Creature comforts make for a perfect break in Pitlochry, finds Martin Gray
Sometimes it’s great when a weekend away is packed with activities. At other times you just want a relaxing place to stay in a picturesque area. Somewhere that’s such a treat, you don’t feel guilty if you’re not out bagging Munros or taming wild ponies. And that’s exactly what we got with Craigmhor Lodge and Courtyard, Pitlochry.
The town is set in spectacular scenery and perfectly placed for touring Highland Perthshire. Sitting atop a bank on one of the Victorian town’s prettiest streets, Jane and Calum MacLellan’s four-star bed and breakfast has two parts to it. The lodge, which dates to 1896, has an impressive exterior without being overly imposing, while inside the decor is as warm and welcoming as the staff.
Then there’s the Courtyard, a new two-storey wood and stone development of 12 suites and bedrooms. Its balconies and terraces overlooking a forest and duck pond are perfect for soaking up the sunshine or enjoying a moonlit drink.
Arriving on a Saturday for a two-night stay, Steve and I settled into a master suite, a light, airy and spacious home from home … oh all right, it was a lot swankier than home, with a 32in wall-mounted plasma telly, DVD, well-stocked fridge, espresso machine, sumptuous double bed, luxury bathroom, surround sound and the most powerful free wifi we’ve ever come across.
After settling in we took a stroll down into town. Eschewing the characterful shopping streets, we wandered down to the salmon ladder at Pitlochry dam. There were no leaping fishies to be seen, but an electronic counter did tell us how many had made the perilous crossing so far this year.
A short stroll away on the waterside is Pitlochry Festival Theatre, a strikingly modern building. As we’d just missed Hello Dolly, it was hello instead to a few of the local landmarks, including the ruins of the Black Castle and a crusader’s grave. Our own nomination for the tourist trail is the excellent Scotch Corner ice cream shop on Atholl Road, too.
Happily, we didn’t spoil our supper, for a treat was in store. Where dinner is concerned, Craigmhor does it differently – guests can order from a selection of five food hampers, delivered to your room at a time to suit. We were tempted by the Highland Laird Supper Hamper with smoked salmon, cream cheese, fresh bread, Highland Water and fruits and, but plumped for the Perthshire Platter – smoked and unsmoked meats and game, oatcakes, chutney, berries with crème fraîche and Highland Water. Munching fresh, locally sourced fare on the balcony on an early spring night, city life has never felt so far away.
And after a sound sleep came a chance to try Craigmhor’s award-winning breakfasts; the weekend we were there it bagged the Guest House Best Breakfast Award at the Scottish Hotel Awards for the second year running (it also picked up a Certificate for Guest House Good Rooms).
Steve went for the kipper special while I plumped for flat mushroom sautéed and served with Stornaway black pudding and poached egg. Other temptations include homemade pancakes with bananas, Perthshire bacon and lashings of maple syrup.
We walked off brekkie with, er, a stroll to the car, then it was off to some of the nearby villages. First stop, Aberfeldy, where we visited the legendary Watermill bookshop and cafe, then the Art Deco Birks Cinema and cafe (on our sorties, there’s always a cafe…).
After that we parked in nearby Birnam, where we sought out Macbeth’s Oak, a spooky ancient tree featured in the witches’ famous prophecy … maybe. We also scurried around Beatrix Potter’s Garden by the arts centre, teasing statues of Peter Rabbit and co.
Then it was back to Pitlochry for dinner at Victoria’s, a very friendly family-run restaurant. I started with the moreish chilli and cheese nachos (£6.80), while Steve had soup of the day, a luscious minestrone. I followed with the homemade Scottish beef pie, seasonal veg and potatoes (£13.75). Steve had the cushion of Scottish salmon, with lime butter, hollandaise, asparagus and creamy pesto mash (£14.95). Both were perfectly cooked and utterly scrumptious.
Bellies full, we skipped dessert – or rather, deferred it, because we’re definitely going back– and walked off a few calories with another stroll around Pitlochry, which is as pretty on an early summer’s night as it is during the day.
After another splendid sleep, and top-class breakfast, we headed back to Edinburgh, well-fed, refreshed and planning a speedy return to Pitlochry and Craigmhor Lodge.
• Craigmhor Lodge, 27 West Moulin Road, Pitlochry (01796 472123, visit www.craigmhorlodge.co.uk) rooms cost £109-£140 (summer)/£89-£109 (winter) based on two people sharing, breakfast included. Supper hampers for two £22.50-£24.50.
Victoria’s Restaurant, 45 Atholl Road, Pitlochry (01796 472670, www.victorias-pitlochry.co.uk)
For visitor attractions, see perthshire.co.uk