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This is Scotland’s second National Park, created by the Scottish Government in 2003. It covers a large part of the Scottish Highlands and parts of it are remote. But in 2008 the southern boundary was extended to take in part of rural Perthshire, including Blair Atholl. We sent Louise Taylor and Stu Mileham to experience a short break in one of the Scandinavian Lodges on Atholl Estates.

Blair Castle

When you mention the Cairngorms National Park, visions of a skiing trip to Aviemore might be the first thing that springs to mind. However, a recent trip to Blair Castle revealed another side to one of the most scenic destinations in Scotland. With a broad range of activities to suit all ages and preferences, the castle and estate has a lot to offer.


After being briefly marooned by our sat-nav and rather panic stricken in the middle of nowhere, a helpful local directed us towards our Woodland Lodge. Even in the dark, the Scandinavian inspired log cabin has the appearance of a perfect mountain home. The interior makes excellent use of the space, includes all modern conveniences and features beautiful wood panelling. The lodge is so cosy you could be forgiven for spending the entire weekend indoors.

Scandinavian Woodland Lodge Atholl Estates

 

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TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

For further information on the Atholl Highland Lodges and to book please call Helen Graham on 01796 481355,

emai:l Helen@atholl-estates.co.uk

For the Woodland Lodges and Caravans call 01796 481263

email: mail@blaircastlecaravanepark.co.uk,

 

Getting There

By Car:  this is the sensible option. Drive frm Glasgow to Perth then continue on the A9 to Blair Atholl.

 

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Situated in a peaceful forest clearing with stunning mountain views, the site is even more impressive in the daylight. The estate spans 145,000 acres of diverse and breath-taking scenery and is a great place to escape to from the hustle and bustle of city life.


On the first day we took a trip to Pitlochry. Although it is very much a tartan and shortbread tourist town, we still had a great day meandering down the main street and chatting with the friendly locals.
In the evening we decided to eat in the lodge before taking a short walk down to the village for a well-deserved ale in the Atholl Arms. This traditional Highland bar has a roaring fire in the centre and a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Moorland on Atholl Estates


On the Sunday we went on the Blair Castle dawn safari, this being the best time of day to spot the local wildlife. We were not disappointed. Over the course of three hours we were lucky enough to see red deer, roe deer, white hare, black grouse, foxes, red squirrels, and the elusive golden eagles.
Sandy, our guide, has worked on the estate for over fifty years and has an extensive knowledge of the area. His driving skills deserve a special mention. Not only did he negotiate hills that would have most drivers quaking in their boots, he was able to drive the land rover off the road and through the Bruar Water without batting an eyelid. Throughout the journey he regaled us with fascinating facts and anecdotes from his long service as a deer stalker and head gamekeeper. The land rover safari was a definite highlight of the weekend.Stags on Atholl Estates


We decided to eat out that evening in the nearby village of Moulin. The Moulin Inn has been in business since 1695, pre-dating the Jacobite rebellion by 50 years. More importantly it boasts a long-standing microbrewery, where the locally famous Braveheart Ale is produced. The bar menu adds a twist to traditional Scottish food, with meals including 'The Sporran of Plenty', a juicy steak stuffed full of haggis, and the curiously named 'Vrackie Grostel', a fried potato and bacon homage to a nearby hill.


Our last day came around all too soon although we still had a tour of Blair Castle to look forward to. The castle was originally a single tower, erected in 1269 by John Comyn on his neighbour’s (the Earl of Atholl) land. He wrongly assumed that the Earl had been killed in the crusades and saw this as a convenient opportunity. Comyn's treachery did not go according to plan. The Earl returned and complained to King Alexander III and Comyn was ejected forthwith.
Many additions have been made to the building since. Most notable are the 1860’s transformation from a Georgian mansion to a lavish Victorian baronial building. The decoration from this period remains to this day and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. There are many delights and treasures to be seen on the tour but as a family of musicians one of the highlights had to be in The Ballroom where the chair and fiddle belonging to the legendary Neil Gow are on display on stage and hanging nearby, Raeburn’s famous portrait of him.


Diana's Grove Atholl EstatesOur tour-guide, David, certainly knew the family history. We particularly liked the story of the 4th Duke, nicknamed 'The Planter'. During the Napoleonic wars he saw an opportunity to make a tidy profit from His Majesty's Navy by providing wood for shipbuilding. As legend has it, he planted 25 million larch trees by firing seeds across the estate from a cannon. Unfortunately, the Duke's lack of foresight prevented him from realising that Napoleon would be dead before the first sapling reached maturity. This sparked our interest in the woodland walks around the estate, which now boasts some of the tallest trees in the country.

Woodland Walks Atholl EstatesAtholl Estates offer a range of self catering accommodation. As well as the Scandinavian Lodge we were allocated they have shooting lodge style holiday houses which they call Atholl Highland Lodges and a caravan park with caravans to rent and spaces for tourers and tents. There is also a range of on-site activities as well as those we managed to try. They include pony trekking, tractor tours, walking and biking trails.

Blair Castle has a well stocked gift shop and a rather splendid tea room.

On the way home we took a short detour to visit Queen's View. From the high point we were treated to a panoramic view across Loch Tummel to the mountains of Glencoe. This stunning vantage point is allegedly named after Queen Isabella, wife of Robert the Bruce. We then stopped in Dunkeld for lunch followed by a final walk to see the legendary Birnam Oak, the last remaining tree from Macbeth's Wood.
We had a wonderful weekend in the heart of Perthshire and can't wait to return.

 



 

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