A Scot­tish ad­ven­ture out­doors and in­doors

ANDY CRONSHAW ex­plores the charms of Pit­lochry while stay­ing at the won­der­ful Kil­liecrankie House Ho­tel

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

THERE’S a feel­ing as you head north on the A9 to­wards Pit­lochry that ad­ven­ture beck­ons.

The scenery be­comes ever more dra­matic, the leaves seem­ingly ever greener, the trees ever big­ger and the moun­tains ever more im­pos­ing.

This is the world of Robert Louis Steven­son’s Kid­napped, where the sun can scorch by day but the night can freeze you to the bone, even dur­ing the sum­mer.

Just near to the tran­quil sur­rounds of Kil­liecrankie House Ho­tel is a path that leads down to the steep, rocky banks of the River Garry.

Near to the bot­tom of the path is a view­ing point for ‘Soldier’s Leap’.

As leg­end has it, there, in 1689, when a Ja­co­bite force over­whelmed Wil­liam II’s sup­port­ers at the bat­tle of Kil­liecrankie, a soldier es­caped his at­tack­ers by leap­ing across a rock to the other side of the river.

It’s the sort of ro­man­tic, dash­ing tale for which the scenery of Pit­lochry is made.

The site is on the doorstep of our won­der­ful ac­com­mo­da­tion at Kil­liecrankie House.

It’s run with ef­fort­less charm by owner Hen­ri­etta Fer­gus­son, who pre­sides over the build­ing’s taste­ful in­te­rior, fine-din­ing kitchen and beau­ti­fully man­i­cured gar­dens.

The gar­dens are a thing of won­der, with breath­tak­ing views of Ben Vrackie. There are rolling lawns of cham­pi­onship golf stan­dard, huge trees, and flower beds that tan­ta­lise the senses.

Fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­veal a kitchen gar­den burst­ing with pro­duce, much of which gets sent in­side for the ship­shape cook­ing of head­chef Mark Eas­ton. Once in­side the din­ing room there is a com­fort­ing but gen­tri­fied at­mos­phere, mak­ing you feel as if you were the guest of a rather posh but re­laxed Scot­tish rel­a­tive.

The cook­ing is high-end but it’s fine din­ing with­out fid­dle.

High­lights were a ragout of wild mush­rooms with tagli­atelle and a chive cream sauce, and a grilled fil­let of cod with cray­fish and a pe­tit pois risotto.

The stand­out dish, how­ever, was a roast supreme of chicken served with shal­lot and brie mousse, rosti potato, creamed broc­coli and sautéed wild mush­rooms.

To bal­ance a plate where there’s so much go­ing on is a fine art and here the chef had man­aged it with aplomb.

And to match the fine food there’s a state-of-theart wine list which is fun and by no means pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive. In fact, it’s one of the best I’ve come across at a smaller ho­tel such as this one. With a mix of fish and chicken on the ta­ble we opted for an ex­cel­lent Rioja blanca from Te­jada with dis­creet oak and a very rea­son­able price tag.

In­vig­o­rated by our hearty meal we headed out for the great out­doors the next day in the sum­mer sun. There’s plenty of op­tions for thrill seek­ers and those look­ing for gen­tler pas­times.

Great coun­try houses and cas­tles pop­u­late the land­scapes in a way that makes Amer­i­cans drool. There’s Blair Atholl, res­i­dence of the Duke of Atholl, and Scone Palace, res­i­dence of the Earl of Mans­field to name but two. And bird­ers and wildlife lovers will find no end of plea­sures in among the hills. There’s a glut of moun­tain bike trails in th­ese parts – re­mem­ber­ing that Scot­land poses no re­stric­tions on cy­clists who wish to ride moun­tain foot­paths.

For a cou­ple and a three-and-a-half-year-old child a scenic bike ride was a great op­tion so we headed into Pit­lochry to the very friendly Es­cape Route bike shop to pick up a cou­ple of moun­tain bikes and a trailer for the nip­per.

Fur­nished with a map we headed over to the nearby Tay For­est trails which of­fer well-sur­faced routes in among the trees and around a large pond which is an off­shoot of Loch Faskally.

It was here that we were greeted by the as­ton­ish­ing sight of wa­ter lily pads cov­er­ing al­most the en­tirety of the wa­tery ex­panse. Feel­ing as if we had stepped into a real-life Monet, we sat down to eat our lunch, buoyed by the sur­round­ings which were the finest back­drop for a cheese and onion butty I can re­mem­ber.

On our re­turn, it was time to sam­ple a cream tea in Pit­lochry’s pic­ture post­card high street.

Next time I’ll make time to visit one of the many dis­til­leries dot­ted about, in­clud­ing Blair Athol or Edradour – the small­est but one of the most pic­turesque in Scot­land.

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