Sometimes you just need to get away from it all. From phones, emails, social media, the hustle and bustle of daily life. Only you don’t want to go too far, perhaps an hour north of Edinburgh? And while you are willing to treat yourself, you don’t want to return to reality on Monday morning with an empty bank account.
You don’t want the stuffy, clinical atmosphere of a big chain hotel but you do need something a bit special. Somewhere to feel at home and truly relax in luxury.
Welcome to Knock Castle Hotel & Spa. A place with a car park so tight you daren’t move your vehicle all weekend – and why would you want to?
Hidden away above the Perthshire town of Crieff, it was formerly the 19th-century baronial home of Scottish shipping magnate Lady MacBrayne – and still very much feels like a family home (albeit a pretty spectacular one). It affords fantastic uninterrupted views across the Strathearn Valley and the owners have taken full advantage of nature’s gift with a rooftop restaurant where you could literally spend hours just gazing out at a panoramic vista of rolling hills.
Budget or boutique?
It’s certainly not budget, but it won’t break the bank for a weekend break. The hotel caters for a range of budgets and compares favourably with other options in the area.
And it’s real. The decor is both contemporary and traditional, some of the floors are uneven and it’s quirky in places but that’s as a home should be. You can almost forget you are staying in a hotel and surely that’s the ultimate compliment.
The castle rooms are aiming for opulence without pretentiousness and they have got the balance spot on. We stayed in a castle deluxe suite which had the immediate wow factor as soon as the door swung open. A gigantic bed, period furniture and tasteful but not overbearing decoration. Our impression was also immediately helped by the complimentary champagne and handmade chocolates waiting for us.
Then there was the bathroom... wow again. The size of a budget hotel room, it featured twin sinks, a huge walk-in shower and steps up to a sunken bath in the castle turret. A more spectacular bath time it would be difficult to have.
A widescreen TV was cleverly tucked away so as not to dominate the bedroom, while there was a generous supply of tea, coffee, hot chocolate, still and sparkling water and, most importantly, biscuits (shortbread of course).
Wining and dining
Knock Castle is seeking to carve out a reputation for fine dining and offers a range of mouthwatering options alongside a well-stocked cellar.
Continuing the theme of suiting all tastes and budgets, it ranges from bar meals to an ambitious seven-course degustation menu.
The presentation of the dishes and service was first class. Our mains which we enjoyed on a glorious June evening were fillet of Scottish beef with creamy dauphinoise on a bed of wild mushroom and spinach, and rosemary scented loin of monkfish wrapped in Parma ham.
Worth getting out of bed for
It is a hotel and spa and you need to make use of the facilities. A short dash outside is the swimming pool building with jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. The spa offers a range of pampering to ensure full relaxation including a sea mud therapy wrap and a mysterious sounding “chocolate experience”. The most intriguing feature though is The Egg, a slightly odd-looking capsule which combines aromatherapy fragrance, tranquil music and a gentle vibration massage.
The gardens surrounding the hotel are outstanding and feature a lovely little summer house where you could easily while away a summer’s evening. You have no need to leave the grounds but venture a little further afield to take a stroll round Crieff or a trip to nearby Loch Earn, for fishing and a host of water sports. The hotel can even arrange for a private helicopter to take you on a tour of the local area.
Go once and you’ll be in love. Welcome to your new home from home.
• Rooms from £74.50-£129.50 per person on a B&B basis. Knock Castle Hotel & Spa, Drummond Terrace, Crieff, Perthshire PH7 4AN, 01764 650088, www.knockcastle.com