It’s two years since our last dog friendly break with Hostelling Scotland. Hostelling Scotland accommodation is comfortable, clean well-equipped and affordable. This year we decided to forego a foreign break for a summer staycation in Scotland instead, staying at Pitlochry Youth Hostel and Glenmore Lodge Youth Hostel.
Was it a good decision? Read on and find out.
Pitlochry Youth Hostel, Perthshire
We arrived in Perthshire to glorious sunshine. It was too hot for hiking so we kicked off our summer staycation in Scotland with a short, shady walk.
Walk – The Falls of Bruar
The Falls of Bruar are located off the A9, behind House of Bruar – a magical emporium of tweed and fine Scottish produce.
A path follows the Bruar Water uphill passing a number of pretty waterfalls, before looping downhill again. Robert Burns visited the falls in 1787 and was so taken by them that he penned a poem and sent it to the Duke of Atholl who owned the land. Burns thought planting trees would further enhance the beauty of the falls. After Burns died, the Duke had trees planted and paths and bridges built too.
Thanks to Rabbie we enjoyed a cool and incredibly scenic walk.
Lunch – Blair Atholl Watermill
Leaving the Falls of Bruar we headed to Blair Atholl for lunch.
Blair Atholl Watermill is a working mill that dates to 1590. Besides making tasty baked goods, they also serve coffee and light lunches in their pretty mill garden.
Our drinks, homemade soup and filled rolls went down a treat. We bought a loaf too, as who can resist the smell of freshly-baked bread?
After lunch we pottered around for a while, then headed to House of Bruar to buy goodies to eat with our posh loaf.
Pitlochry Youth Hostel
Provisions bought, we made our way to Pitlochry Youth Hostel to check in. The hostel is housed in a lovely old building in a quiet residential area of Pitlochry.
The boy loves a Hostelling Scotland check-in as biscuits are always on offer.
After a friendly and efficient check-in, we were soon settling into our private room. It had en suite facilities and everything we needed for a comfortable stay. Better still, it had a great view too.
Dinner – a ploughman’s with a Scottish twist
Once we’d unpacked, I rustled up a ploughman’s lunch (dinner) which we ate outside in the sunny hostel garden.
We had Scottish venison salami, cheese, pickles, butter and bread. It was delicious.
Ploughman’s eaten, we headed into town for dessert. Scotch Corner (a wee sweetie shop) on Pitlochry High Street is famous for its whisky ice cream, which is made using Edradour (the local distillery) single malt. It tastes like heaven.
Walk – Weem Wood
After scoffing our ice cream we drove to Weem for a walk in Weem Wood.
Weem Wood is located next to Castle Menzies, which has been the seat of Clan Menzies for over 400 years.
Inside Weem Wood, we followed a steep path up a tree covered hillside. It led us to a craggy summit and an ancient well inside a shallow cave. The well may have links to Saint Cuthbert, but it’s known as Saint David’s well after local laird Sir David Menzies who’s said to have spent time living in the cave like a hermit.
If you visit Weem Wood, look carefully and you’ll discover carved dragons, Celtic crosses and more hidden amongst the trees.
Back in Pitlochry, we were treated to a dramatic fiery sunset.
It was a wonderful end to day one of our summer staycation in Scotland.
We had a peaceful night’s sleep at the hostel and woke the next morning raring to go.
After a fab Hostelling Scotland takeaway breakfast, we headed out for a local walk.
More sunshine was forecast, so we planned to climb a hill before the heat zapped our energy.
Walk – Craigower Hill
Craigower is a pine clad hill located just outside Pitlochry. It’s only 407 metres high, but it’s steep, so gets the heart pumping.
It was a gorgeous morning and the sunlight created a lovely dappled light on the forest floor. We stopped to admire butterflies and marvel at some huge fungi on our way to the summit.
After thirty minutes or so of walking, we reached a clearing on the summit and were treated to a stunning Perthshire view.
The National Trust for Scotland look after Craigower Hill. They’ve created a hibernaculum on top of it. Yip, it was a new word for me too. A hibernaculum consists of buried chambers where snakes, lizard and slow worms can hibernate during winter. Having somewhere safe to hibernate, will hopefully help these reptiles to flourish. It’s a brilliant conservation idea.
It was scorching by the time we finished our walk, so we hopped in the car with the windows down and went for a breezy drive to Glen Shee – where Perthshire and Aberdeenshire meet.
After a well-earned rest and a tasty lunch at Tee @ The Shee we headed back towards Pitlochry for another leafy, local walk.
Walk – Black Spout Waterfall
Our afternoon walk started at Edradour Distillery – home of the whisky that makes Scotch Corner’s ice cream so tasty.
From the distillery, we followed a path that led us into a wooded gorge. Using the sound of rushing water as our guide, we located the impressive Black Spout Waterfall hiding in the gorge.
I love a dramatic waterfall and Black Water spout definitely fits that category, even on a dry summer’s day.
Later, back at the hostel we tucked into more local goodies from the House of Bruar food hall, before heading out in search of another sunset.
Queen’s View, Perthshire
Queen’s View is a popular beauty spot near Pitlochry. We thought it might be a good place to catch a sunset. En route we met a gorgeous young stag – bonus.
The viewing platform at Queen’s View offers the same view we had from the top of Craigower Hill, only much closer. It was a lovely clear night and we could see the length of Loch Tummel.
We watched and waited and after a while the sky turned pink with a hint of orange.
It soon became clear (to me at least) that this would be a subtle sunset rather than a burning sky one.
I wandered off to potter about with the boy, while Mr G watched and waited, hopeful things would take a dramatic turn.
They didn’t, but it was still nice to be out and about in Perthshire on a warm evening.
After another great sleep, followed by another fab Hostelling Scotland breakfast, we said goodbye to Pitlochry Youth Hostel. We really enjoyed our stay there and the first part of our summer staycation in Scotland.
Now, it was time to head to the Cairngorms National Park for more outdoor adventures.
Cairngorms Lodge Youth Hostel
Walk – Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail
Our first stop in the park was at the Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail. I’ve featured the trail on the blog before (here’s a reminder), but due to the nature of the sculptures no two walks there are the same.
The sculptures had deteriorated since our last visit. My favourite ‘Walking Man’ was no longer striding through the forest.
It was sad to see him lying down, but his creator Frank Bruce wanted his sculptures to age and return to the earth they sprang from as saplings.
All around us were new signs of life – bees, butterflies and a plump frog going about its business. There were wildflowers, rich green mosses, lichens and fungi too.
The cycle of life was continuing as the incredible sculptures deteriorated.
Lunch – The Barn, Rothiemurchus
After a morning spent exploring we were ready for lunch. We stopped at The Barn in Rothiemurchus, as the menu sounded good and they had outdoor seating.
It was a good choice. I had chicken curry with Nan bread and Mr G had a soup and scone combo. Both were lovely.
Loch Morlich Watersports – canoeing
I had some fun lined up for us after lunch. I’d hired a two person, plus wee dug canoe from Loch Morlich Watersports. It was time to swap hiking boots for paddles. I love the water so was really excited about this activity.
Mr G excels at many things of a sporting and outdoor nature but water is his Achilles heel.
After collecting our paddles and life jackets and chosing and canoe, I took the helm with the boy and we set off to explore Loch Morlich. At least that’s what was supposed to happen. What actually happened was a frustrating hour of the canoe doing donuts on the loch as frustratedly, I barked instructions at Mr G. “No, not like that, like this”, “stop paddling”, “I can hear you paddling, please stop” and so and and so forth.
The best we managed were a couple of short linear bursts, before we reverted to circles again. Even getting the canoe to travel forward a short distance back to the shore at the end of our hire was a challenge. We made it – just.
The boy seemed to enjoy himself though and afterwards I cooled myself and my temper down with a nice (linear) swim in the loch.
Glenmore Lodge Youth Hostel
Water based antics done for the day, we headed to Glenmore Youth Hostel to check in. The hostel sits in a prime location in the heart of Cairngorms National Park. Loch Morlich, the watersports centre and the popular Pine Marten Bar are right on the doorstep. It really is an amazing location.
The hostel recently underwent an extensive refurbishment programme, so it looks great inside and out. Inside, there’s lots of space where you can hang out and relax. And outside, there’s a pretty wilderness garden with picnic tables.
Our private room was located on a quiet corridor. It was really spacious and had a double bed, bunk beds, a seating area and sink. Just down the corridor we had a private shower room. It was really modern and had a powerful rainfall shower.
We were delighted with our accommodation.
Dinner – The pine Marten
Once we’d settled in, we wandered down to The Pine Marten Bar for dinner and liquid refreshments.
We grabbed a table in their outdoor seating area so we could make the most of the fabulous weather.
There was a good vibe about the place – everyone seemed happy and carefree. After spending so long in lockdown, it was nice to see normality returning.
With wine and beer in hand and tasty bar food in front of us (veggie nachos for me and fish and chips for Mr G), all was good with the world.
That evening, we enjoyed another great night’s sleep thanks to Hostelling Scotland’s comfy beds.
We woke on day four of our staycation in Scotland, looking forward to breakfast and spending another sunny day (four in a row) outdoors.
Glenmore Lodge Youth Hostel has an in-house catering team, so they’re able to offer a seated Continental breakfast.
The breakfast was excellent – an absolute beanfeast. There’s no chance you’ll be peckish by mid-morning after one of those Hostelling Scotland breakfasts.
Walk – Craigellachie National Nature Reserve
Once again, our main walk of the day would be a morning one, so we could avoid hiking during the heat of the afternoon.
Craigellachie National Nature Reserve is located on the eastern slopes of the Monadhliath mountain range on the outskirts of Aviemore. It’s reached from the car park of Aviemore Youth Hostel (another Hostelling Scotland property in a prime location).
There are three trails on the reserve. We chose the ‘Viewpoint Trail’.
It led us past lochans and through gorgeous birch woodland, blooming with purple heather. The smell was incredible – like sweet heather honey.
The boy was in his element. He’s such a mountain goat.
As we approached the summit of Craigellachie, we were treated to a bird’s-eye view of Aviemore.
Being Grants, we’ve been meaning to climb Craigellachie for a long time.
It’s where the clan were rallied during times of trouble. A signal fire would be lit on the summit of the hill and clansmen for miles around would know they were needed.
Clan Grant’s motto is ‘Stand Fast Craig Elachie’ and their crest depicts a fire burning on a rocky mountain.
When we reached the summit cairn, I added three stones to it (one for each of us). We’d conquered our clan hill and wow, what a view. Below, we could see the busy A9 snaking northwards, passing a mirror like Loch Insh, and to the east, the mighty mountains of the Cairngorms.
We lingered on the summit for ages, until our stomach’s told us it was lunchtime.
After admiring Loch Insh from above, we headed there for lunch. We sat on the outside terrace of the Boathouse Restaurant and enjoyed a view looking back towards Craigellachie.
After lunch, we pottered around chasing heather and heilan coos to photograph. We found an abundance of each.
Loch Morlich Watersport – kayaking
Later that afternoon, I parted company with Mr G and the boy to indulge in a little me time. I’d hired a kayak for one from Loch Morlich watersports and was looking forward to spending time on the water.
I grew up a water baby and swam frequently as a teenager and young adult. I kayaked lots too and absolutely adored it. In my adult life I’ve kayaked infrequently and I miss it dreadfully. It’s probably my favourite thing to do outdoors (even more than hiking).
I spent a blissful hour on the water, gliding along in a straight line with ease, changing direction at will and exploring the further reaches of the loch.
It was brilliant and I left Loch Morlich promising myself, kayaking would be something I’d incorporate into our trips going forward. Two person plus wee dug canoeing – not so much.
Dinner – Glenmore Lodge Youth Hostel
That evening, we had dinner in Glenmore Youth Hostel’s lovely sunny conservatory. Dinner is served at the hostel between 5pm and 8pm and is open to non-residents too.
I’m not sure what I expected dinner at a hostel to be like but I was pleasantly surprised.
We both had carrot and coriander soup to start. It was really flavoursome and had a nice peppery kick to it. Then for main, I had haggis fritters with sweet chilli dipping sauce and chips. The chips were golden and cooked to perfection and the haggis fritters were braw (Scots for great). Mr G had fish and chips (again), which he confirmed were delicious.
After dinner we popped over to The Pine Marten Bar for a couple of alcoholic beverages to toast a fantastic few days, spent on a summer staycation in Scotland.
Our summer staycation in Scotland – the verdict?
We loved every second of our Hostelling Scotland holiday. It was one of the best we’ve ever had, at home or abroad. With fab accommodation, sunshine, stunning scenery, lots to see and do and brilliant company (the boy was able to join us, unlike on our overseas trips) we couldn’t have asked for more.
Our accommodation, breakfast, plus evening meal at Glenmore Lodge Youth Hostel were provided on a complimentary basis, however all opinions are my own.
Until next time …