Unwinding in Crieff

Glen Lednock and the Maam Road

On a day out in March, we stopped off in Crieff Hydro for tea and thought it would be a lovely place to stay. After a gruelling few months at work, this popped back into my head when looking for somewhere for a relaxing couple of nights to recover and I booked up. Perthshire is a beautiful county and we were hoping for good weather to get some walking done – we got a bit wet the first day, and both days involved sinking to our ankles in mud from time to time, but walk we did, accompanied by our guide of choice Perthshire: 40 Town & Country Walks. The authors, Paul and Helen Webster, also run the website Walk Highlands, another excellent source of ideas.

Day 1 – The Hosh and the Knock

This 10k figure of eight walk starts directly from the Hydro, so we didn’t need the car all day. The Hosh is an area of woods and riverside which takes you down to Glenturret and its famous distillery. Time for a tour and a dram! Unfortunately not. We arrived just before they were to be inundated with coach trips and there wasn’t another public tour for an hour and a half. Never mind, I had my photo taken with the Famous Grouse:

The Famous Grouse at Glenturret Distillery

We also admired the monument to Towser, the prodigious mouser, one of whose successors was asleep on the visitor centre floor (standards must be slipping):

Towser the Distillery Cat

The walk looped back to the Hydro, and then up the Knock of Crieff and back through rather soggy farmland. We did part of this walk on our previous visit, and I posted better photographs then. This time it rained, and was a bit dreich, but still beautiful:

The Knock of Crieff

Day 2 – Comrie and the Deil’s Cauldron

This is also a circular walk, starting in Comrie, just down the road from Crieff, and meandering about 7.5k around Glen Lednock. It takes in the Deil’s Cauldron (a waterfall) and, as an addition to the main circuit, a climb up Dun More to the Melville Monument. Viscount Melville was the last person to be impeached in the House of Lords – in 1806 he was accused of improper use of funds when in charge at the Admiralty. Plus ça change….etc, although in this case he was later acquitted.

At the Deil’s (Devil’s) Cauldron:

Deil’s Cauldron

The climb up Dun More to the monument rose steeply through trees:

Dun More and the Melville Monument

There are fine views from the top:

View from Dun More

The way down is via a delightful hill track, known as the Maam Road (see also top of post):

Glen Lednock from the Maam Road

The route returns on the other side of Glen Lednock, from where the monument is often visible and, sometimes, quite sinister looking:

Melville Monument

After our exertions, we treated ourselves to enormous slices of cake at the fabulous Tullybannocher Café.

The Hydro

Crieff Hydro was a very comfortable place to stay. We probably didn’t make the most of it because we walked both days rather than take advantage of its outdoor activities – though on the first walk, we barely left the estate and were very impressed with its extent. If the weather had been really bad, there would have been plenty to do indoors too, with a pool, a Spa and even a cinema. It’s not a big, soulless chain either – after 140 years, it’s still managed by descendents of the founder, Dr Meikle, who gives his name to the restaurant. John really enjoyed the food but, as is often the case in hotels, I found the vegetarian options a bit bland. What lets them down is the restaurant service – amusingly eccentric the first night, awful the second when we went from feeling we were being rushed through everything to being totally forgotten about by the end. Better supervision and coordination is required. Top marks though for having veggie sausages on the breakfast buffet – the first time I have seen that. I’ll give it 7/10 overall.

Perthshire Open Studios, 3-11 September 2011

I had never heard of Perthshire Open Studios until this year when we received an invitation from one of the participants, but it has been going for 4 years. It’s a lovely idea – just as it sounds, local artists open up their studios to visitors – and the website and brochure are really well produced. You can search for specific artists or type of art or you can follow one of six colour-coded routes.

Christine Ironside, an old friend from Glasgow who moved to Mid Tullybannocher near Comrie a few years ago, is number 69 on the Plum Route. The drive over was lovely, once we left the A9. The B827 from Braco to Comrie rises along the side of a beautiful valley and the hills looked amazing – what a place to live. Christine’s instructions were to park at the Tullybannocher Cafe so we thought it was only polite to have lunch there:

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It was well worth a stop with the best display of home-baking I’ve seen for a long time. John succumbed to a slice of Victoria sponge but I stopped after my mezzaluna, a sort of folded flatbread which was absolutely delicious.

It was great to see Christine and her partner, Bas, again and good to see the studio busy with lots of people flitting in and out – a couple of cyclists were on their eighth studio – and many paintings already marked with red dots. The studio is in the former byre of the cottage which is surrounded by a large garden with the River Earn running just below it.

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I always have fantasies about living in a place like this but the city girl in me wins out every time!

Anyway, we stayed so long we didn’t have time to visit anywhere else. Did we buy a painting? Yes, we did – time for a rehang at home!

The last open studios event we went to was in the Briggait in Glasgow where there are many artists working under the same roof, so this was quite different. The combination of art and nature in Perthshire is irresistible and there are still several days to take advantage of it. Perhaps another time we’ll manage to visit more than one artist.