Five Star Luxury, The Church Tower, Crieff, Perthshire

Our Scottish breaks to Avernish Lodge and Crosple Cottage in autumn last year were more rural in character and we wanted something a little different to shake off the January blues.

We know the the area around Crieff well, as we visit annually during December to enjoy the party nights at the Hydro.  The high street in Crieff always has a good feel to it so we thought Crieff would be a great place to base ourselves for our first break of 2019.

A quick five-star property search threw up the Church Tower. Sitting in a prominent location as you enter Crieff from the South we had driven past the former St Ninians Church place many times and had no idea there was such a unique and unusual property hiding in there for us to enjoy.

Featuring exposed stone, oak flooring, and arched windows, the property is quirky and full of character.  With spectacular 360-degree views of the surrounding area, the three-bedroom apartment has a small sitting area at the top of the tower.  

The perfect place to watch the sunrise and the sunset with a coffee or glass of wine in hand. 

A small fan heater kept the tower warn and comfortable as we watched the ever-changing scene and views over to Loch Turret and Ben Chonzie.

St Ninians dates from the late 19th Century and was converted in the 1960’s into a Church of Scotland seminary retreat and training centre.  The Church Tower, opened in 2007, combines original features like exposed church walls and beams, with the comforts of modern living to provide a unique 5-star standard of holiday experience.

As one would expect in a Church Tower there are 4 flights of stairs up to the apartment front door. Once in the Tower, there is a further flight of stairs to the living room / kitchen area, and another flight to the very top of the tower.   A word of warning the apartment is not for those with limited mobility – if there ever was a case to travel lightly this was it!

You could also guarantee whatever you were looking for was on a different floor to where you were.  This, to be honest wasn’t a bad thing, as it helped burn off a few extra calories to allow us to enjoy the treats available in the high street,

On the first floor, there are 2 double rooms, both with en-suite wet-rooms with under-floor heating and a twin room, together with a large family bathroom.

All bedrooms are decorated to a high standard as are the bathrooms.  The en-suite wet rooms are also very quirky, with the open shower arrangement taking a little getting used to.  Bathrobes and toiletries are provided adding a nice luxurious touch to the stay.

From the first floor, you ascend the light-flooded Tower, with the steel staircase. The Tower has retained its originally features in the old stone walls and evangelistic windows, but the modern LED lighting certainly brings it into the 21st Century.   

Halfway up the Tower staircase, you enter the large open plan living area, with the balcony at one end and the dining area / kitchen at the other.

The, kitchen although small, was more than adequate, for us to rustle up some meals including some fantastic fresh seafood from Fish in Crieff.

The balcony enjoys impressive views over the Crieff hills and beyond, although given the time of year, we never managed to enjoy it to the full.

Off the living area is a snug and cosy tv room with 42″ wall-mounted TV, together with a comfy sofa.  This was a great place to chill out and relax after exploring the Perthshire countryside. We thought we’d try another box set this time round and we settled down to watch Season 1 of the The Vikings – have to say we’re already hooked and working our way through Season 2.

The apartment is unique and quirky and certainly worth a visit providing you can cope with all the stairs.

Centrally located in Crieff, The Church Tower is perfect for exploring the South Highlands of the Trossachs National Park and Perthshire countryside and we managed to fit in several walks, enjoying a spell of rather outstanding weather for the time of year.

Walkhighlands has the usual great coverage in this area and we took in a few of our old favourites including The Knock of Crieff, Lady Mary’s walk and Laggan Hill circular.

We also managed a few new ones nearby at St Fillans Viewpoint circular and the River Earn walk from Crieff to Muthill – although looks like some locals had recently visited!

We had visited Highland Safaris a few years back for a red deer experience and a trip into the mountains to see the amazing Perthshire scenery, so we couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit again during winter. The weather on the day was simply incredible and perhaps the best day of the year so far, with blue skies and more than a ‘crisp’ in the air! You can read about our experience here.

We had a bit of a religious theme going on with this trip, not only were we staying at The Church Tower, in Crieff we had lined up a visit to Little’s Restaurant in the former Riverside Methodist Church in Rattray and Blairgowrie.  

Cargill’s Leap and the Knockie circuit in Blairgowrie helped us walk off the calories from a very filling and tasty lunch.  You can read about this here along with our visit to Fish in Crieff.

Basing ourselves so close to the Crieff Town Centre was a master stroke with a butchers, fishmongers, chocolatier, deli, bakers and confectioner within easy walking distance from the apartment, it may however have been better for our waistline if we had been further away from the chocolatier! 

There were also a few great restaurants to eat in nearby and we had some pretty tasty food at the Tower Gastro Pub and Craobh.  Although we never managed to visit during our stay The Lounge also deserves a mention for another excellent menu to choose from – one to visit again in December.

John Burke, the owner, has really created a unique place to stay and has respectfully kept the character of the Church and cleverly added modern and unique elements for his visitors to enjoy.   

This was a really great trip and certainly on our radar to visit again in the future, although we’ve already got an eye on John’s newest property Dun Aluinn an exclusive use venue situated in Aberfeldy Perthshire, Scotland. 

Just waiting for an invite to visit!

Other Information: This was a sponsored / discounted visit; however, the review / article is an independent, honest and true reflection of our experience.  Thank you to John Burke / Dun Aluinn Estate 2018 for allowing us to use some of their images in this blog.

Scottish Seafood, Good for the ‘Sole’, Little’s Restaurant, Perthshire

We had a bit of a religious theme going on with our last trip staying at The Church Tower, in Crieff and then a wee visit to Little’s Restaurant in the former Riverside Methodist Church in Rattray and Blairgowrie. 

Look out for our Church Tower blog coming soon, but first up Little’s Restaurant and Fish in Crieff.

Willie Little is well known in the area and has a wealth of experience in the catering industry with Little’s being the latest in a line of popular restaurants he has owned and run in Angus and Perthshire over the years.

We had the pleasure of catching up with Willie during our visit and what an interesting and infectious character he is with some amazing and wonderful stories about the church transformation, floorboards, dry rot, his plans for the future, how the renovation came in a ‘little’ over budget and of course his passion for seafood.  

The full story of the church transformation can be found here

Willie is so passionate about fish it’s no surprise his menus feature traditional as well as some more unusual dishes. Willie also has a love for seasonal Scottish fish and seafood and has a passion for sharing this with his customers both at the shop and the restaurant. 

He spends his mornings at his fish shop in Crieff and then travels onto Blairgowrie in the afternoon to cook in the evenings in the restaurant.  Thinking up his daily specials whilst driving from Crieff to Blairgowrie his restaurant team  must be on their toes to spring into action for his customers arriving for lunch.

We arrived for afternoon lunch and were given a very warm welcome by Helen who invited us in to marvel at the unique surroundings.  The renovation is stunning and full of character; built in 1885 it became the headquarters in 1917 of the Labour Corps and around 20,000 men of all ages and ranks passed through in the following two years. Built from Pictfield Quarry stone to seat 440 people, the church was completed and consecrated in 1887.

As Helen showed us to our table, we couldn’t miss the unique and impressive central stained-glass window.  Erected in 1922, the window, we are told, is the only memorial in Britain to the 7,000 officers and men of the Labour Corp who gave their lives in WW1.

Our attention was eventually drawn away from the stained-glass window by an equally impressive fish menu and specials blackboard with many traditional and unusual fish and seafood pairings / combinations to choose from.  Decisions, decisions!

Our starters were a selection of seafood tasters including mussels with bacon, crispy squid rings, prawn mayonnaise and smoked salmon along with an impressive dish of hand-dived Orkney king scallops and black pudding.  A very tasty start to our lunch and the first restaurant we can truly say we really enjoyed the squid – very moreish!

Mains were just as impressive with a delicious fillet of sea bass, with rosti potato, smoked bacon, and cabbage and Fish of the Day.   Willies passion is to encourage his customers to try types of fish they may not have tried before.  On the menu for us was Megrim a flatfish similar in flavour to Dover sole. From the same family as turbot and brill, it has softer flesh and thin skin that can be easily crisped during cooking.  

Served with toasted almonds, sauté potatoes, and nut-brown butter, the Megrim was fab and very filling – a word of warning if you think you’ve finished, flip it over and you’ve got plenty more to work through.  So much so, the space normally left for desserts was easily breached.

Willie sources all his fish and seafood from trusted suppliers in places like Peterhead and Kinlochbervie knowing all the fishermen and the divers direct. What we found interesting was that he knew where everything in his restaurant and fishmongers, Fish in Crieff, comes from.

Through his fishmongers, Fish in Crieff, Willie has access to the freshest fish that Scottish waters has to offer coming daily from Scrabster Market in the North of Scotland, from market to plate within 12 hours. 

Staying at The Church Tower only a few 100 metres along from his shop in Crieff, Willie was pleased to arrange for us to visit and try some of the fresh produce on offer. 

We had hoped to catch Willie in his shop, but he was long gone on his daily journey to Blairgowrie by the time we arrived at the shop around 9am.  Suspect he had another busy day ahead of him.

Not to worry as we received another warm welcome from Shaun who was hard at work filleting some Red Fish at his work counter when we arrived.  Very knowledgeable and engaging Shaun showed us around the shop answering our questions and giving advice on how to prepare and cook the different types of fish and seafood. 

The shop has everything you would expect and much more and the people and visitors to Crieff are so lucky to have this on their doorstep.  We left with fresh mussels, red fish, scallops and some cod fillet.  Red Fish isn’t the most attractive fish, so we’ll save you from the before pictures, but the fillets and finished dish was a little more pleasing on the eye. 

Back at the Church Tower we set about trying to create dishes that might not be too far out of place on Willies specials board, including Thai Chilli and Coconut Mussels, Red Fish with Sweet Potato and Thai Chilli and Coconut Cod Fillet. 

We might need to work on our presentation, but even if we do say so ourselves, the dishes were fab.  Nothing to do with the skills of the amateur chefs, but instead simply down to the freshness of the ingredients!

The Riverside Methodist Church in Rattray and Blairgowrie was clearly a focus for the community and War efforts in years gone by and it’s a pleasure to see that it has become so once again.  With a warm and welcoming atmosphere Willie has created a unique venue, in a prime location, serving outstanding cuisine which perfectly showcases Scotland’s amazing seafood. 

Fish in Crieff is equally as impressive and is the type of shop that we wish every high street would have, providing everyone with the opportunity to prepare dishes with the same ingredients as Willie and other top chefs serve up to their customers.

We really can’t recommend Little’s Restaurant and Fish in Crieff highly enough and we’ll definitely be returning when we’re visiting Perthshire again.

Other Information: Thank you to Littles Restaurant / Fish in Crieff for providing a few pictures for our social media feeds / blog.  This was a sponsored visit, however, the review / article is an independent, honest and true reflection of our experience.  Thank you also to Clare Graham from www.advantagepr.co.uk for the connection. 

Avernish Lodge, Lochalsh Luxury, Scotland

According to the website Avernish Lodge is situated on the banks of Loch Alsh, with stunning views over Eilean Donan Castle, is miles from any passing traffic and serenity is guaranteed.  This is a 100% accurate description and just what we needed before winter took hold in Scotland.

Slightly further north than our trip in October back to Crosple Cottage Loch Melfort, Avernish Lodge is ideally placed to explore the Kyle of Lochalsh and another great excuse for a journey via Glencoe.

We set off a little later than planned meaning we arrived at Avernish just as the sun was going down; when we approached the village of Dornie, Eilean Donan Castle was magically lit up to honour the 100-year Armistice celebrations.  What a welcome to the area!

As we turned off the main road it felt like the local pipistrelle bats were guiding us along the track as the light faded for the day.  Avernish Lodge, completed in 2016, is about a mile off the main A87 road down a quiet single-track road which gives access to several crofts scattered along the banks of Loch Alsh.

The lodge sits in an elevated prominent position on the hillside with unrestricted views over the loch and over to Glas Eilean, a small island in the middle.

It was a first for us arriving in the dark and little strange, however, as soon as we entered the lodge we were at home.  The lodge is finished to an extremely high standard and has been very well looked after by guests and owner James.

You enter the lodge via a handy utility room with a sink, washing machine, tumble dryer and a drying cupboard for hanging up outdoor clothing.

The living area is large with a high-pitched roof, it’s a modern open-plan well equipped space complete with a log burning stove, HD television with Sky TV, Wi-Fi Internet and a solid wood dining table separating the living area and the kitchen.

The bathroom and en-suite are also very impressive adding to an already luxurious experience.

Our biggest decision when we arrived was which of the two bedrooms, we were going to sleep in. 

The largest bedroom can be set up as two single beds or a super king, but the views from the slightly smaller en-suite bedroom overlooking Eilean Donan made it an easy choice for us.  

There was something enchanting about falling asleep with the castle lit up in the distance.  We didn’t fully appreciate the stunning view until the next morning – waking up to a glorious sunrise over the loch was even more special.

When we entered the living space the next morning the extent of the views of Loch Alsh from the floor to ceiling windows was mesmerising.

We both had our eyes on the luxurious rotating chair positioned in the corner window – luckily it was big enough to fit two!    Many a morning started sitting here with a coffee enjoying the views.

Our ‘batch’ cooking at Crosple Cottage was a real success so we did the same again for our break at Avernish.

Again, we just needed a few pots and of course a microwave to prepare our meals, but the kitchen is fully equipped for the more adventurous chef to rustle up some local delights, but a must visit place is Buth Bheag seafood shack in Kyle of Lochalsh to stock up and sample some local produce.

The dining table was perfect place to relax, enjoy the view whilst tucking into a piping hot bowl of soup or casserole as well as a glass (or two) of red.

All rooms, including the living space, are fitted with independently controlled underfloor heating, which is great.  A word of warning though, it can get very warm if the temperature is set to high so take it easy on the first few nights especially if you need to use the log fire as it heats up the large living area in no time.

During our week we were very lucky with the weather; November in Scotland can be sometimes unpredictable and very cold however we managed out every day to explore and most of the days the sun was shining.

On a couple of occasions, it was that warm we had to ditch the fleeces and jackets.

At this time of year, the daylight hours were short with the sun going down just after 4pm so as we returned to the lodge most days we could enjoy watching the sun go down.

Each of the bedrooms and living areas has a glass door that opens onto a paved patio area, offering outdoor access which you could make use of during the warmer lighter months.

Although the lodge is remote the broadband connection is not too bad and at a little over 5mbps allowed us to keep an eye on the weather, download some walks and fire up a Netflix box set to enjoy via our own Apple TV.  The Smart TV also has a full Sky Sports and Movies package as well as access to a suite of apps such as BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Netflix etc, perfect for those cosy autumn evenings with a roaring log fire burning beside you.

As we said before when holidaying in Scotland there can only be one series to settle down and watch – Outlander.  Season 3 was our choice this time round and like our accommodation didn’t disappoint – no spoilers, but we can’t wait for Season 4 to complete so we can binge on it during our next stay wherever that may be.

No box set would be complete without a nice Scottish Gin to accompany it, Makar was this week’s choice (one of Linda’s favourites) with a wee Drambuie to finish off most evenings.   Afraid, we made the fateful mistake of discovering a Bonnie Prince Charlie’s aka Prosecco and Drambuie!  Very nice – they certainly had the desired effect.

Worth pointing out that while fibre optic isn’t yet in the area the coverage of EE’s mobile 4g signal at the lodge was impressive at lmost 20-25mbps and Vodafone’s 4g was around 5mbps. Always good to know for those social media hungry people who like to keep in touch or book up their next trip!

The lodge is very close to a number of popular tourist attractions, such as; Eilean Donan Castle, The Isle of Skye, Plockton and numerous other castles, mountains and tourist hotspots.

A wee pit stop went down well at the Plockton Inn before we ventured over to Duncraig Castle to explore.  That’s on our radar for a visit next year!

During our stay we always turned left when we left Avernish along the main tourist route towards Skye, maybe next time we’ll venture right.

All our walks and the towns / villages we explored were generally within about a 30-minute drive although we did venture over to the Fairy Pools on Skye on our last day – well worth a trip.

Wildlife encounters included seals, otters, mountain goats, red deer and roe dear not forgetting the local bats!  Highlight was this close up encounter with a very friendly chaffinch as we set of to explore the Fairy Pools.

Would highly recommend spending time having a look at walkhighlands.co.uk  our go to website before you arrive and plan a few walks to get you started.

This is our second year we have holidayed in Scotland at this time of year and we would highly recommend it.  The roads are generally quiet, and, on many occasions, we didn’t encounter any other walkers when we were out exploring – check out the scenery in these pics.

Yes, some venues are closed or have restricted hours, but the great outdoors are well and truly open and not to be missed.

James has created a real place to get away from it all and it was a wrench to leave at the end of our stay.  For those looking for luxury self-catering accommodation and a holiday experience in a picturesque setting Avernish Lodge is up there with the best.

We really can’t stress how relaxed we felt here overlooking Loch Alsh and Eilean Donan Castle and we would highly recommend a visit.

With so much to do in the area James has created a perfect base for you to return each day to relax, recharge and reflect on your adventures and, of course, sip a wee refreshment.

Other Information:

Although this was a discounted visit, the review is an independent and true reflection of our experience.  Thank you to James for use of some property images in this article.

Argyll Autumn Hideaway, Crosple Cottage, Melfort

Our Seabourn cruise in the summer surpassed our expectations in terms of luxury, fine dining and of course service.   We would however have liked some more relaxation as, being our first cruise, we tried to cram in as much as we could.  Days started early and ended late, so we knew we needed another type of break (or two) before winter took hold this year.

Look out for our trip to Avernish Lodge, Kyle of Lochalsh later in the year, but first up was Crosple Cottage, Loch Melfort, Argyll.

We’re so lucky here in Scotland – within just a few hours the car can be packed, and you can be on the road to many incredibly scenic and peaceful locations.

We stopped off at Inveraray for lunch and a wee stretch of our legs.   Check out the views from the top of Dun Na Cuaiche, the ascent certainly worked off a few of the added calories from the lunchtime fish and chips!

When we reached the small village of Kilmelford just over an hour later, we knew we didn’t have far to go. Crosple Cottage was just  2 miles further along the lochside, turning off the main road we ascended the final 400m via a farm track. The Cottage appeared round the final bend; our secluded hideaway for 7 days.

Crosple cottage has impressive views of Loch Melfort / Fearnach Bay and the open countryside, no neighbours (except the curious sheep), no interruptions, just peace and solitude with only the wildlife and each other for company.

If you do manage a visit, do not panic if you hear the occasional noise outside in the evening, its probably one of the curious sheep who jump the wall into the cottage garden.   If only we’d known about that when we arrived, it would have prevented the scare we got as we shone our torch outside on our first evening only to be greeted by a glowing pair of eyes.  Watch out for this chap on your travels  too – we were assured he was harmless!

The ground floor of the cottage is open plan and well laid out with a cosy sitting area and a wood burner, small dining area and a very well-equipped kitchen.   It was nice to see that sustainability is important to Rory and Jennie as there were clear recycling instructions for guests which is sometimes missing from properties we have stayed at recently. We had taken relaxation to a new level and had ‘batched’ cooked for our 7 day stay, so we just needed a few pots and of course a microwave to prepare our meals, but the kitchen is clearly equipped for the more adventurous chef to rustle up some culinary delights.

The living area has french doors that open out onto a south facing patio with views down to Loch Melfort.  Despite the time of year, we were fortunate enough to enjoy the patio on several occasions during our stay.

Off the hallway is a handy utility room with washing machine, tumble dryer and plenty of hooks for hanging up outdoor clothing.  Upstairs there is a compact bedroom with a large king-size bed and a good sized bathroom both with stunning views down to Loch Melfort.

The bathroom has a large walk in shower and a deep cast iron roll top bath which is perfect for a soak after a day exploring; even big enough for two.  It certainly helped us recover from our more energetic walks.  The underfloor heating, fluffy bath robes and Scottish toiletries added to the luxuriousness and created a real private retreat for us to enjoy.

Rest assured that every little extra has been thought of to make your stay perfect. There are vases of fresh flowers, a good supply of quality magazines and wide selection of books to choose from should you decide to have a lazy morning or afternoon. A Nespresso coffee machine is also on hand with capsules available to purchase, if your own supply runs out.

An impressive 11Mbps plus broadband connection allows you to review the weather, download some walks and fire up a Netflix box set to enjoy.

When staying in a wee Scottish cottage there can only be one series to settle down and watch – Outlander.  Season 2 was our choice this time round and like our accommodation didn’t disappoint – but you’ll never guess what happened at Culloden!

No box set would be complete without a nice Scottish Gin to accompany it, Arbikie AKs was this week’s choice (again), along with an impressive newcomer for us, Jinzu, both washed down with a wee Drambuie to finish off the evening.  The roaring log fire was the perfect backdrop for a cosy Autumn evening.

There are plenty of walks directly from the cottage if you don’t want to drive, including Melfort hill to the rear of the cottage.

We often meandered our way through the bracken, a scythe would have been handy mind you in some places, and joined the track for the Creag an Sturra circuit.  It was supposed to be a ‘short cut’, but the steep ascent in some places is for the more adventurous and definitely took its toll on our legs. Worth it though for the views!

We would also highly recommend the adjacent An Coire Lochan Circuit for some incredible views of Jura, Scarba and Lunga and everything in between!

The cottage has really good information on local walks, places to visit and things to do in the surrounding area.

Just find what suits and off you go – but don’t underestimate the benefits of some lazy mornings or afternoons just chilling in the cottage.   We managed this every day and have to say was just what we needed to recharge the batteries.

If you do venture further afield we’d recommend exploring Seil Island and of course crossing the ‘Atlantic’ via the historic Clachan Bridge.

Here you can visit Ellenabeich and climb the nearby hillside to see stunning views of nearby Mull and the slate island of Easdale.  Further south the Cuan Coast and Moor Circuit really is worth a try.

Wildlife sightings during our stay were sporadic, however, we managed three of the big five, catching a few curious seals in the Fearnach Bay, some deer up near Seil Island and a Golden Eagle swirling above Melfort Hill.

Crosple Cottage is the perfect romantic hideaway, located in a secluded spot nestled on a hillside and just 300 meters from the shores of Loch Melfort.  Just remember and pull yourself away from the cosy log fire to explore the beautiful Argyll scenery.

Rory Campbell Gibson and his wife Jennie have created something unique with Crosple Cottage, their second self-catering property situated on their farmland on the Melfort Estate near Oban.

Crosple Cottage and their first project, Fearnach Bay House, which is equally as impressive, were built by Rory himself and decorated internally by Jennie.  We hadn’t appreciated until the end of our break that Rory is also an artist and many of his pieces adorn the walls of Crosple Cottage.   For someone that has only taken up painting in recent years he has a real talent – see for yourself here.

Rory and Jennie sought to create accommodation to appeal to those who were looking for luxury self-catering accommodation and a holiday experience in a picturesque setting.  They have no doubt achieved this here at Crosple Cottage and we hope to try Fearnach Bay House some time soon.

We really can’t stress how relaxed we felt here in our very own secluded Argyll hideaway and we would highly recommend a visit.

Other Information:

Although this was a discounted visit, the review is an independent and true reflection of our experience.

Spring Sunshine, Ardnamurchan and Moidart, Scottish Highlands

This was our second trip to Ardnamurchan in less than 6 months, staying again at Garmoran Square, Mingarry, Moidart.   Our first trip can be found here.

Moidart is best known as Bonnie Prince Charlie country as he arrived in Kinlochmoidart in August 1745 landing at Castle Tioram on route from France setting sail up Loch Shiel from Dalilea.

It’s worth reading up on the history before you arrive as you’ll immediately fall in love with these stories and the folklore the area has to offer.

Full blog to follow shortly…..enjoy pics just now!

Royal Mile Luxury, Old Town Chambers, Edinburgh

Squeezing in a wee luxury break in our capital city of Edinburgh, early in the New Year, has become an annual event for us.  This time our accommodation of choice was Old Town Chambers, literally seconds from the Royal Mile.

Located in the heart of the Edinburgh we were just a five-minute walk from Princes Street and a whole range of places to visit, things to do and places to eat.

Opened in July 2013 Old Town Chambers is a collection of 50 serviced apartments occupying several older buildings, including a 15th century house, complemented by zinc and timber-clad modern extensions.

Given our plans to visit Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith on our return home we chose to drive and would have to say the whole experience was seamless.  Old Town Chambers is right in the middle of the historic centre where you would think access by car would be a problem.  Not so!

We pulled in on the High Street / Royal Mile by Angels with Bagpipes and parked up for a few minutes.  After transferring our luggage via the narrow close to the apartments, down into Roxburgh Close, one of us parked up the car at Waverley Station Car Park, only a few minutes away.   Have to say it was very impressive to be able to park overnight / for 24hrs in Edinburgh for less than £17; just remember and validate your ticket at reception, where you’ll receive a 20% discount.

There seems to be something to suit everyone at Old Town Chambers and we were privileged to have opportunity to try out the three-bedroom Penthouse apartment.  Boasting incredible views over the City this is easily the most exclusive and luxurious City pad we have stayed in – now there’s a challenge to others!  Feel free to step up to the challenge.

The apartments allow you to experience staying within the World Heritage Site of the Old Town, combined with the luxurious comforts of a 21st century lifestyle.   Efforts have clearly been made during the design and development to respect the historical surroundings, but also provide travellers like us with the luxury and features they crave in a modern City.

As soon as we entered the elevator we couldn’t help but feel exclusive; there was only one apartment door number for our floor and our penthouse had its very own private landing.  We had the entire floor all to our ourselves!

As we entered the Penthouse we were  impressed by the vast open-plan living and dining space with floor-to-ceiling glass doors, leading onto a balcony with nothing short of stunning views over Princes Street Gardens, over to Fife and beyond.  We even caught a glimpse of the three bridges crossing the Forth at Queensferry.

Although the lighting took a little getting used to the apartment was fitted with state-of-the-art gadgets including hi speed Wi-Fi, electric window blinds, a smart TV and a top of range Bose sound system.  Anywhere that provides your very own Nespresso machine also gets our vote every time – the only thing missing was George Clooney.

We were staying for one evening and had plans to eat out at Angels with Bagpipes which was seconds from our building.  The large kitchen area would have been ideal if we were staying for longer.  Fully equipped with catering-standard knives and utensils, including integrated Siemens appliances as well as blenders / juicers this is place you really wish you were able to call home.

It was a wrench to leave the apartment so soon, but we had plans to explore Edinburgh and what it had to offer.

The City was somewhat ‘chilly’ that weekend, so we spent a few hours warming up and tucking into some homemade burgers at All Bar One on George Street washed down with a few large gins, before venturing up Calton Hill and the Nelson Monument where we enjoyed some even more incredible views of the City.

Returning to the apartment before dinner we were able to relax and chill out for a few hours on the italian designer chairs, firing up the Bose sound system and of course sinking a few more large gin and tonics.

Later that evening we had a lovely meal at Angels with Bagpipes before enjoying an evening of laughs at the intimate Monkey Barrel Comedy Club – both literally on our doorstep.  A great night by all accounts .  Top tip though, don’t sit too close to the front at the comedy club or you’ll become part of the show!

At the end of the evening and after a few more gins we ‘carefully’ made our way up the Royal Mile cobblestones and into Roxburgh Close to retire for the evening.  The Christmas market was also coming to an end and the fair was still in full flow, giving us a pretty unique and impressive night ‘cityscape’.

Two of the three bedrooms had en-suite bathrooms and private balconies overlooking Roxburgh Court.   

Oak wooden flooring led into eye-catching monochrome bathrooms with black granite wall tiling and grey slate flooring.

The beds were extremely comfortable and we had a pretty decent night’s sleep, although a few City revellers could have been a little quieter as they made their way home in the early hours and the chimes from St Giles Cathedral took a little getting used to.   We were in the heart of the City weren’t we so what would you expect and there was no real problem.

We did venture into the kitchen early Sunday morning to pull together some much needed bacon rolls to ease our slightly fuzzy heads, but sadly we had a wee smoke alarm incident!  After a high speed dash down several flights of stairs to the 24hr concierge, to let them know, we were pleased to see that the whole building wasn’t yet being evacuated.

As we watched the City wake up from our penthouse balcony the bacon rolls smothered in ketchup and our shots of nespresso were the perfect start to our day.

As well as the stunning apartments what made the Old Town Chambers stand out for us was the freedom provided to guests and the seamless check in process.   Check-in and check-out was through an individual pin-code access system which was delivered to us in our confirmation email.

With payment already processed, we were able to arrive and go straight to our apartment reducing the need for a check-in procedure.  The discrete 24 hour concierge team was on hand to help out if needed though – especially if you needed help to reset the penthouse smoke alarms!

Lateral City Apartments, who manage Old Town Chambers have really hit the mark with these apartments and really couldn’t have done anything more to provide us with such a private and luxurious experience in Scotland’s capital City.

See for yourself here.

This is certainly a place we’ll be back to visit as we continue to our food and travel journey.

Other Information:

Thank you to the Lateral City / Pagoda Port Novelli Media Agency for providing some of the above pictures for use in our blog. 

Autumn Rainbows, Ardnamurchan and Moidart, Scottish Highlands

Any trip to the Scottish Highlands for us begins shortly after we leave our house and this trip didn’t disappoint.   Although the weather could have been kinder, the scenic journey along the A84 via Callander and the A85 via Crianlarich was very enjoyable and the haunting and dramatic views along the A82 via Glencoe are always impressive in any conditions.

Just after Onich, we crossed Loch Linnhe via the Corran Ferry to Ardgour.  A short crossing, but this cut around 20 mins or so from our journey time compared to the Fort William route; always worth considering if you’re comfortable with ferries.

We were heading for Garmoran Square, a development of four luxury self-catering apartments situated in Mingarry, Moidart in the picturesque west coast of the Scottish Highlands and north of the Isle of Mull.  Each apartment has a historical link to the area and you can find out more during your stay if you take time to delve into the well-stocked book shelves.

Moidart is best known as Bonnie Prince Charlie country as he arrived in Kinlochmoidart in August 1745 landing at Castle Tioram on route from France setting sail up Loch Shiel from Dalilea.  Worth reading up on the history before you arrive as you’ll immediately fall in love with these stories and the folklore the area has to offer.

Mingarry is a small crofting township with several public dwellings as well as a mixture of traditional crofts, some private houses and Mingarry Park, which we will tell you about later.

Garmoran Square is at the gateway to Ardnamurchan, just 1 hour from Fort William, Ben Nevis and Nevis Range in the north east and just over an hour to Ardnamurchan Point in the west.   It is also within easy reach of Mull, Skye and the small Isles of Eigg, Muck and Rum during the summer season – although worth pointing a boat or ferry is needed for these visits!

Garmoran Square opened in 2006 and is built on croft land to the side of Susan and Kenneth MacDonald’s home.  Their concept was to build a luxury treat to allow people to share the beauty and history of this area.   In our view they’ve certainly achieved this – watch Susan tell you about it here.

Although Garmoran Square is rural it’s only a 5 minutes’ drive from a baker, grocers, tearoom, hotel, pubs and restaurants.   We were aware early November is the beginning  of the low / winter season, so some places had limited opening hours, but it didn’t really affect our stay at all and just meant we spent more time outdoors.  There’s nothing better than trekking through the Scottish Countryside, pouring yourself and enjoying a nice cup of coffee / homemade soup before your return leg.

We were staying in the Tioram apartment (pronounced cheerum) at the southeast corner of the development overlooking Ben Resipole.   The three main apartments are well orientated to maximise the sun in the afternoon and evening and to enjoy the early morning sunrise over Ben Resipole.

Susan met us on arrival, which is always a nice touch, and we immediately felt at home with her.  She gave us a brief tour of Tioram, essential tips on the heating controls and some advice on places to visit and walk in the area.   She was welcoming and warm; and it was clear that she had a passion for the area and was proud of what she and Kenneth had achieved at Garmoran Square.

Tioram is a 3 bedroom five star ground floor apartment, sleeping 6 with 2 double and 1 twin rooms all with en suite.  The large lounge has floor to ceiling windows with outstanding views of Ben Resipole to the south.  Three large settees make this an ideal space to settle down or gather with friends if there are more of you.

The kitchen  / diner is bright and modern and in our view one of the best kitted out in terms of crockery, cooking implements and gadgets; it’s a perfect space for cooking and socialising at the same time not to mention the view to be enjoyed through the full length windows.

Watch the video here.

The apartment also had good internet coverage with decent download speeds for an area like this.   We unpacked quickly and easily as there was of plenty hanging space and drawers in the main bedroom.

It was also no trouble at all for us to plug in our Outlander Hybrid and Susan made sure this was possible giving us access to her small outbuilding next to the car park.

Your first night at a new place isn’t always the best, but here we felt at home and relaxed immediately.  We settled down with a box set (this time Suits Season 4) and enjoyed our customary Scottish gins.  This time we were trying Kirkjuvagr’s new Storm Strength and Arbikie’s Kirsty’s Gin.  Both went down very well – but be careful with the storm strength.

Although tempting, who doesn’t enjoy an open fire, we never needed to use the log burner during our stay as the underfloor heating throughout the apartment was more than enough, keeping us warm and toasty.

We had a very peaceful first night sleep in a very comfortable and cosy super king size bed – perhaps the gin helped a little.

We woke early to get our Autumn in Ardnamurchan adventure underway!    A key plus point for any place we stay is how good the shower is and Tioram didn’t disappoint– a great refreshing start to our day.  Our bathroom was modern, bright with a ceiling velux window and nicely finished with floor to ceiling tiles.

On a map this part of Scotland may appear vast, but in terms of distance it really isn’t.  However, given the single track roads places can take a little time to reach – not a problem mind you given the stunning scenery on route.

Being centrally located is essential to ensure you maximise your time at different places – Garmoran Square is perfect for this and an ideal base to explore this area.   Moidart and Ardnamurchan are renowned for their spectacular scenery with some of the best beaches on the west coast and the area offers wildlife in abundance.

First up on the Saturday was a visit to the Singing Sands, near Kentra.  The early morning forecast wasn’t the best, but, although cold, we ended up enjoying some lovely spells of sunshine.

The start of the walk was a 10 minute drive from Garmoran Square, the walk to the Singing Sands, there and back, was along tracks next to Kentra Bay and then through forestry plantation before emerging at the white sands.   It was low tide and Kentra Bay was a large expanse of mudflat with small fragments of salt marsh, sand dune and machair.

 Wildlife was limited along the route to water birds, although we’re sure we spotted a mountain hare, searching for food.  The section through the forestry plantation was pleasant but somewhat spoiled by the 6ft high close boarded perimeter fence left over from Channel 4’s failed social experiment Eden.   Hopefully Channel 4 and the estate return it to its natural look sooner rather than later.

The walk was worth it when we emerged from the trees to cross the small dunes and head onto the singing sands.  We had the entire beach to ourselves.

At low tide the sands stretch right across the bay and normally allow plenty of scope for exploring along the coastline to the right.  Sadly, we were midway between low and high tide and, although we tried, we couldn’t quite get around to the northern beach which formed part of the Eden ‘set’.

To make the sands sing we had to shuffle across with either bare feet or shoes – given the temperatures we chose the latter.   The noise is made by the grains of sand rubbing together.   The grains are completely round and seemingly had the right level of humidity to generate the low frequency sound.   Despite repeated attempts, sadly, we never heard any ‘singing’.

That said, sliding your feet along a beach that is littered with signs like this makes you more than a little careful about what you’re doing with your feet.

The weather was mixed, but all in all it was a very pleasant walk with stunning scenery at the end and even a rainbow making an appearance for us.    Impressively we had a 4g signal at Singing Sands, which even allowed a brief catch up on our Social Media, unfairly worrying our families, by sharing pics of the explosive signs.

Our trip to Sana Bay, Portuairk and Ardnamurchan Point the next day was perfect; the Scottish weather had played an absolute blinder for us.

One of the good things about this area is that within seconds of setting off on a trip you are immediately surrounded by breath taking scenery and wildlife including birds of prey, mountain goats, deer, otter and seals.

Just make sure you keep your eyes on the road as you never know what’s around the corner!

The 30 mile journey along the windy, narrow single track road from Salen was nothing short of stunning; the sun was shining, the blue skies were clear and Loch Sunart waters were glistening.  It was one of the most idyllic and scenic drives we have ever taken and took so much longer than planned as we kept stopping for the photo opportunities and glimpses of majestic stags and their hinds in the distance.

We also stopped off on route at Kilchoan to scout out the ferry terminal for a future trip back over to explore Mull.

We parked up at Portuairk and set off on foot towards Ardnamurchan Point and a visit MacNeil Bay; a beautiful sandy beach with views out to the lighthouse.

We had a lot planned that day, so never took the detour to the lighthouse; that was on our radar for a stopover later.

After leaving MacNeil Bay we headed back to Portuairk and had a very special, if not slightly nervous, close encounter with these two lads.

It was the end of the rutting season, so hormones would have been running high, but as we approached they thankfully scarpered off into the hills and we returned to Portuairk.

In the afternoon we drove to Ardnamurchan Point.  As the most westerly point on the British mainland, Ardnamurchan Lighthouse has been guiding ships safely through the waters off Scotland’s west coast since 1849.    The Lighthouse itself stands 36m high, and its top is 55m above sea level.

As soon as we arrived we were greeted by Ted and Peigi the two lighthouse keeper’s dogs who guided us on our way to the lighthouse viewing points.

The lighthouse was closed for the season, so we couldn’t climb the 152 steps, plus two ladders to the top.  We did spend some time at the viewpoints near to the bright red foghorn on the rocks below the lighthouse and at the inside viewing area beneath the front of the foghorn platform.

Ted and Peigi had our hearts in our mouths as they bounded across the rocks on the edge of some dangerous / steep drops into the rough seas below.  Ted even had some time to pose for a photo – you can see he’s done that pose many times before.

The views were great and we could see the island of Rum to the north, with the Cuillins of Skye beyond.

Final stop for the day was Sanna Bay.  Dominated by beautiful white, shell sand and turquoise sea, the bay is well-known for its magnificent beach and scenery.

Although it was late in the day, we had superb views of the Small Isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and the sun was beginning to set to the west. This led to some incredible views and photo opportunities.

Sanna Bay is so mesmerising, and its sheer remoteness makes it a special place to visit.

We headed back to Garmoran Square along the single-track road towards Salen.  The falling light gave the journey a different ambiance along with some brief encounters with low flying bats and mountain goats. 

It had been a long day, so we decided to treat ourselves at the nearby Mingarry Park.  This recently awarded AA rosette restaurant was a 3-minute walk from Garmoran Square and a bonus to have so close to us; more importantly it meant we could both enjoy a nice Sauvignon Blanc with our meal.

We ordered Steamed Cockles and Smoked Mallaig Mussels and a Mushroom Bridie to start and mains of Sous-vide Moidart Venison Loin and Pan Seared Sea Bass.

One of us even managed a wee clootie dumpling for dessert!

The food, especially the venison loin, was excellent; even better the restaurant was practically on the doorstep of Garmoran Square.   Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable day exploring Ardnamurchan , followed by a delicious meal after which we headed back for a few more episodes of Suits and a glass or two of gin!

In fact, we were so tired from the day, and given the forecast wasn’t the kindest our laziness rolled over to noon the next day.  We spent the morning relaxing and enjoying the cosiness of the apartment, freshly brewed coffee, toasted muffins and crispy bacon and reading up on the history of the area.

We did venture out later to explore Castle Tioram for a few hours – this was a must given we were staying at its namesake.   The ruined Castle Tioram (pronounced Cheerum) is sited on the rocky tidal island Eilean Tioram (the Dry Island) where the waters of Loch Moidart & the River Shiel meet.

The castle is closed to visitors, but we were still able to visit the island at low tide and managed to get some pictures.

We didn’t really have enough time to fully explore and the weather wasn’t the best.   Castle Tioram is first on our list to visit again when we next return and we’ve already started to read up on its fascinating history.

Our journey home was an experience in itself.

As you head to Fort William the scenery along the A86 through the village of Glenuig and onto Lochailort is nothing short of spectacular and not to be missed, neither is the ‘magical’ Glenfinnan Viaduct.

The famous Glenfinnan viaduct carries the railway to Glenfinnan Station across a 1,000 ft span, 100 ft above the ground. The Jacobite steam train runs from here to Fort William and Mallaig in summer months with regular trains available the rest of the year.   The viaduct is built from mass concrete, and has 21 semi-circular spans of 50 feet.  It is the longest concrete railway bridge in Scotland at 416 yards, and crosses the River Finnan at a height of 100 feet.   The viaduct is word famous and features in the Harry Potter movies.

We parked up just off the A830 and headed towards the viaduct.  The path has been much improved in recent years; passing beneath the arches of the viaduct before continuing to climb on the far side.

As we gained more height the clouds cleared, and the sun emerged giving us dramatic and ‘magical’ views looking down on the viaduct – made more special by the appearance of another rainbow.

We also had an impressive view of the Glenfinnan Monument, but that’s a whole new history lesson for another time.

The final leg of our journey home via Glencoe was equally as dramatic as the sun began to set.

Garmoran Square was perfect for us and we highly recommend these luxury apartments to anyone looking to explore the Ardnamurchan and Moidart peninsula.

With so much history and scenery Susan and Kenneth have created a perfect base for you to return each day to relax, recharge and reflect on your adventures.

Before we left we had a wee peek at the other three apartments and have to say they are all finished to the same high standard – so much so we hope to visit again very soon.

Other Information:

Although this was a discounted visit, the review is an independent and true reflection of our experience.

Mains of Taymouth & Highland Safaris – Luxury in Perthshire

We’ve done our fair share of travelling in recent years across Scotland, however, Kenmore wasn’t a place that we’ve visited before.

It’s was great to get an opportunity to try somewhere new; even better that it was only 1 ½ hrs from our home and had so much to do, see and explore.    The journey up from Lanarkshire via Crieff was very scenic and got our weekend off to a great start.

Kenmore is a village at the mouth of the 14 mile long Loch Tay and is a great base for activities on and around the Loch itself, such as sailing, canoeing and water-skiing.

We were staying at Mains of Taymouth Country Estate & Golf Course for 2 nights.  The estate to the north of the village, is a 4 & 5 star award winning luxury self-catering resort, nestled on the edge of Loch Tay, comprising holiday cottages, houses, villa’s and apartments.

The estate has a range of luxury pet friendly lodges / cottages with hot tubs and private gardens and impressive facilities, including Golf Course, Riding Stables, Courtyard Bar & Restaurant and Boat Hire.  It also boasts decent 3g and 4g coverage – perfect for travel and food bloggers!

We arrived on a Friday and it was a great day in terms of weather with clear blue skies and bursts of sunshine.  We arrived early to enjoy as much of the area as we could, stopping off at the Courtyard Bar to refuel with coffee and homemade scones with jam, before we ventured up nearby Drummond Hill.   Walk Highlands, is our ‘go to’ website for Scottish walks, but Drummond Hill must be one of the most challenging grade 1s we’ve ever done – thankfully the views at the top are totally worth it.

The walk took a couple of hours and gave us a real appetite for lunch at the Courtyard Bar.  The food came very quickly, service was first class and hit the spot perfectly – all reasonably priced too.  We even managed to wash it all down with a couple of Scottish Gins, Edinburgh Gin and the Botanist this time round.

Our cottage was ready early around 3.30pm when we got the call from reception, but we were out enjoying the autumn colours and the banks of the Tay munching on the moreish gin and tonic fudge we’d bought earlier in the Courtyard Delicatessen.

We returned around 4.30pm and checked in at reception where we got a very warm welcome from the team and keys to ‘The Bothy’.

Situated in the northern corner of the resort is a 19th Century traditional courtyard; consisting of several different sizes of luxury cottages.  We were staying in the 5 star ‘The Bothy’.  This cottage is perfect for a romantic couples’ getaway and offered a level of privacy you perhaps wouldn’t have expected for such a large resort.   Perfect, especially if you wanted to enjoy the hot tub in your own private garden to the rear!

An open plan living space, wood burning stove and galleried en-suite bedroom made this a very cosy and intimate place to chill, relax and enjoy, the now customary box set (Ozark this time) and Scottish gin (Makar) we brought with us.   The bedroom was furnished with king-size bed, stylish bathroom with separate bath and shower with body jets, and under floor heating.

We had a lazy first night and were brave enough to use the hot tub while enjoying our gin and the remaining fudge.

Saturday’s weather wasn’t as good as Friday, but that never stopped us getting out and about.   We had planned a visit to Highland Safaris for a red deer experience and then a trip into the mountains to see the amazing Perthshire scenery.

We met up with Tony at the Red Deer Centre who gave us a very passionate, and informative talk about wild red deer. It would be unfair to share his stories as we couldn’t do it justice or provide the actions – go along and you’ll see what we mean! It was good fun though, interactive and interesting and ended with us hand feeding the Centre’s herd of tame Red Deer.  We also met the Centre’s Barn Owl who was keen to show us her flying skills; overall, we had a great time learning the secrets of this majestic bird.

Before setting out on our Mountain Safari we stopped off for some lunch at the onsite café.  It was absolutely jumping (to use a good old Scottish description for being busy!) and we had quite a short window before we set off in our Land Rover with Alistair.   The café staff were first class and managed to serve up some wholesome homemade soup and sandwiches in plenty of time – so much so that we had time for a coffee and some very tasty home baking.

We set off with Alistair in our land rover just after 1.30pm; he was so passionate about what he did for a living and the area he worked in – such a lucky person!   Again, it wouldn’t be fair to tell his stories, but they were informative and interesting covering legends and folklore, the Schiehallion mountain, the Jacobite rebellion, military roads built by General Wade, curious facts about the ice age and to top that the origins of the Guinness Book of Records!

After an interesting climb through the mountain tracks we were almost 2,500ft up in the Perthshire hills.  The weather could have been a little kinder for us, however, this is a year-round attraction and we still had a great time and managed to enjoy the autumn heather moors, spot a large stag protecting his hinds and even had a sighting of the elusive mountain hare.   We had a cosy stopover in a mountain bothy with some tea, coffee, Kenmore Shortbread and a dram of Dewars Whisky.

Highland Safaris are celebrating twenty five years of success this year which has seen it grow its business from one Land Rover taking small groups up into the hills, to its present level as one of Scotland’s premier five star rated visitor attractions, enabling visitors from home and abroad to successfully engage with Scotland’s wildlife, history and heritage.

We will certainly be back to visit again soon and to experience another season to see how the scenery has changed.  Overall a fab day out – looking forward to trying their new Loch Tay Safari also.

We had already tried the Courtyard Bar the day before, so thought we would try out the Restaurant on the Saturday evening.  This part of the resort is a great place to enjoy the friendly atmosphere and service.   It serves breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner daily whether it be inside relaxing on the couches by the cosy fire or outside on the extensive sun deck area.

We had a great table near the log burning fire.   The staff were very attentive, friendly and helpful and made you feel right at home.  The restaurant also had a real buzz about it with a good mix of guests, couples and groups.  There’s no better way to describe a restaurant experience that showing of the wonderful food we munched our way through – so here’s the pics!

Pan seared scallops, black pudding, chorizo and balsamic glaze

Pan roasted duck breast with rosti potatoes, baby vegetables and a star anise jus

Pan seared guinea fowl supreme with a rosemary mash, savoy cabbage and a wild mushroom jus

Dark chocolate and orange pot with crème fraiche and chocolate crumb

We only had a short stay in this area of Perthshire and we loved what we saw and did.

Mains of Taymouth Country Estate & Golf Course is a great base to explore the Perthshire area and has a range of facilities on site to make your stay more relaxing and enjoyable.   We would highly recommend it for anyone wanting to chill, relax and enjoy the wonderful scenery and wildlife Scotland has to offer.

Don’t forget to try the Gin & Tonic fudge!

Other Information:

This was a sponsored visit, however, the review / article is an independent, honest and true reflection of our experience. Thank you to Clare Graham from www.advantagepr.co.uk for the connection and to Highlands Safaris for a few of the images.

Sun, Sea, Palm Trees and…. the International Space Station!

Port Logan and the surrounding area was never really on our travel radar before, but it most certainly is now and our accommodation of choice will 100% be Kirkbride Farm Holiday Cottages.

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As you soon as you arrive at Kirkbride Farm Holiday Cottages you can sense that it isn’t your normal farm style / holiday cottage conversion. The entrance is straight out of an episode of Dallas and the long sweeping access road, lined by amazing workmanship stone dykes, makes it a ‘wow’ entrance.

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When we arrived Aileen met us with a really warm welcome and showed us round the property. Leaving us with a dozen eggs from her own hens, a bottle of champagne and a box of chocolates, it was a great start to our break.  She had even managed to find us 4 sun chairs for our stay, not something you normally get to use on a break in Scotland.

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The Cottages are located in and around a working dairy farm near Port Logan in Wigtownshire, Dumfries & Galloway.  Millwheel Cottage gives spectacular views of the sea, with the Irish Sea to your left and Luce Bay to your right along with views of the rolling countryside stretching to the Galloway Hills and beyond.

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Millwheel Cottage has been designed to enjoy 360 degree views through floor-to-ceiling windows. The cottage is open-plan and has a large kitchen / dining living area; it was perfect for our 5-day break with our parents. With underfloor tiled flooring throughout it really was finished to a very high standard. The Cottage is more than deserving of its five-star rating, is well-equipped, modern and very spacious and relaxing.

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It has everything you will need including Sky, Wi-fi and the garden room, furnished with comfortable easy chairs, is perfect for relaxing and enjoying the views in all weather. We were really fortunate though and had one of the best weeks Scotland has had for many years. Every night we were able to watch the sun go down on the patio with a glass or two of Prosecco in hand.

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There is so much to do around the Port Logan area including the Mull of Galloway experience, Logan Botanic Gardens and, if you fancy a treat Knockinaam Lodge is worth a visit. There are also plenty of walks and nature trails scattered across the Rhins of Galloway peninsula which will? keep you active and there is some impressive wildlife on offer also. The RSPB seabird experience at Mull of Galloway was special, but it was the barn owls and sea otters that were the highlights of our visit.

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We never really got a chance to experience the ‘Galloway’ dark skies given the time of year, but on our second last night we looked and saw a shooting star streaking across the night sky. A quick check on the iPhone app confirmed though it wasn’t a shooting star, but instead the International Space Station! A quick tweet to Major Tim Peake followed, but we think he must have been packing for his trip home, as he never replied!

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Matthew and Aileen are so passionate and enthusiastic about what they have done with Kirkbride Farm Holiday Cottages as well as their farming business. It’s clear they work really hard at both and have really created an amazing holiday destination.

Finally, if you get the offer to go on a ‘tour’ with Matthew, then grab it.  This guy is so passionate and enthusiastic about what he and Aileen have done it is contagious. Quite simply he has ideas coming out of his head, left right and centre. From further holiday cottages, fish ponds, walking routes and the ambitious observatory / restaurant atop Kirkbride Hill, he will grab your attention and give you a great experience. The ‘tour’ also included sight of some new born calves and all the farm animals – which even for 4 adults was a great experience.  We won’t spoil the stories he’s got, needless to say the tour around his wood (yes he has his own wood!) is exhilarating and not for the faint hearted.

Thanks again Matthew and Aileen for giving us a great experience and we’ll definitely be back in the future  – hopefully enjoying a view of the International Space Station from Matthew’s ‘Observatory’.