Enjoy a break on a Scottish estate
The population in the Scottish Highlands might be famously sparse, but there’s no shortage of things to do, with National Heritage sites, activity centres, and great swathes of rugged natural beauty everywhere you look. Coupled with a rich culture and the friendliest countrymen, it’s a must visit if you’re looking for a major change of scenery and the mountain ranges of Europe are out of your budget. While Scotland’s cities – particularly Glasgow and Edinburgh – have long been centres of tourism, a stone’s throw from the metropolitan hub there’s a whole country bursting with folklore (and quite possibly a bit of magic) waiting to be explored.
Take in the sights
The stunning natural landscape is one of the most compelling draws of the Highlands, and you’d be remiss not to make a visit to the mountains a part of your trip. Highland Safaris at Dull, Perth, and Kinross offer an award-winning off-road trip into the mountains with experienced rangers, – although be warned, it’s best to keep your breakfast light before heading out over rocky terrain and through gushing streams in the company’s hardy off-roaders. While we didn’t see much wildlife on our trip, the unspoiled views were breathtaking, and red squirrels, deer and hawk call the area home throughout the year. For an added cost, the company will organise a picnic lunch for you in their hand-built bothy (think luxury shed) at the summit of the journey before safely depositing you back at Dull. The site also offers falconry and a red deer centre, as well as a cosy café to refuel at afterwards with hot drinks and homemade national dishes like cullen skink and, of course, haggis.
With more water in Scotland than in England and Wales combined, a trip to one of the country’s many lochs is a must over the months of spring and summer. Many of the largest have beaches set up with facilities for water sports, and Highland Safaris also offer boat safaris of Loch Tay, Perthshire’s largest and one of Scotland’s deepest lochs.
Stay on an estate
We stayed at the Wyndham Duchally (pronounced “Duckly”) Country Estate – a moderately sized complex with enormous private lodges a short walk from the main house, where there’s a restaurant and bar, as well as traditional hotel rooms. On site you’ll find a small leisure centre with a pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna, as well as spa therapies by a local therapist. Each of the self-contained lodges has a clear view of the stunning mountains in the near-distance, which are forever altering during the changing seasons.
Nearby is the delightful small town of Auchterarder, which has more than its fair share of restaurants. We ate at Henderson’s Bistro (Hendersonsbistro.co.uk), which on a Saturday evening was full to the rafters with a lively atmosphere. The steak was the standout star of the menu, with a cut that was more like a fillet than the sirloin we ordered, while the small but mighty kitchen was happy to adapt orders to suit vegan or gluten-free diners.
If you don’t want to venture far or leave the luxury of the estate, then the on-site restaurant also delivers. Monteaths offers a rotating board of seasonal specials and is well worth booking a table for an evening. We enjoyed cheese boards in the adjoining bar, which holds over 50 single malt whiskies and offers traditional Scottish music by local musicians on a Sunday evening. At breakfast, be sure to try the Full Scottish –it’s everything you’d expect of a Full English, with the addition of haggis, naturally.
Scotland might be famed for its whisky, but there’s a thriving independent gin scene here, too, with a distillery around every corner. Most will offer tours and tastings, but Wyndham Duchally’s on-site Gatehouse Gin Distillery offers its own gin-making experience with knowledgeable distiller Andy, meaning you can add your own homemade gin to cocktails at the bar to enjoy during your stay.
Need to know
Stay at the Wyndham Duchally Country Estate in a two-bedroom lodge from £150 per night; three-bed lodges from £165 (£280 a night in the high season). Hotel classic rooms start at £125; deluxe rooms from £170. Book online at Wyndhamduchally.com
Up in the Highlands, a reliable taxi service is essential. We travelled with R.A.M Private Hire (Ramprivatehire.co.uk), which provide transport to local sites of interest and the airports or train stations.
The Highland Safari was booked through Highlandsafaris.net. There are lots of experiences and options to choose from, but we did the Mountain Safari Trek (Highlandsafaris.net/our-safaris/mountain-safaris-trek), which lasts around four hours and
costs from £87.50 per adult.
Monteaths at Wyndham Duchally is open for dinner from 6-9pm, Wednesday to Sunday, residents only, with booking essential. Breakfast is also served in the restaurant from 8.30-10.30am, Thursday to Monday. Book at Wyndhamduchally.com/restaurant.
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Words: Marianna Manson