Larry Ellison gained $20.2 billion over the last six months, while Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett (right) saw his net worth rise by $15.7 billion

‘The billionaire economy has been turbocharged by policymakers who are now stalling on relief for the real economy,’ said Chuck Collins, director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Program on Inequality and co-author of the report. 

‘The difference is stark between profits for billionaires and the widespread economic misery in our nation. Clearly, the priorities of our elected officials in Washington, DC are completely upside down,’ Collins said.

Even among billionaires, the richest gains were highly concentrated. Roughly $400 billion, or only a little less than half of the total gains, were captured by just the 15 wealthiest on the billionaires list. 

The top three gainers alone – Bezos, Zuckerberg and Musk – enjoyed 16 percent of the spoils, or a collective wealth surge of $137 billion. 

MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, gained $23.9 billion during the pandemic

MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, gained $23.9 billion during the pandemic

MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, gained $23.9 billion during the pandemic

Struggling New Yorkers line up at a food bank outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn last week. Millions have been thrown out of work during the pandemic, even as billionaires gained

Struggling New Yorkers line up at a food bank outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn last week. Millions have been thrown out of work during the pandemic, even as billionaires gained

Struggling New Yorkers line up at a food bank outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn last week. Millions have been thrown out of work during the pandemic, even as billionaires gained 

Although stocks, which make up most of the net worth of the nation’s billionaires, tanked in March, their gains during the pandemic do not merely reflect the subsequent recovery on Wall Street.

Billionaires are also $680 billion, or 22 percent, richer today than they were in February 2019, the release date of the most recent previous Forbes annual report.

‘Every candidate in this campaign season, from presidential hopeful down, who’s pledging to lead us out of the coronavirus crisis must address this stark divergence between the nation’s wealthiest elite and their struggling fellow citizens,’ said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, a left-leaning advocacy group. 

‘The answer starts with creating a fair share tax system that narrows obscene wealth gaps and raises the trillions of dollars needed to address the present emergency and invest in our families and communities over the long-term,’ said Clemente.

In August, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota introduced a bill that would tax 60 percent of the gains of billionaires during the pandemic.

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How a new coronavirus cluster is threatening Melbourne’s path out of lockdown

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how a new coronavirus cluster is threatening melbournes path out of lockdown

The success of Melbourne‘s ongoing lockdown could be at risk with a new cluster emerging in the southeast of the city, testing the capacity of COVID-detectives.

There are currently 101 active coronavirus cases in the Casey and Dandenong area with 34 infections linked to five households in the Afghan community.

As residents in the city are still under strict Stage Four lockdown which restricts families travelling more than 5km from their homes to visit other households, it’s thought the infected group may have breached the stay-at-home orders.

Health authorities are now scrambling to track and trace the new surge in cases and the Victorian government has even began a new recruitment drive that will see retired officers re-enlisted to bolster the state’s frontline virus efforts. 

There are currently 101 active coronavirus cases in the Casey and Dandenong area with 34 infections linked to five households

There are currently 101 active coronavirus cases in the Casey and Dandenong area with 34 infections linked to five households

There are currently 101 active coronavirus cases in the Casey and Dandenong area with 34 infections linked to five households

The Victorian government has even began a new recruitment drive that will see retired officers re-enlisted to bolster the state's frontline virus efforts

The Victorian government has even began a new recruitment drive that will see retired officers re-enlisted to bolster the state's frontline virus efforts

The Victorian government has even began a new recruitment drive that will see retired officers re-enlisted to bolster the state’s frontline virus efforts

‘Members of those households visiting other households,’ Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimar said.

‘It is that limited amount of contact, relatively infrequent contact between these five households that has now meant that we have 34 people in five houses experiencing or living with a very real threat of the coronavirus.’

The cluster, which has impacted the five households in Hallam, Clyde, Narre Warren South and Cranbourne North, first emerged on September 4. 

Cases in the southeast have now spread to Dandenong Police Station and a number of industrial work sites.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday said the actions of the family’s involved in the cluster is ‘disappointing’. 

The cluster which has impacted the five households in Hallam, Clyde, Narre Warren South and Cranbourne North, first emerged on September 4

The cluster which has impacted the five households in Hallam, Clyde, Narre Warren South and Cranbourne North, first emerged on September 4

The cluster which has impacted the five households in Hallam, Clyde, Narre Warren South and Cranbourne North, first emerged on September 4

‘Five kilometres is one thing and visiting others is the real issue here.’ he said. 

‘The rules are in place for a reason and anyone who undermines this, undermines the entire strategy and it means the rules will be on for longer.’ 

But the Victorian leader ruled out fines for the group, telling reporters it may discourage others from being completely honest with contact tracers. 

‘I know many Victorians, when you see examples of people not following the rules, that’s disappointing, it makes you angry,’ Mr Andrews said.

‘You need to look at the bigger picture here.

‘We don’t want a situation where people don’t have a sense of confidence and indeed, you know, the sense they’re obliged to tell us the full story as quickly as possible. That’s what we need.’ 

The success of Melbourne's ongoing lockdown could be at risk with a new cluster in the southeast of the city. Pictured: A coronavirus testing centre in Cranbourne on September 17

The success of Melbourne's ongoing lockdown could be at risk with a new cluster in the southeast of the city. Pictured: A coronavirus testing centre in Cranbourne on September 17

The success of Melbourne’s ongoing lockdown could be at risk with a new cluster in the southeast of the city. Pictured: A coronavirus testing centre in Cranbourne on September 17

The Casey and Dandenong cluster is testing the capacity of COVID-detectives. Pictured: Heathworkers are seen at a coronavirus testing centre in Cranbourne on September 17

The Casey and Dandenong cluster is testing the capacity of COVID-detectives. Pictured: Heathworkers are seen at a coronavirus testing centre in Cranbourne on September 17

The Casey and Dandenong cluster is testing the capacity of COVID-detectives. Pictured: Heathworkers are seen at a coronavirus testing centre in Cranbourne on September 17

A health worker is pictured approaching a vehicle at a COVID-19 testing centre in Cranbourne on September 17

A health worker is pictured approaching a vehicle at a COVID-19 testing centre in Cranbourne on September 17

A health worker is pictured approaching a vehicle at a COVID-19 testing centre in Cranbourne on September 17

Despite the new cluster, Victoria’s overall case numbers are continuing to decline.

There were 45 new cases on Friday bringing the total number of infections above 20,000.

However the number of active cases has fallen to 920.

Sadly, another five deaths today takes Victoria’s death toll to 750. 

With contact tracers ‘painstakingly’ working around the clock to slow the spread of the virus and bringing the city out of lockdown, the Victorian government is set to introduce a controversial new policy that will see retired cops re-enlisted in the force.

The Department of Justice and Community Safety and the Department of Health and Human Services is behind the push that will see former cops given paid training before being assigned specific COVID-19 roles including, industry enforcement, testing support, door-knocking and the airport patrol. 

A heavy Police presence is seen in Dandenong following an anti-lockdown protest on August 28

A heavy Police presence is seen in Dandenong following an anti-lockdown protest on August 28

A heavy Police presence is seen in Dandenong following an anti-lockdown protest on August 28

A man with a dog is seen being questioned by two police officers in the Dandenong area

A man with a dog is seen being questioned by two police officers in the Dandenong area

A man with a dog is seen being questioned by two police officers in the Dandenong area

But not everyone is in favour of the move to bring back veteran police.     

‘Police veterans have a real contribution to make to the ongoing safety of the community but their use to issue infringements, detain people and conduct checks on private property is entirely inappropriate,’ Opposition Police & Community Safety spokesman David Southwick told the Herald Sun.   

Ivan Ray, who served in the Victorian Police Force for over three decades said it’s a recipe for disaster for the veterans. 

‘It’s effectively a health department police force, and we know the Health Department is no good at enforcement, we saw that in the hotel quarantine operation,’ Mr Ray said.

‘Veterans can play a part and they can support policing, but it has to be by the police department,’ he said. 

Health authorities are urging anyone in the southeast of Melbourne to diligently monitor their health and immediately get tested if feeling unwell. 

Health authorities are urging anyone in the southeast of Melbourne to diligently monitor their health and immediately get tested if feeling unwell

Health authorities are urging anyone in the southeast of Melbourne to diligently monitor their health and immediately get tested if feeling unwell

Health authorities are urging anyone in the southeast of Melbourne to diligently monitor their health and immediately get tested if feeling unwell

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Matilda’s fans fuming after news the Australian soccer team’s kit is not available in women’s sizes

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matildas fans fuming after news the australian soccer teams kit is not available in womens sizes

Soccer fans have been told they won’t be able to buy jerseys to support the National Women’s soccer team in women’s sizes.

Nike and the Football Federation of Australia released the country’s official home and away kit on Thursday for the Socceroos and the Matildas.

But when fans asked where they could purchase the women’s sizing for the new ‘away’ gear they were told it didn’t exist.

This is despite the new jerseys being modelled on female players including Matildas defender Ellie Carpenter. 

Matildas Captain Sam Kerr models the new home kit for the Matildas

Matildas Captain Sam Kerr models the new home kit for the Matildas

Matildas player Ellie Carpenter models the new away kit for the Matildas

Matildas player Ellie Carpenter models the new away kit for the Matildas

Female soccer fans have been told they will have to purchase jerseys to support the National Women’s soccer team in men’s sizes. This is despite the new jerseys being modelled on female players including Matildas captain Sam Kerr (left)  and Ellie Carpenter (right)

Pictured: Ellie Carpenter takes a fall during a match against Chile in Adelaide November 2019

Pictured: Ellie Carpenter takes a fall during a match against Chile in Adelaide November 2019

Pictured: Ellie Carpenter takes a fall during a match against Chile in Adelaide November 2019

Instead, they were told they could wait two years for new gear to be released.

‘We apologise for any inconvenience caused and can assure supporters that this will be rectified for the next kit release due in 2022,’ the Maltildas official Twitter account wrote.

The merchandise gaffe sent social media including meltdown, with high profile sporting women among those questioning the oversight.

Matildas star Elise Kellond-Knight said it was ‘a fairly significant problem’ along with an embarassed monkey emoji. 

Sydney FC player and Greater Western Sydney AFL women’s player Ellie Brush wholeheartedly agreed.

‘Yep. Wtf. (What the f***)’ she wrote.

Female soccer fans have been told to wait two years until they can purchase female sizes in the new national soccer jerseys for the Matildas

Female soccer fans have been told to wait two years until they can purchase female sizes in the new national soccer jerseys for the Matildas

Female soccer fans have been told to wait two years until they can purchase female sizes in the new national soccer jerseys for the Matildas 

Matildas star Elise Kellond-Knight said it was 'a fairly significant problem' along with an embarassed monkey emoji

Matildas star Elise Kellond-Knight said it was 'a fairly significant problem' along with an embarassed monkey emoji

Matildas star Elise Kellond-Knight said it was ‘a fairly significant problem’ along with an embarassed monkey emoji

Hundreds of angry fans have critcised the decision, with many arguing a two year wait is simply unacceptable.

‘You seriously can’t make this up. Australia’s National Women’s Football Team yet you can only get shirts in men’s sizes. You’re joking right?’ one fan said.

‘Waiting a full two years is totally unacceptable for a mistake that shouldn’t have happened to begin with,’ another said.  

The new team uniforms were made with 100 per cent recycled polyester from plastic bottles.

Both designs feature a modern take on the 2004 Socceroos kit, with the ‘home’ jersey featuring the classic gold jersey, and the away styled in a deep obsidian.  

As part of the campaign launch Matildas Captain Sam Kerr described her excitement at donning the new uniforms.

As part of the campaign launch Matildas Captain Sam Kerr (pictured with with partner Nikki Stanton) described her excitement at donning the new uniforms

As part of the campaign launch Matildas Captain Sam Kerr (pictured with with partner Nikki Stanton) described her excitement at donning the new uniforms

As part of the campaign launch Matildas Captain Sam Kerr (pictured with with partner Nikki Stanton) described her excitement at donning the new uniforms

‘It’s an honour to play in green and gold and we can’t wait to get back on the pitch as a team,’ she said. 

‘The next few years are so important for Australian women’s football, and we intend to do everyone proud in the lead up to a huge 2023.’

The new uniforms were released ahead of the FIFA World Cup in 2022 and the AFC Women’s Asia Cup in 2022. 

Daily Mail Australia has contacted Nike and the Football Federation of Australia for comment.  

Sam Kerr of the Matildas reacts after missing a shot at goal during the Women's International friendly soccer match between the Australia and Chile at Bankwest Stadium in November 2019

Sam Kerr of the Matildas reacts after missing a shot at goal during the Women's International friendly soccer match between the Australia and Chile at Bankwest Stadium in November 2019

Sam Kerr of the Matildas reacts after missing a shot at goal during the Women’s International friendly soccer match between the Australia and Chile at Bankwest Stadium in November 2019

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