FRESH air, gorgeous scenery and top nosh?
When lockdown lifts, these three countryside breaks are only a drive away.
Dunalastair Hotel Suites, Perthshire
Writer Eimear O’Hagan and husband Malcolm visited the tiny village of Kinloch Rannoch for a Highland fling.
THE PAD: Forget tartan carpets and stag heads. Despite being surrounded by lochs, grazing deer and mountains, at Dunalastair you’ll find a modern decor of greys and whites plus breathtaking views of Schiehallion, one of Scotland’s most famous Munros (AKA mountains).
With fancy coffee machines, jars of homemade shortbread, plus The White Company toiletries for the enormous walk-in showers or huge baths in the fancier suites, you’ll struggle to leave.
Breakfast offers perfectly poached eggs Benedict, a full Scottish, freshly squeezed juice and piping-hot coffee.
Restaurant Edina’s isn’t to be missed either. Expect dishes like crab crostini, £9.95, and ridiculously tender featherblade of beef, £28.95.
Make sure you spot Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange’s costumes from Rob Roy on display, too – it was filmed locally.
EXPLORE: Visit Highland chocolatier Iain Burnett in Grandtully, 45 minutes away, for a guided tasting, £16 per person. His truffles have been voted the best in the world, and we totally understand why (Highlandchocolatier.com).
Or get your retail fix at The House of Bruar, AKA the “Harrods of the North”, 30 minutes away. From cashmere to smoked salmon, it’s a one-stop luxe shop for all things Scotch (Houseofbruar.com).
You’re also near the stunning Tay Forest Park and Highland Safaris & Red Deer Centre, by the town of Aberfeldy.
Spot red deer or even a golden eagle from your Land Rover as you explore stunning forests, mountains and moors with your kilted safari ranger, £45 for 2.5 hours. Binoculars, hot drinks and wildlife fact sheets are included (Highlandsafaris.net).
REFUEL: Hunker down in front of a roaring fire for classic Scottish fare at East Haugh House Hotel & Restaurant in Pitlochry, 40 minutes away. Tuck into tasty plates of pheasant and partridge stroganoff, £16.95, and haggis, neeps ’n’ tatties, £14.50 (Easthaugh.co.uk).
The cosy Riverbank Cafe just yards from the hotel serves homemade soup with crusty bread, £4.95, and fab baked goods, as well as local crafts. Warning: its shortbread is addictive! Call the quaint Rannoch Station Tearoom and they’ll whip up a packed lunch for a day’s cycling or walking, £8.50 (Rannochstationtearoom.co.uk).
We also hit Craig Varr, a craggy bluff right behind the Dunalastair Hotel Suites, which has its own stunning waterfall. It’s perfect for novice walkers and the views from the top are well worth the puff.
Book it Double rooms cost from £129 B&B (Dunalastairhotel.com).
Gravel Pit Farm, Kent
Contributing Editor Kara Dolman glamped it up with husband Dan and daughters Audrey, five, and Effie, one, on a farm in Marden.
THE PAD: This glamping site in the village of Marden is not your usual camping experience. With just two 700sqft safari tents, each with a kitchen, bathroom, log-burning stove and three bedrooms, you can collapse into a four-poster bed and let the kids get cosy in the twin room.
There may be tantrums over who should sleep in the best spot though: a loft bed in the elevated cabin! Our girls loved pony-spotting (piebald Dotty was declared their favourite) as well as collecting fresh eggs from the chickens for breakfast. But nothing beats toasting marshmallows while stargazing.
EXPLORE: Pop to Leeds Castle, a 20-minute drive away, to explore the spectacular fortress. Entry costs £28 per adult, £19.50 per child over four (Leeds-castle.com). The gorgeous Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest, also 20 minutes away, is home to an array of conifers, wildlife and a Gruffalo trail that little ones will love seeking out, from £10 a car (Forestryengland.uk/bedgebury).
Don’t forget to pick up a bottle from nearby Hush Heath Winery, either. Take a self-guided stroll through its beautiful vineyards and apple orchards before tasting three wines, £5 per person (Hushheath.com).
REFUEL: Order delicious Provision Boxes from Taywell Farm shop – try the BBQ pack of sausages, burgers, chicken wings, plus coleslaw, condiments and floury buns, £35 for four (Taywellfarm.co.uk). BBQ-d out? Wander into the village to The Unicorn for classic pub grub as well as bistro dishes like wild mushrooms on toast, £6.50.
BOOK IT: Stays cost from £200 a night, sleeping up to six (Gravelpitfarm.com).
The Duncombe Arms, Derbyshire
Celebrity Writer Molly Reynolds and best friend Clea hit the village of Ellastone on the Peak District’s doorstep.
THE PAD: With its oak beams, roaring fires and cosy-country-pub feel, The Duncombe Arms sits a stone’s throw from the breath-taking Peak District. Rooms come with views of grazing cows and are adorned with artisan wallpaper, velvet cushions and Egyptian-cotton sheets, as well as smart TVs.
Plus, there are luxurious Bamford products in the sleek bathrooms.
Breakfast offers a full English with chunky sausages. At dinner, savour dishes such as local rump of lamb with miso-glazed carrots, £26, perfect with a glass of Alto Bajo merlot, £5.50. Follow with the cheeseboard, £9, or go big with a chocolate celebration platter, £15.
EXPLORE: Hit the Tissington Trail – Ashbourne Cycle Hire offers bikes from £14 for a half-day (Peakdistrict.gov.uk). Also check out the 60-acre estate Heights of Abraham in Matlock Bath, 30 minutes’ drive away. Ride the cable car for amazing views then explore the caverns, £19 per adult (Heightsofabraham.com).
Peak Wildlife Park, with its wallabies and penguins, is a perfect afternoon activity if you have kids in tow. Entry costs £12.95 per adult, £10.95 for kids (Peakwildlifepark.co.uk). Child-free? Enjoy the outdoor hot tub at Moddershall Oaks Country Spa Retreat, then indulge in a Calibrate 517 Body Massage. Day spa packages cost from £140 (Moddershalloaks.com).
REFUEL: In Tissington, pop by Herbert’s Fine English Tea Rooms for home-made crumble, £5.75 (Herbertstearooms.co.uk). Or book in at The Lighthouse, 15 minutes’ away, for a dreamy 10-course tasting menu. Expect dishes like halibut with creamy caviar beurre blanc, £65 (The-lighthouse-restaurant.co.uk).
BOOK IT: Double rooms cost from £170 B&B (Duncombearms.co.uk).
- Photography: Alamy, Getty Images, Instagram/Highland Safaris, Jake Eastham, Richard Butters
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