This weekend we headed North of the Border, to Duchally Country Estate in Perthshire.
Duchally (pronounced ‘duckerly‘ rather than ‘doo–cally‘) is a hotel and self-catering holiday resort a few miles from Gleneagles. Just an hour’s drive from Glasgow or Edinburgh, it’s a fab location to explore the heart of Scotland.
I’ll start by saying I *love* Scotland. It’s an amazing place for a family holiday. Actually, our family went to Scotland on holiday every year until I was 21. Yes, the weather can be unreliable but there’s amazing scenery, forests, lochs, oceans, fantastic history and endless adventures to be had.
Our first job on Friday night was settling into our self-catering lodge at Duchally Country Estate.
Our property had 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms on the ground floor. Upstairs, there’s an open-plan living area with a fully fitted kitchen, and an outside deck with table and chairs.
Do be aware that there isn’t allocated parking for each lodge. This means some lodges don’t have parking immediately outside.
On our first night, we parked in the hotel car park, just a 5-minute walk from our lodge. On the second night, we parked around the corner a little closer. Not a big issue, but it would be worth bringing cases with wheels in case you need to walk a little!
The property was warm and clean, and well kitted out. Each property comes with an LCD television in the lounge and bedroom, and there’s an iPod docking station.
We really appreciated the welcome pack, which is complimentary for stays of 3 days or longer, and includes milk, bread, eggs, butter, jam, tea and coffee.
This isn’t the sort of property you stay at to STAY at, if you know what I mean. With some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland on your doorstep, a self-catering lodge at Duchally is really a base to go exploring from. If you’re not heading out, you’re missing out!
But there are benefits to this sort of accommodation. If the weather is dreadful, it’s great to know there’s a pool to keep the kids happy for an hour or two. Or you could borrow a DVD from the hotel, and cosy up in your lodge. There’s plenty of space indoors and out, so you won’t feel crowded.
There’s a leisure centre with small pool, fitness suite and jacuzzi. Immediately next door there’s a cafe alongside serving coffee and tea, with some cakes. The pool is open from 7am to 9pm, although the first and last hour of each day is for adults only. Locals can also buy a day pass or membership to the pool. We got chatting with a lovely local couple who gave us some great recommendations for places to visit.
The hotel also has a bar with an adjoining games room, with a pool table and a few arcade machines. Stock up on your 50 pence pieces here, you’ll need ’em.
There’s also a restaurant in the hotel, where we had a lovely fresh dinner and enjoyed a breakfast buffet one morning. We found the food hot and tasty, and I liked that 50% is sourced locally.
I wasn’t able to win Flea over to the traditional Scottish “neeps and tatties” but she gave it a good try. Next time I’m introducing her to veggie haggis!
Getting Out and About
Fortunately for us, this weekend’s weather stayed fine, so we were able to get out and about.
On Saturday morning, we took one of the guides from the hotel reception and took a walk in the area around the estate. Then we hopped into the car and drove for an hour to the village of Aberfeldy to visit Highland Safaris.
Three words: Men. In. Kilts. If you like that sort of thing.
Highland Safaris is a great destination for a family day out – and there’s a small gift shop and cafe on-site, so you can grab a hot drink and something to eat while you’re there.
The real attraction though, is this:
Highland Safaris started out life 25 years ago offering visitors the chance to get up close with a herd of Scottish red deer.
Today, you can still visit with these amazing animals but there are loads of other activities on offer. The company has recently started running boat tours on Loch Tay, but there’s also a bike track, gold panning, nature trails and a range of ‘safari tours’.
For the safari, jump into a Land Rover with your guide and spend between 90 minutes and 2.5 hours exploring the highlands. We took a mountain top safari which took us up into the hills to the top of the Foss Ridge, with amazing views across to Ben Nevis. Flea loved learning about the geology of the area, and spotting the wild deer, birds and animals.
Meanwhile, I was just lost for words being high enough to see the snow falling on the neighbouring peaks.
Towards the end of the tour, we visited a bothy on top of the ridge, where we warmed up with a cup of hot tea or coffee, and a biscuit. For adults there’s a also a dram of whisky, which is needed when you’re on top of a Scottish hill in a freezing wind!
If we’d had a little more time, personally I’d have hired bikes from Highland Safaris and ridden to the loch for one of the water-based tours, which look amazing. The manager explained they sometimes take guests with bikes up to the top of the ridge, so they can ride down. This is probably cheating, but it sounds the perfect way to bike the hills!
Just a short drive from Duchally Country Estate you’ll find the adventure centre at Crieff, where you can try tree-top obstacles, zip-lining and a range of high-speed water activities on Loch Earn.
We also noticed that you can do junior driving lessons in 50% scale Land Rovers at Gleneagles, which is just next door to Duchally. There’s a gorgeous, very plush spa at Gleneagles, which I’ve been lucky to try on a child-free visit, and Flea’s eagle eye spotted that they offer a range of spa services just for children.
Oh, and if you’re a golf fan, you can’t hit a golf ball in this part of Scotland without hitting a green. Many of the courses we drove past had “visitors welcome” signs.
After a hectic day, we loved having a comfortable base to return to. And not having to cook every night is a big bonus. Along with the hotel restaurant, Duchally Country Estate offers take-away meals for guests in lodges, including pizza, pasta and chicken wings. We also discovered a Co-Op supermarket just a 10-minute drive away in Auchterarder.
After a hearty breakfast at the hotel buffet, we set off for the 3.5 hour drive home. We had a quick stop at Balloch, better known as the gateway to Loch Lomond. The weather was rubbish and too cold to walk far. So we got hot drinks and took a quick stroll along the water, just in time to see the sun breaking through the clouds.
The thing about Scotland is, even if it’s raining it’s beautiful. And when the rain stops? Well, it’s pretty much perfection.
Need to Know: We stayed in a 2-bedroom self-catering lodge at Duchally Country Estate, Gleaneagles. A 2-bedroom lodge costs from £110 per night in May 2017. We were given a complimentary stay for the purposes of this review. Find out more about CLC World on Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook. Highland Safaris Reed Deer Experience costs £8 per adult and £5 per child, the Mountain Safari costs £40 for adults and £25 for kids aged 12 and under.