WHEN you are only three foot tall – 212 foot seems a long way up – just ask Ruaridh (5) and Flora (3) who had to crane their necks upwards to gaze at the magnificent tree above.
Welcome to Big Tree Country right in the heart of beautiful Perthshire. We had just enjoyed a lovely walk in the tree bound forests of The National Trust owned Hermitage, an area of woodland which boasts among it the 212 foot tree, one of the largest in Britain.
And boy is it big and beautiful and so is The Hermitage. As you walk through the passageway of huge Douglas Firs, you are treated to some of the nicest countryside in the UK.
But there is better to come. And for all the moaning and groaning of tired legs and sore feet, Ruaridh and Flora were glad when mum and dad persuaded them (with a little help from the sweeties!) to walk a little further up to witness a fantastic folly overlooking a waterfall.
Ossian’s Hall of Mirrors stands proudly overlooking the Black Linn waterfall. Built in 1757 for the 2nd Duke of Atholl, it was blown up by people protesting against tolls on the Dunkeld Bridge in 1869. It was rebuilt in 1951 and is striking red and with mirrored panels and amazing views of the waterfall below. Just further on are Ossian’s caves and seat, both equally historic and interesting to visit.
Also in the care of The National Trust is the nearby conservation village of Dunkeld. The trust owns 20 house and the cathedral, most which date from the rebuilding of the town after the Battle of Dunkeld in 1689. And just a quarter of a mile out of this lovely spot is the magnificent Hilton Dunkeld House.
Flora thought she was heading for a castle as we swept through the stone pillared gateway and there were lots of whoops and squeals of excitement as the children spotted the deer quietly playing in the fields. The hotel itself is at the end of a short drive along a beautiful driveway next to the banks of the River Tay, which is teeming with salmon.
The hotel was once the summer home of the 6th Duke of Atholl, George Murray and is set in 280 acres of woodland. George and his brother James were known as the planting dukes and between 1738 and 1830 they planted 27 million conifers for “beauty and profit’’ around Dunkeld.
The picturesque spot is complemented by a well run hotel, which has an old style shooting lodge feel about it. Renovations are underway to give it a fresh look, but fingers cross it keeps its comfortable charm. When you check in you are greeted by professional staff and a wee dram of whisky or sherry! The bedrooms are well appointed with a flying salmon on the door number adding to the character. The rooms are spacious and have a spot of luxury with top market toiletries and tea and coffee making facilities, plus the must haves of modern day, WiFi access and a television.
The Garden Restaurant is a lovely place to dine. Its elegant, with a cosy bar and a well set out dining area. The food is good too! We enjoyed smoked salmon and chicken and black pudding starters, fillet of venison steak and a rack of lamb, with fresh vegetables for the main course and locally sourced cheese and biscuits and a creamy Cranachan pudding for dessert. Breakfasts were buffet style and equally good, with something for everyone, from porridge with whisky to good quality ingredients for the traditional Scottish breakfast.
The hotel also has a leisure club with a “cool pool’’ as Ruaridh said, a jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and gym. And in the hotel grounds there is an outdoor centre which offers salmon fishing, clay pigeon shooting and four wheel drive expeditions. And the highlight for the children. A tree trail which gave us the chance to spot 30 species of trees.
The hotel is only 15 minutes from Perth and an hour away from Glasgow. The area was once a great inspiration to writer Beatrice Potter and in nearby Birnam there is a Beatrix Potter garden which young and old can enjoy and relive her tales.
But it was the tall trees Ruaridh and Flora were still talking about on the way home, with Ruaridh pondering whether he would grow as tall as the 212 foot tree if he ate more spinach!
Hilton Dunkeld: For special offers and a vitual tour of the hotel, log onto www.hiltondunkeld.com
The Big Tree Country: www.perthshirebigtreecountry.co.uk
The Hermitage and Dunkeld village: www.nts.org.uk