We felt it was time to see a little bit more of Scotland than our regular jaunts to Aberdeen along the A90 with its myriad speed enforcement measures.
So we decided to spend a weekend at a little place in Perthshire, a little off the beaten track, but not so much as to require the ice picks and crampons that many seem to aspire to.
Our choice for that weekend was Crieff Hydro, a 'resort' that has stood the test of time, being built up over the last century and a half from somewhere that visitors could bathe in the supposedly therapeutic spring waters to today's top-class luxury family resort.
Perched on the side of the hill near Strathearn, the Crieff Hydro is an impressive site, with acres of beautifully manicured grounds and the really imposing hotel and reception buildings. Surrounding that are the self-catering lodges, which to perfectly honest are more 'luxury family homes' for hire than 'lodges'.
As well as having magnificent views of the surrounding countryside, the resort exudes class. It is all so impeccably presented, from the moment you drive through the entrance gates to your welcome at reception to your arrival at your lodge to your departure on the final morning. It's all so very professional.
We chose the self-catering option and were in a lodge with a view down over the golf course. The word 'lodge' really seems so inappropriate here. There's a huge lounge-diner, with great big panoramic windows taking in the beautiful scenery; a very modern, fully-equipped kitchen with breakfast bar, dishwasher and oodles of storage; a toilet/utility room with washing machine and dryer; a generously-proportioned 'changing area, perfect for getting out of those muddy boots and walking gear before entering the comfort of the living area. Upstairs there are two large double bedrooms, one with an 'annexe' where another two single beds are located - so brilliant for families. Each bedroom had en-suite facilities and its own flat-screen TV.
We actually found the whole thing so comfortable and appealing that we perhaps put-off doing some other things in favour of lounging around and 'chilling' in this luxurious space.
The main building is where it's all at though, with swimming pools, restaurants, bars and lounges. We chose to eat at the Miekle Restaurant on one of the nights and were very impressed with the fayre on offer. It was well-presented, professionally served and didn't cost the earth either. The atmosphere in the restaurant was friendly and informal, with the waiting staff being pleasant and chatty, although we did struggle to find a Scottish soul amongst them. Notwithstanding, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal and after sampling a couple of the extensive selection of whiskies on offer we availed ourselves of the free on-demand shuttle to take us back to our lodge. It's worth remembering that some of the lodges are over a mile's walk from the main building, so on a wet windy night, the shuttle is invaluable.
A short walk from Crieff Hydro is the Famous Grouse Distillery, which proved to be an extremely interesting visit. There are tours and tastings, and displays and exhibits detailing the history of this 'famous' institution. It's a 20-minute walk from the lodges, but takes in some lovely views on the way to take in too.
All-in-all we had a really lovely time and felt truly spoilt by the extremely luxurious surroundings. The staff were all very friendly without exception and we would have no hesitation in going back sometime in the future.
One thing I would advise in closing is that even though there is a small shop on site, there's very little on offer and therefore it's probably worth doing a 'shop' before getting to Crieff, as we did ourselves in Stirling, half an hour's drive away before arriving.
Would we go back? Oh, most certainly! It's a real home-from-home and allows you to spoil and pamper yourself without breaking the bank. There's so much on offer for grown-ups and children alike, with a huge choice of activities and things to see and do. Alternatively, you can simply choose to do what we did and just curl up with a good book in the luxury of a modern and comfy lodge, admiring the beauty of the surrounding area and recharging our batteries after the hustle and bustle of daily life.