It’s been a while since our last self-catering break in Perthshire, so I was delighted when we were invited to check out Balloch Park Lodges on the Mains of Taymouth Estate. A luxury lodge break in Perthshire, where we’d be able to embrace the great outdoors by day and sit by a roaring fire at night – bliss.
My Mum, plus Westie Harris would be joining us on our Perthshire jaunt.
Keen to make the most of the last meteorological weekend of summer, we left Edinburgh after breakfast, for our drive north.
Day 1 – luxury lodge break in Perthshire
An hour later we arrived in the Sma’ Glen and stopped for a potter.
The glen is said to be the burial place of the Gaelic bard Ossian – father of Fingal the giant.
After leaving the Sma’ Glen, we turned onto the old road to Loch Tay which cuts through Glen Quaich. We spotted buzzards, grouse and a stoat on our journey through the glen.
The road took us past Loch Freuchie, where according to legend, a dragon once lived. You can read the tale here.
The road then climbed out of the glen, snaking through heather covered hills.
Walk – Kenmore Hill, Bolfracks Estate
Before descending to Loch Tay, we stopped on Kenmore Hill to walk one of the trails there. We had a choice of larch, waterfall or hill – we chose the 2.5k waterfall trail.
It led us through remnants of ancient Caledonian Pine Forest, passing waterfall, stream and along paths fringed by purple heather.
The views were stunning. We could see Taymouth Castle below – a stone’s throw from where we’d be spending the weekend.
Waterfall Trail complete, it was time for lunch.
Lunch – Highland Safaris Cafe, Dull
We headed to the nearby village of Dull, knowing we’d find good food there.
Dull is far from Dull, as it’s home to Highland Safaris who offer a range of activities (including gold panning, land rover safaris and wildlife experiences). They have a fab cafe and shop too.
Our lunch was delicious. Mum and I had leek and Ayrshire bacon quiche and Mr G had a soup and sandwich combo.
After lunch we wandered over to Highland Safaris deer park to see if we could spot any deer.
En route we passed resident owl Ossian, snoozing on his perch.
We were in luck on the deer front – there were loads of them grazing on the hillside.
Cluny House Gardens
After leaving Dull we drove to Cluny House Gardens. The gardens are a 15 minute drive from the Mains of Taymouth Estate.
Cluny House Gardens were a labour of love for Bobby and Betty Masterton, who moved into Cluny House in the 1950s. Back then, there were only a few trees in the garden. Today, it’s a woodland paradise, filled with trees and plants – many from the Himalayas. Bobby and Betty’s daughter Wendy now cares for the garden.
One of the garden highlights is a Giant sequoia, measuring 11 metres round the base. At 150 years old it’s a mere sapling, as sequoias can live for a 1,000 years.
Our four-legged friends enjoyed exploring the garden as much as we did.
Cluny House Gardens are definitely worth visiting if you want to see red squirrels. We saw loads and had fun watching their acrobatics as they visited feeders in the garden.
Visit – Birks of Aberfeldy
We had time to stop at one more beauty spot before check-in.
Robert Burns was so impressed by the Birks of Aberfeldy, that he wrote a song about the place. In it, he waxed lyrical about the deep, wooded gorge, full of tumbling waterfalls.
The braes ascend like lofty wa’s, the foaming stream deep-roaring fa’s, O’er hung wi’ fragrant spreading shaws, The birks of Aberfeldy.
The hairy-faced laddies posed for a photo with Rabbie, before we set off along a path that loops round the Moness Gorge, crossing it via a wee bridge at the top.
You can walk the route in either direction, but clockwise is the most scenic. It’s also the toughest as there are LOTS of steps to climb.
I stopped at lots of photo (catch my breath) stops on the way up, including the spot where Robert Burns was inspired to pen ‘The Birks of Aberfeldy’. Birks is the old Scots word for birch.
After scaling the never-ending steps, we finally reached the bridge that spans the gorge (and most impressive waterfall in it).
The Falls of Moness, plunge from a height of 150 metres into the Moness Burn below. The bridge crosses directly above them, so you can experience the immense power of the water up close.
The final leg of our walk was a breeze. It was downhill all the way – yippee.
It was now time to check-in.
Balloch Park Lodges, Mains of Taymouth Estate
There’s a range of self-catering accommodation on the Mains of Taymouth Estate, including cottage, apartment and lodge. The estate is located in Kenmore – a pretty as a picture village on the shore of Loch Tay.
Besides accommodation, the estate has a restaurant, shop, deli, golf course, stables and extensive grounds for walking.
Our check-in was friendly and super fast.
Before heading to our lodge, Mr G and I popped into the Courtyard Deli to stock up on provisions for our stay.
We were like toddlers in a toy shop when we saw the array of Scottish delicacies on offer. Thirty minutes after entering, we left with three bags full of goodies.
Our Accommodation – Tay Lodge
Balloch park Lodges are located 1.5 miles away from the main hub of the Mains of Taymouth Estate. The park sits beside the River Tay and has the tree covered Drummond Hill as a backdrop. It’s a lovely spot – perfect for a relaxing break, spent visiting local attractions, towns, villages (Aberfeldy, Killin, Dunkeld, Pitlochry) and the stunning countryside on the doorstep.
Outside our lodge (Tay lodge), there was a patio with furniture and a gas barbecue. Some of the lodges at Balloch Park have hot tubs too (ours didn’t).
The lodge was entered through a utility room, with a sink and washing machine. Ideal, for taking off muddy boots and wiping down wet dogs.
Inside the lodge proper, natural light flooded in through windows on three sides of the main living area. The decor was really tasteful. There was a large, open plan lounge, dining area and well-equipped kitchen. We had plenty of seating in the lounge, a log burning fire (I love a real fire) and a HUGE flat screen TV – it was relaxation central.
There were three bedrooms – two kings (one en suite) and a twin. All were equipped with TVs, crisp, clean linen, fluffy towels and robes for lounging in.
The main bathroom had a bath with a shower over it. Sumptuous ‘Silver buckthorn’ toiletries from Scottish Fine Soaps were supplied.
Once we’d unpacked, our attention turned to food.
Dinner – The Courtyard, Mains of Taymouth Estate
I could’ve cooked, but our earlier shop pretty much consisted of sweeties, so we decided to get takeaway from The courtyard Bar & Restaurant, which is part of the Mains of Taymouth Estate.
Mr G popped out to pick up dinner, while I set the table for our lazy self-catering meal. It was chicken curry with rice, french fries and jalapeño poppers for mum and I and fish and chips for Mr G. The food was really nice, but the curry was probably more suited to spice fiends like me, rather than people with regular taste buds.
After dinner I lit the fire, rustled us up some Aperol spritz cocktails and we slumped into a comfy seat each to graze on our sugar mountain.
We spent a lovely chilled night by the fire – chatting, enjoying a cocktail or two and eating locally made fudge.
Day 2 – luxury lodge break in Perthshire
We woke feeling fresh and raring to go the next morning.
After polishing off Aberdeenshire coffee, English apple juice, Fife porridge oats topped with honey from the Isle of Colonsay and croissants slathered with Scottish butter and jam from Angus, we were ready to explore.
A scenic drive in Glen Lyon
We took the scenic route via Ben Lawers to the neighbouring glen – Glen Lyon. Sir Walter Scott described Glen Lyon as the “longest, loneliest and loveliest glen in Scotland”.
Driving deep into the glen, we stopped to admire a fold of Highland cattle grazing by the roadside. Mountains, heather and Heilan’ coos – picture postcard Scotland.
Walk – Bridge of Balgie – Gleinn Dà-Eigg
After our drive it was time to for a ramble. We decided to walk from Bridge of Balgie to Gleann Dà-Eigg near Camusvrachan (and back) – a walk of nearly 6 miles over flat terrain with a short uphill section at Gleann Dà-Eigg.
We didn’t see another soul. It was just us, surrounded by stunning scenery and the occasional red squirrel or buzzard sighting thrown in for good measure. Then, as we climbed into Gleann Da-Eigg we met three beautiful, horses.
Not far into the glen, we left the path to view a natural rock formation known as the Praying Hands of Mary or Fionn’s Rock.
The rock is shaped like a pair of praying hands. I love the Fionn connection best though. Fionn or Fingal was a mythical giant and son of the bard Ossian. Myths about Fingal and his antics crop up all over Scotland. In Gleann Da-Eigg he’s said to have split Fionn’s Rock with an arrow.
The last couple of miles of our walk back to Bridge of Balgie were consumed with thoughts of food. Luckily, our walk ended at a fab little tearoom.
Lunch – Glen Lyon Tearoom
The Glen Lyon Tearoom is not to be missed if you find yourself in the area.
We grabbed a table outside and tucked into tomato soup with focaccia, homemade sausage rolls and almond and pistachio cake – all delicious.
Meanwhile back at Balloch Park Lodges
When we arrived back at Balloch Park Lodges later that afternoon, we repeated our routine from the night before. Cocktails, fire, comfy chairs and chat – a perfect night.
Day 3 – luxury lodge break in Perthshire
The next morning after scoffing Ayrshire bacon butties for breakfast, we packed up, loaded the car and said goodbye to the lovely Tay Lodge.
Our luxury lodge break in Perthshire had been just what the doctor ordered. Active days spent outdoors, followed by relaxing evenings by the fire.
The Scottish Crannog Centre, Loch Tay
We weren’t saying goodbye to Loch Tay quite yet though. I’d booked tickets for The Scottish Crannog Centre – a living history museum on the shore of Loch Tay.
The Scottish Crannog Centre run small group tours, which give visitors a unique opportunity to travel back 2,500-years to visit an Iron Age house known as a crannog.
A crannog is an ancient loch-dwelling, built on wooden stilts and accessed via a wooden walkway. There are seventeen known crannog sites on Loch Tay (and hundreds throughout Scotland). The houses are long gone, but what look like tiny, tree-covered islands remain. You can see some preserved wooden stilts from a crannog (tool marks and all) in the Scottish Crannog Centre museum.
Why live on water? Well, living on water made the houses easier to defend. It also freed up space on land, needed for growing crops and rearing animals.
After excavating one of the sites on Loch Tay, the archaeologists decided to recreate a crannog. It took them three years to complete. Iron Age ancestors could’ve built one in a season (spring to late autumn).
It’s estimated each crannog took 1,000 trees to build. That’s an incredible amount of effort when you consider they had no modern tools at their disposal back then.
The design was no coincidence either. Studies have shown crannog roofs were pitched at an angle to allow rainwater to run off them – snow too. Snow settling on the roof would’ve been catastrophic and brought down tonnes of debris on the occupants below.
Inside, the crannog was larger than it looked from the outside. It was comfortable and cosy too. Essential, when you consider an extended family of twenty might have lived in it – and through the winter their animals too.
Iron age crafts and cooking
After learning about the construction of the crannog and life inside it, we were given an insight into how these Iron Age loch-dwellers made tools and household utensils.
We even got to have a go at making an Iron Age clay pot. Serviceable, not ornate was the style of the day.
I do love interactive learning.
Next, came textiles and the natural items used to colour materials. I love that 2,500-years ago, our Iron Age ancestors experimented with dyes so their clothes would look nice.
Our final demonstration covered Iron Age cooking and the ingredients used to make bread, butter and even beer. Inside the museum you can see a wooden butter dish (complete with remnants of Iron Age butter) which was discovered during excavations on the loch.
We even got to try some Iron Age bread made using barley. It was surprisingly tasty.
Our visit ended with some wonderful Gaelic song.
Before leaving, we tied a ribbon to a tree on the beach – a reminder of a wonderful weekend in Perthshire.
We stayed at Balloch Park Lodges on a complimentary basis, however all opinions are my own.
Until next time …