‘TO SEE all the beauties of Deneira requires far more time than I had to spare; I did, however, see sufficient to make a very long-lasting impression on my mind, particularly of its singular situation.” So said Sarah Murray in her Companion and Useful Guide to the Beauties of Scotland in 1799, though her words are just as fitting today.
The English travel writer was describing her visit to the 20,000-acre Dunira estate, which lies amid the picturesque hills and glens between St Fillans and Comrie, in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs national park.
Dunira was originally owned by the Comrie family and then the Drummonds, but was bought by the Scottish Tory MP Henry Dundas in 1784 as a rural retreat from his Castle Melville home near Edinburgh.
Ruggles Cottage is set in a quadrangle of whitewashed buildings that once housed the stables, garage and workers’ quarters, all now privately ownered, and is set close to the banks of the Boltachan burn. The cottage itself incorporates the estate’s former meeting hall, which accounts for its impressive living and dining space.
ROOM SERVICE Ruggles is a well-equipped self-catering cottage with two double rooms, a twin and a bunk room. The main living and dining area is spacious and light due to its double-height ceiling and giant twin windows. The decor is fairly traditional, with tartan throws on the sofas and armchair – great for snuggling under on colder evenings. It also benefits from a fireplace with wood-burning stove, which was a godsend during our visit as we experiences blizzards and temperatures of –4°C, and a very handy selection of toys that kept our two young children happy.
An attractive wrought-iron spiral staircase leads from the living room to a mezzanine landing and gives access to the master bedroom, a spacious room with en-suite bathroom. The other three comfortable bedrooms are on the ground floor, as are the kitchen and main bathroom. We found the beds very comfortable and enjoyed some of the soundest sleeps we’ve had since BC (before children), while the wee ones themselves were utterly thrilled to sleep in bunk beds for the first time.
Across the road from the cottage is a secure private garden, which overlooks the burn and has its own summer house – perfect for enjoying the current longer daylight hours and warmer weather.
WINING AND DINING The galley kitchen and pantry area are stocked with pretty much everything you might need and the owners have even left a range of herbs and spices so you can cook up most things without having to bring the entire contents of your own cupboards with you. Provisions can be picked up in nearby Comrie or St Fillans, which both also have various hotels and restaurants if you want go out for food or drinks.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE With a week’s stay costing £590 at this time of year, Ruggles offers very good value for money.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR The location, in the picturesque Perthshire glens, makes Ruggles an ideal base for exploring and spotting the native wildlife. We were lucky enough to see red squirrels frolicking in the trees outside the cottage, without even having to venture over the threshold. Just along the road is St Fillans, which overlooks Loch Earn and has a range of watersports on offer, while Comrie is only a short drive in the opposite direction and Crieff is just ten miles away.
There are numerous walking routes in the area, with the Deil’s Cauldron at Comrie being a particularly picturesque spot. The Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre makes a great day out with kids (even in a driving blizzard), the staff being genuinely enthusiastic and friendly – on our visit the children were delighted to get to hold some of the new baby animals, including cute rabbits and two-day-old chicks. The centre also has two indoor play areas, meaning even a snowstorm or a deluge needn’t curtail the fun.
LITTLE EXTRAS There was a great stack of logs left for our stay so we didn’t have to venture out with the axe – though my other half was quite keen to try his lumberjack skills. Dog-lovers will be pleased to note that their pooch is also permitted to enjoy the delights of a stay at Ruggles.
With the combination of stunning scenery and comfortable accommodation, Ruggles makes a great home away from home.
• Ruggles, Dunira, Comrie, Perthshire – property 228585, www.cottagesdirect.co.uk