COORIE IN Checking out the best cosy breaks away to ward off the winter blues
The weather outside may well be frightful, but there are plenty of fun ways to keep warm while enjoying a break during the long, chilly Scottish winter
Pluscarden Crofts REVIEWED BY DAVID & JOY ANDERSON FROM ELIE
Pluscarden Crofts are set in a most tranquil location. We arrived to a very warm welcome by the owners and were shown to Hunters Croft. Hunters is one of two modern ecofriendly cottages with accommodation for four people.
The hot tub was heated and the wood burner was lit and a handy welcome pack awaited. The ground floor comprises a well-equipped lounge-diner-kitchen, wet room and spacious double bedroom. A large ensuite second double bedroom is on an open plan mezzanine floor. Beds are large and comfortable.
Patio doors give access to a covered veranda with sitting area and wood-fired hot tub. All fittings, furnishings and crockery are of a high quality and reflect a gentle Scottish ambiance. Soft fluffy towels and bed linen are of high quality.
The cottage is heated by a mechanical heat recovery and ventilation system and a wood burner. A supply of logs is available.
Both cottages are wheelchair accessible. On-site there is a barbecue hut and play area, electric bikes and table tennis. One dog per cottage is permitted. We watched red squirrels, blue tits and a wren come to their feed boxes. Pheasants and deer also wandered around the cottage.
We visited Findhorn and watched the seals in the estuary. Visits were made to Logie Steadings and Brodie Countryfare for retail therapy and Pluscarden Abbey. The Crofts provide very high quality self-catering in a lovely location convenient for beach, moorland, mountain and forest walks, the rivers Spey, Findhorn and Nairn, the whisky trail and nearby Forres and Elgin.
Port Bane, Taymouth Marina REVIEWED BY THE BOOTLANDS FROM ROSLIN
There are many ways to stay warm on a winter weekend at home. Most of them involve popping on an extra jumper or wrapping yourself in a blanket. But at Port Bane there are many other options, and all of them are much more fun.
The cottage is cosy thanks to a good-sized wood burning stove in one of two reception rooms, the perfect spot for a warming dram, but first you need to try out the hot tub in the garden and the private sauna where you can lounge and look out over Loch Tay. If you’re brave you can run from the sauna straight into the loch. There is a seating area with a huge firepit right on the shore so that you can stay toasty even while exposed to the elements. Don’t forget the awesome wine cave, the perfect place for a grown-up gathering.
Port Bane can sleep up to ten people in its spacious and comfortable bedrooms. The kitchen is large with all mod cons to enable you to cater for large parties. The wet room near the entrance is the perfect place to shower off after a turn in the hot tub, sauna or to warm up after a loch swim. The decor is modern, but remains in-keeping with this traditional old stone house.
The main reception room has a huge bay window allowing you to watch the weather changing and see all of the activity on the loch. The kids loved waving to paddle boarders.
Taymouth Marina has a variety of accommodation to suit all sizes of group. Kenmore is a great place to visit at any time of year, and looking back on our weekend there certainly gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling, even in the depths of winter.
The Station Hotel REVIEWED BY GEORGE & ALISON GRAY FROM NAIRN
We arrived to be shown up to the Caperdonich Suite which oozed style and luxury. We loved the mezzanine bath with its wall-mounted TV, luxurious four-poster emperor-sized bed, the opulent furnishings and welcome flagon of malt whisky.
This beautiful sandstone building has been brought back to its former glory in superb style with a whisky theme fitting of the area (60 distilleries in a 50 mile radius), and in-keeping with the Forsyth family background of copper still making.
We, and our fellow guests from Holland, South Africa and England, as well as local patrons, enjoyed a drink in the bar, which has a beautiful whisky wall of over 500 blends and malts, and then were shown to the dining room for a truly fabulous meal and excellent service. The whole experience was one punctuated with comfort, relaxation, warmth and style.
The staff could not have been more helpful or informative and after a restful night and superb breakfast, one of the many local walks was suggested. From the front door we walked across the street and within two minutes we had entered the glorious autumnal woodland that surrounds this interesting little town and enjoyed a ramble to the ruins of Rothes Castle before returning for morning coffee.
This is the perfect base for a warm winter break – explore nearby distilleries on the whisky trail, climb local hills, walk beautiful Speyside country paths, or just luxuriate in the hotel. The Station Hotel effortlessly combines a friendly homely ambiance with quality, design and attention to every detail.
Garleton Lodge REVIEWED BY LAURA & DOROTHY HENDERSON FROM EDINBURGH
Driving only 25 minutes out of Edinburgh you ascend to an incredible view overlooking the lights of Edinburgh and East Lothian on approach to Garleton Lodge. On arrival we were welcomed with prosecco and local berry liqueur – the perfect start to a memorable stay. We were shown to the loft suites, named after whisky regions with a special connection to the owners, David and Angela. A thoughtful touch, complemented by drams to sample. We couldn’t wait to jump into the large comfy beds – but first, the hot tub. We sat out in the warm bubbling tub, drank prosecco and enjoyed the clear night sky.
Before dinner, David introduced us to a new local gin named after the nearby island of Fidra. Dinner was prepared by Angela and was beautifully presented using local ingredients. We sat in the octagonal dining room, with large windows out to the views. We got through the full three courses as it was so delicious. We were trying to guess the ice cream maker only to be told it was homemade. We enjoyed a good night’s sleep in our spacious rooms. All the rooms are thoughtfully designed with a hint of Scotland throughout. We enjoyed our Scottish breakfast in the morning and were sad to leave.
On checking out, Angela and David gave us their homemade chocolates which the couple will be selling on their website shortly. The chocolates were also in the rooms and it was a relief to hear we could buy more. The owners couldn’t have made us feel more welcome and they made our stay unforgettable.
TAYMOUTH MARINA, Kenmore, Aberfeldy PH15 2HW www.taymouth marina.com Prices from £1,200 for three nights.
LOWER INCHALLON, Pluscarden, Elgin IV30 8TZ www. pluscardencrofts. co.ukPrices from £650 for a week.
3 WESTGARLETON HOLDINGS, Haddington EH41 3SL www.garletonlodge. co.ukPrices from £120 per night.
ROTHES, Speyside, AB38 7BJ www.stationhotel speyside.com Prices from £175 for two people.