Travel: Craggantoul, Loch Tay
The BBC weather forecast said it had been -9C overnight. My mobile phone temperature app reckoned it was still only -3C outside.
My own common sense told me it was too cold to open the door. But still I ventured out to the hot tub.
And with a sigh-inducing panorama over Loch Tay to the snow-covered mountains on the southern shore, who could blame me? From the vantage point of the hot tub at Oak Cottage, one of the luxury self-catering lodges at Craggantoul on the north shore of Loch Tay, you can watch the birds flitting between the trees or enjoy the view up to Ben Lawers behind the cabin.
Arriving at night meant there was a magical moment on Saturday morning when I woke up and opened the curtains to find out where I was. And I wasn’t disappointed. As well as the cracking elevated view across the loch, the estate has an oak woodland through which you can wander down to the water’s edge.
In the trees, I spotted long-tailed tits, reed buntings and a great-spotted woodpecker in amongst the more common species such as blue tits, great tits and robins. Creeping down towards the loch, I disturbed three roe deer – probably a mother and twins – as they munched their way through the grass, sending their white tails bobbing through the air.
At first it might be hard to square the circle of a hot tub pumping out heat in these beautiful natural surroundings but Nina and Greg Deakin, who run the cottages at Craggantoul, have installed solar panels on their roofs to reduce their business’s effect on the environment. In response to demand from customers, they have also installed satellite-based wifi in the cottages as Lawers village and the surrounding area doesn’t have broadband via telephone lines.
Oak Cottage is a two-bedroom cabin, featuring one twin bedroom with an en-suite shower room and a double bedroom that leads on to a large bathroom with standalone tub and walk-in shower. The bedrooms run the full-length of either end of the cottage, with the central area between them acting as the lounge, kitchen and dining room.
What struck me most about the cottage was the light – all the windows face south and so, on a winter weekend, the sun flooded in all day long.
The kitchen was put to good use as we cooked up sirloin steaks, smoked bacon and giant venison sausages from Aberfeldy Butchers, home to what is fast becoming one of my favourite purveyors of meat in Scotland. The store also stocks a range of cheeses, with the ever-reliable Mull cheddar and some French Comte really hitting the spot.
Nina and Greg run eight holiday cottages around the loch, from Craggantoul House, which sleeps 12 in six bedrooms, through to the one-bedroomed Bothy and Sam’s Cottage, each of which sleeps two people.
Craggantoul lies halfway along the northern shore of Loch Tay, giving easy access to Killin in the west and Kenmore in the east. Having passed the Mains of Taymouth Courtyard delicatessen in Kenmore so often, I decided it was time to take the plunge and actually go in.
Among familiar treats such as Arran cheeses and Ben Nevis Bakery cakes were locally baked shortbread and chocolates and – much to my delight – a selection of Scottish craft beers in the fridge. A bottle of Nimbus blonde ale from the Orkney Brewery’s “Atlas range” went down a treat back at Oak Cottage, gazing out over Loch Tay.
A trip to Highland Perthshire wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Watermill Bookshop in Aberfeldy. Along with the bookshelves and cafe, the shop also operates as an art gallery.
While the fiction section is very well stocked, it’s always the local history shelves in which I find myself engrossed. Perthshire’s rich heritage comes to life in the pages of books, almost as vividly as those beautiful views from my cottage window.
A two-night weekend break at Oak Cottage costs £300 and weekly prices range from £500 to £850, 07977 485866, www.craggan toul.com
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West