A hectic spell had left me longing to escape to a quiet corner of Scotland. I needed to unwind, and slow the pace down a little. Fortunately, I was able to do just that with a weekend break at the Straloch Estate in rural Perthshire. Booking through Cottages and Castles, we considered a number of their fabulous pet-friendly properties. We eventually chose Keeper’s Cottage on the Straloch Estate as it looked like a perfect, tranquil haven.
The three of us (The Teen had deemed this trip worthy of her presence), plus dug left Edinburgh in a jam-packed car. It was full of tasty goodies, cosy outdoor wear and comfy PJs for loafing in. Ironically, a loafing weekend for us is a hectic nightmare for The Teen. She’s forced out of bed for breakfast at an ungodly 8:30 a.m. then dragged outdoors to enjoy Scotland.
Once we’d left the A9 our drive through rural Perthshire was beautiful.
Keeper’s Cottage, Straloch Estate
Pulling up at Keeper’s Cottage, it was every bit as pretty as it looked in photos.
Inside was even better. It had been renovated to a really high standard. It was bright and modern, but had retained country cottage characteristics in keeping with the style and age of the property.
Downstairs we had an open plan living space with a kitchen, dining area, and lots of comfy seating by the fire.
Food and liquid refreshments tidied away, it was time to check out our bedrooms.
The boy wasn’t convinced by the stairs, so left us humans to claim sleeping quarters.
Keeper’s Cottage has two large bedrooms. Mr G and I slept in the master bedroom, which had pulled off the country cottage look perfectly.
The teen had a gorgeous twin room, so had a choice of beds to leave unmade in the morning.
Exploring Straloch Estate – Looping the loch
We were keen to explore before daylight faded, so decided to do a loop round Straloch Loch.
The Teen joined us too – unexpectedly, given she’d already punched the WiFi code into her electronic devices.
As we were walking, the first glow of golden hour appeared from the west, casting a lovely light on the frozen loch.
The boy LOVES feeling cold on his feet and was straight onto the loch for a skate. Ears up, tail in the air, he was as happy as Larry.
If you’re worried by my reckless, disregard for his safety, fear not, his lead has been airbrushed from the photo below.
Table tennis, sunset and a M&S Buffet
After our walk we retired to the games room (that’s right, we also had a games room) with beers and ciders to celebrate the arrival of wine o’clock.
I thought I could play table tennis – boy was I wrong! Mr G and The Teen enjoyed a few rallies, while I threw some darts (better than I hit ping-pong balls).
Later, we donned PJs for an evening of buffet grazing and relaxation. We’d gone all out with our packing, bringing fur-lined slippers and thick dressing gowns with us.
As I was closing the curtains I noticed a bobby dazzler of a sunset and snuck outside to snap it. Back indoors, I shared my discovery with Mr G and The Teen. They shot outdoors at breakneck speed – Mr G wearing his Jedi robe dressing gown, and clown sized Harris Tweed slippers.
After chasing the sunset we feasted on a M&S buffet, then spent the evening by the fire chatting, listening to music and drinking beer and cider.
I found time to escape for a peaceful soak in the cottage’s antique bathtub. I sprinkled in gin & tonic bath salts (nicer than they sound) and soaked as I read Scottish Field Magazine – bliss.
When bedtime arrived, we snuggled under the duvet as warm as toast. The boy settled next to me, and we were soon counting sheep.
Up and at ’em
Much to The Teen’s disgust we were up, dressed and ready for breakfast by 8:30 a.m. the next morning. She was briefly cheered by the lure of porridge. Much peering into her bowl, stirring and wrinkling of her nose later she announced that my porridge was too runny. I cursed her for dolloping a generous helping of my good Gleneagles & Co jam into her bowl before reaching that conclusion.
Mr G and I tucked into our “runny” porridge with relish, leaving misery guts to glower, sullenly at her bowl.
A lovely walk – Moulin to Black Spout Waterfall
We decided to start the day with a short walk at Moulin a few miles from Straloch.
A couple of minutes into our walk we reached the scant remains of a castle. Black Castle or Caisteal Dubh was built around 1326. It was occupied until 1500 when it was razed to the ground by terrified locals. The reason? Black Castle was thought to be harbouring the Black Death within its walls (hence the name). Desperate to stop the castle contaminating the village, the locals destroyed it.
We continued on our walk, watched by curious sheep as we went.
After a while we reached Black Spout Woods and followed a path that led into the trees. The woods looked almost autumnal, with sunlight adding russet hues.
Our walk ended at the spectacular Black Spout Waterfall. It’s hard to gauge the height of the waterfall from the photos but it has an impressive 60 metre drop, and is easily one of Scotland’s prettiest waterfalls.
We retraced our steps back to the car, stopping briefly to watch a crow chase off a circling bird of prey.
Walks in Scotland don’t always have to be arduous, mountain hikes to be enjoyable. On a fairly flat, short walk, we’d passed a castle with a fascinating history, marvelled at a spectacular waterfall and watched a bird of prey hunt (unsuccessfully).
An overwhelming urge to sing! – Killiecrankie
Our next stop was the Pass of Killiecrankie. When The Teen heard the word Killiecrankie she became animated, excited almost! ‘THE Killiecrankie?” she enquired. “Where the soldier jumped?”. It turns out she’d been learning about Scottish history on her Travel & Tourism course at college.
I love Killiecrankie for the history, but it also poses a problem for me each time I visit. You see, as a teenager I was a die-hard folk music fan. Yes, I was that cool! One of my favourite hand clapping, toe tapping tunes was by a folk duo called The Corries.
I have NEVER, not even once been able to visit Killiecrankie without singing ‘Braes O’ Killiecrankie’ – it’s like an uncontrollable tic.
Whaur hae ye been sae braw, lad? Whaur hae ye been sae brankie-o. Whaur hae ye been sae braw, lad? Come ‘ye by Killiecrankie-o?
The Teen set a brisk pace to Soldier’s Leap and we followed, me singing quietly.
On 27 July 1689 the Battle of Killiecrankie was fought between Jacobite forces loyal to the exiled King James VII, and Government forces loyal to William of Orange. It was a Jacobite victory, but at a heavy cost. Their leader John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee was mortally wounded.
Two tales from the battle endure. One is of Redcoat Donald McBane. Fleeing the battlefield with Jacobites in hot pursuit, he reached a rocky, chasm by the River Garry. He’s said to have jumped 5.5 metres, across the chasm to escape. Hence the name – Soldier’s Leap.
In a field further up the pass stands a solitary stone, known as the Claverhouse Stone. It’s rumoured that the ‘Bonnie Dundee’ of folk songs and legend died, leaning against the stone.
Queen’s View, Loch Tummel
Perthshire has no shortage of pretty viewpoints. One of the most spectacular is Queen’s View. It offers stunning views of Loch Tummel and the iconic ‘Fairy Hill of the Caledonians’ – Schiehallion.
When Queen Victoria visited the site in 1866 she assumed it had been named after her. It hadn’t – the queen in question was Isabella Bruce, wife of Robert the Bruce.
Pitlochry is the Plaice to be
Hungry, we headed to Pitlochry for lunch. After some debate bordering on an argument about what to have, we settled (some of us grudgingly) on suppers from The Plaice to be – Pitlochry’s popular fish and chip shop. In an attempt to counteract any waistline damage, we went for a brisk stride round Faskally Forest after eating our deep-fried goodies.
Afterwards, we bought supplies for our evening in. A fresh lasagne from the butcher for dinner, and our body weight in childhood favourites from a retro sweetie shop – ooops.
The Witch’s Stone – Straloch Estate
Back on the Straloch Estate there was something I wanted to see before settling down for the night. The Witch’s Stone – a giant erratic (muckle lump of a boulder) which was dragged to Straloch by ice during the ice age.
I spotted it in a field and made my way towards it with Mr G and the boy in tow. The closer I got the more impressive it looked. It even had a wee tree on top – very photogenic.
Then I remembered the one alarming thing I’d read about visiting. The electric fence I’d need to pass under to get to the stone.
It was lower than I’d expected – as in champion limbo dancer low. I’m about effective at limbo dancing as I am at ping-pong, so I needed to find another technique to avoid a hair-raising jolt.
Luckily I did. The commando crawl.
Mr G trialed various other techniques to avoid crawling through mud. He came perilously close to achieving Einstein hair in the process, but in the end gave up, leaving the boy and I to look for witches.
There are a couple of versions of the myth attached to the Witch’s Stone. One is that it fell from a witch’s broomstick as she was flying over Straloch. The other has the witch trapped beneath the giant rock. I like that version best. The boy and I looked for a pair of curled up toes protruding from beneath the rock but didn’t see any.
It was definitely a spot worth crawling to reach. It had a real rugged beauty, and the snow dusted Cairngorms in the distance really enhanced the scene.
Ranting at the TV, lasagne and champagne
Another lazy evening was spent by the fire. Our homemade lasagne was delicious. We washed it down with champagne to celebrate a rare Scottish win against England in the 6 Nations. I was also celebrating the cessation of Mr G screaming at the television.
In the blink of an eye our stay at Keeper’s Cottage drew to a close. We packed the car, enjoyed another tasty breakfast with “thick” porridge this time. Another big dollop of my good Gleneagles & Co jam went in The Teen’s bowl and was left uneaten. Apparently, although the porridge had now achieved the desired consistency, the oats were too big.
After breakfast we had a final wander on the Straloch Estate.
A Millennium Wood walk – Straloch Estate
We goofing around with the boy in the huge back garden of Keeper’s Cottage, then headed to the Walled garden and Millennium Wood for a look.
Inside the Walled Garden was wintry cold, but I spotted the perfect ‘wine drinking gazebo’ for warm summer evenings. I pictured myself sitting there, glass in hand, not a care in the world.
To give the boy time to run free, we took him into the fully enclosed Millennium Wood.
We followed a path uphill, towards a tall wooden sculpture. The sculpture was created by local chainsaw artist Nigel Ross using a fallen larch.
The wood was the perfect place for the boy to explore. Like an intrepid adventurer he was off, peering into ponds, nimbly crossing bridges, and hopping like a bunny.
The sign of a great trip is feeling a twinge of sadness when you leave. We had that leaving the Straloch Estate.
Thanks to Cottages & Castles for inviting us to stay at another of their amazing, pet-friendly properties. Thanks also to Will and Lucy at Straloch for hosting us.
Although our accommodation was provided on a complimentary basis all opinions are my own.
Until next time ………