Reasons Why Scotland Offers the Perfect Escape13th November 2020
In what has been one of the most turbulent and stressful years in our lifetime, a recent trip to the Scottish Highlands allowed me to slow things down and restore some mental calm. Being surrounded by such breath-taking landscapes, peaceful nature and wildlife offered an outlet to an otherwise claustrophobic feeling that’s dogged the lockdown existence of 2020. The Cairngorms is a mountain range in the Highlands, forming part of the Cairngorms National Park – the largest national park in the UK. Thanks to the team at Visit Cairngorms, I was able to discover an area perfectly nestled in this vast tranquil space.
The sleepy town of Boat of Garten – just a 45-minute drive from Inverness Airport – offers perfect access to the wider Scottish Highlands, but it’s this picturesque village itself that is well worth exploring. Home to a number of luxury lodges hidden behind beautiful pine trees, it was Wildcat Lodge – arranged for me by Scotland Retreat – that was my abode for my time here.
Fantastic wooden beams inside combined with a roaring fire make the lodge both rustically charming and cosy all at once. Sit back and enjoy the silence that’s only disturbed by the dulcet crackles of the burning logs keeping you warm.
Wildcat Lodge is perfect for a couple. The large king-size bed is wonderfully comfy, so a great sleep is ensured – especially after you’ve had a good soak in the hot tub outside in the private garden beneath the twinkling stars in the night sky!
The open plan living area with adjoining kitchen is a home away from home. Seek out the local shops for amazing Scottish ingredients to cook a delicious meal. With a full-bodied bottle of red to accompany this, you should be in for a very romantic evening.
The surrounding area is popular for walkers and cyclists, with local restaurants, cafes, and shops twinned with extraordinary views. Residents at Wildcat Lodge staying between May and October will also be able to gain access to Loch Vaa, where you can enjoy a day of trout fishing. The town of Aviemore is just a 10-minute journey away by car or by the quaint vintage local steam train and offers a number of activities, from skiing on the Cairngorm Mountains to quad biking, zip-lining and loads more! Plus, if you’re staying at Wildcat Lodge it would be remiss not to explore the wildlife; Speyside Wildlife arranges bird watching and guided tours.
Glen Dye Cabins
On the other side of the Cairngorms to the east, not far from Aberdeen, lies Glen Dye Cabins – an outdoor haven that The Sunday Times have voted in the top 25 cottages in the UK. Although WiFi is accessible, I highly recommend going completely off-grid during your time here to truly immerse yourself in the experience and to really reconnect with nature. Your body and your mind will thank you for it later.
Set in a private estate of 30,000 acres, there are five holiday-cottages. The pick of the bunch is The Sawmill. This campsite makes for a romantic outdoors retreat, with adjoining woods worth exploring during the day and a wood-fired outdoor hot tub that’s perfect for the evenings. The Sawmill is also home to a fully refurbished 1955 Airstream Safari caravan, which is tucked away in a block of small pine wood and has a super king bed. There is also a Keepers Hut with a king-size bed in it as well. Whichever you choose to sleep in, the gentle sound of the lade running through the campsite will lull you to into a peaceful sleep.
The Seed Store, which dates back to the late 1800s and was originally built for the estate foresters, is home to a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, and sitting room with a log fire to keep you cosy and warm. Here you’ll find games and books to keep you occupied, as well as a vintage record player with a number of different albums to enjoy. Given the wooden building’s age, it certainly transports you back to a simpler time when the pace of life was slower and communication between your party was all you had. If you have a larger party for your stay, the Seed Store also has a king-size sofa bed.
A short walk away you can go foraging for your own vegetables and eggs from the chicken coop, which makes for very authentic, enjoyable, rustically-made countryside meals. A real treat if you’re from the city. There’s a wood-burning stove at The Sawmill, as well as a yard with a Big Green Egg BBQ. There’s also a BYOB pub called The Glen Dye Arms where you can meet others, share stories and enjoy the company of people without external distractions of social media and devices.
With its own custom-made, wood-fired sauna and being a dog-friendly place as well, you might find it difficult to tear yourself away from Glen Dye Cabins come to the end of your stay.
This luxury hotel is an open love letter to Scotland. The friendly staff will greet you in their Balmoral tartan, while classic Scottish artwork decorates the interiors and brings the country’s culture to life. Scotch is home to passionate, kilt-wearing whisky ambassadors and 500 malts. Though sadly closed during my recent stay, this nonetheless constitutes another visit someday.
Likewise, these testing times we’re living in currently has forced the temporary closure of The Balmoral’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Number One. Brasserie Prince remains open though, serving classic French cuisine with local Scottish produce. Brasserie Prince is relaxed, yet elegant. The buttery soft leather banquettes, gleaming mirrors, and brass touches would not look amiss in Paris.
The restaurant gets its name from its address – No.1 Princes Street – a perfect location in the city. Right above the train station, it’s in the perfect juncture where New Town meets Old, lovingly casting glances in the direction of Edinburgh Castle, a stone’s throw from Arthur’s Seat.
There are 167 rooms and 20 suites, all of which are classy, stylish, and very well maintained. The design was overlooked by Olga Polizzi and embodies the rich Scottish landscape. The colour schemes of blue and grey lend a calming feeling and pay homage to the country’s woodlands, hills, and lochs. The handmade beds, too, are sublime and literally fit for royalty; Glencraft is a supplier to the Queen at Balmoral Castle.
This legendary hotel, part of Rocco Forte Hotels, has really cemented itself as a landmark clock tower, which acts as a symbol for its city, as well as a beacon for luxury hotels in Scotland.