After asking for feedback from you lovely folk last year about what you would like to see more of on my blog, I discovered quality accommodation recommendations were high on your list. This is definitely something I plan to do more of and I'm delighted to share my first hotel review of the year with you.
Earlier this month I was invited to check out the recently refurbished Murrayshall House Hotel in Perthshire. I must emphasise that I get quite a few offers to review accommodation and carry out lots of prior research before deciding if a place sounds like somewhere I could potentially recommend - I always decline invitations if I suspect the accommodation isn't up to scratch. I feel it is important to share this with so you can be assured that only the best places to stay in Scotland, based on my personal research and experience, make it to my blog.
After reading glowing public reviews about Murrayshall House, I was keen to find out what all the fuss was about and I'm glad to say it easily surpassed my high standards.
Murrayshall House Hotel is situated in Scone which is in the Perth and Kinross region of Scotland. It has a peaceful feel as it is surrounded by 365 acres of countryside which also incorporates two 18 hole golf courses and a driving range.
However, it is also only just over 4 miles from Scone Palace, the crowning place of Scottish kings, and just over 3 miles from the city of Perth, making it an ideal base for exploring this part of the country although you would really need a car if you were staying here as it is a bit off the main road.
Check out my Perthshire travel blogs for more local inspiration
Murrayshall House has an interesting history, dating back to 1664 when it was initially owned by Sir Andrew Murray whose descendants, the Earls of Mansfield, still occupy nearby Scone Palace. It remained in the same family for 260 years, with modernisation carried out in the 18th and 19th century. In 1927 it left the family and was bought by local businessman Francis Norrie-Millar, the founder of General Accident. In 1973 it was sold again and developed into a hotel. The hotel has recently undergone a major refurbishment, combining tasteful contemporary Scottish decor with retained historical features.
If golf is your thing you might be interested to know that the golf course was designed by Hamilton J. Stutt who was involved with the building or improvement of many famous courses including Turnberry and St Mellion Old Course.
There are 40 bedrooms and suites offering a choice of accommodation and from checking the website rates, the prices are pretty standard for this level of four star quality, ranging from £170 to £250 per night at the time of writing. It is worth noting that these are the maximum rates and the hotel does seem to offer much better deals on their website which are really good value so be sure to check them out.
I stayed in room 2 which I believe is going to be renamed The Millar Suite and it was amazing! On entering I was super excited to see the carved four poster bed and immediately felt like a proper pampered princess. The suite itself was huge with a comfy sitting area, a separate dressing room and an extra big bathroom. I did a little tour of my suite on my Instagram stories and got quite a few 'Ooohs' and 'Aaahs' and admiring comments which is always a good sign.
The decor had just the right hint of traditional Scottish with a contemporary twist and I loved the giant period feature windows with views towards the Strathmore Valley and Grampian Mountains. Of course having been recently refurbished it also had the modern extras you might expect like a giant TV and plenty of sockets. The only extra I would add is some fluffy dressing gowns and slippers to complete the luxury experience.
Everything you need to know for a memorable road-trip along the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail
Everyone has a landscape that they are drawn to, a setting where they instantly feel at home. It could be the mountains, forests, or even the bustle of the city - for me, it has always been the coast. A couple of summers ago I decided to travel around the entire periphery of mainland Scotland on a 6 week road-trip. As this was only enough time to get a taster of the many coastal gems around the country, I mentally noted all the places I wanted to return to and explore more thoroughly at a later date.
One of those places was the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail, which I only became aware of thanks to brown tourist signs along the road-side. Post trip research provided little information on the route other than an online leaflet which I printed off. This seemed a bit strange given the obvious amount of investment in signage.
So last year while everyone else was off doing the North Coast 500, I opted to return to Aberdeenshire and follow the suggested 165 mile route. This was effectively the second time I'd been along this stretch of coastal road but this time I had more opportunity to visit places.
I loved it even more the second time around and made lots of new discoveries although I still didn't manage to spend as much time as I would have liked in some places - Banff being one. However, having completed the journey twice I have gotten to know it well enough that I feel confident my own suggested highlights along with the official literature will help you get the most out of the route.
There is so much diversity along this small edge of the country and I recommend setting aside 3 - 5 days so you can experience as much as possible. The following highlights are not a comprehensive guide and you should leave enough time to make your own discoveries but these are the places I think shouldn't be missed - grab a cup of tea, there's a lot to take in!
For more ideas, check out my guide to things to do in Aberdeenshire
St Cyrus Nature Reserve
HIGHLIGHTS - NATURE, BEACH, EASY WALKING TRAIL, HISTORIC CHURCH
The first stop on the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail and indeed my first stop, was the National Nature Reserve at St Cyrus. I parked up at the visitor centre where I picked up some leaflets and had a look at the board where members of the public note down their wildlife sightings. I was jealous of those that had spotted whales off the shore during the summer, and although it was unlikely I would see one as it was too late in the season, I was optimistic of spotting a peregrine due to the numerous recent comments about sightings.
One of the leaflets in the centre provided details of the Tyrie Trail, an easy circular walk of just under a mile through the reserve which is home to more than 300 plant species. I opted to follow the trail, adding in a slight detour to the Sand of St Cyrus, a beautiful beach that stretched as far as I could see in either direction, with some quirky driftwood shelters dotted along the sands.
The trail leaves from the visitor centre and heads over a bridge built by a troop of Gurkhas as a community training project. Stone markers on the ground lead the way through the reserve which was full of fungi during my autumn visit but must be teeming with wildlife in the spring and summer. Before the trail heads back to the visitor centre, it passes the Nether Kirkyard. I love exploring old churches so just had to stop off for a quick look around the atmospheric ruin which sits in the most picturesque spot below some towering cliffs. I was also rewarded with a peregrine falcon, shrieking and circling overhead. From here it is a short walk back to the visitor centre where you can share your wildlife sightings.
As you head back look out for the former ice-house which is now a quirky looking holiday home.
Fowlsheugh RSPB Reserve
HIGHLIGHTS - VERY LARGE BREEDING SEABIRD COLONY, SCENIC CLIFFTOP WALK
ST CYRUS TO FOWLSHEUGH
DISTANCE - 16 MILES APPROX DRIVING TIME - 30 MINS
I didn't stop off at the Fowlsheugh RSPB Reserve on my latest road-trip along the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail as it was the wrong time of year to spot the vast amount of seabirds that can be seen perching on the cliff edges during the breeding season from late April until the end of July. However, I did take a walk along the clifftop path on a previous visit during the summer and it was a complete assault on the senses, thanks to the noise and smell!
The spectacle of over 130,000 breeding seabirds is a really memorable one and at the right time of year, RSPB Fowlsheugh should definitely be one your Aberdeenshire coastal stop offs. It is one of the largest seabird colonies on mainland Britain and some of the birds to look out for include guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, puffins and fulmars. Take binoculars and you can also scan the sea below for local marine mammals. The clifftop path is fairly easy walking, just be careful of going too near the edge as it is a long drop to the sea below!
HIGHLIGHTS - HISTORIC CASTLE, ICONIC SCENERY
FOWLSHEUGH TO DUNNOTTAR CASTLE
DISTANCE - 2.5 MILES APPROX DRIVING TIME - 5 MINS
One of the most photogenic (and photographed!) castles in Scotland is Dunnottar and this is a popular stopping point along the coastal trail. I would love to tell you more about visiting the castle but I've yet to look inside due to bad timing on my part, something I really need to rectify.
Previously home to the Earls Marischal, one of Scotland's most powerful families, the castle has a colourful past involving some of the most famous figures in Scottish history. Today it is one of Aberdeenshire's most popular tourist attractions.
9 ideas for a romantic getaway in Scotland
With the most romantic day of the year fast approaching, many couples will be thinking about escaping on a cosy break for two. With fairy-tale scenery and atmospheric locations, a romantic break in Scotland is the perfect choice for amorous duos.
The dilemma for many is choosing which of the many stunning destinations around the country is best for a memorable getaway. I decided to turn to my travel blogging buddies that have a particular expertise in Scotland and ask for their personal recommendations on the best places for couples, I've also included a suggestion of my own.
If you're planning to whisk your other half away this Valentine's Day (or any other day of the year!) then this guide to Scotland's most romantic places by some of the top travel bloggers in the country is just what the love doctor ordered!
1. Royal Deeside - Aberdeenshire
By Victoria MacDonald - greatHerday
If it’s good enough for royalty, then it is good enough for you.
Aberdeenshire boasts the slogan ‘from mountain to sea' and up until a year ago, I had only ever seen the sea. However, should you follow the River Dee, you will be taken into the most glorious of Scottish countryside, scattered with historic villages and spectacular castles. Royal Deeside is a 40 minute drive from Aberdeen Airport and rivals the Highlands in its sensational scenery. There are a variety of little nooks and crannies in the area, all packed with history, views, activities and most importantly, romance.
Royal Deesides most famous bragging right is Balmoral Castle, where the Queen and her family spend their summer months. Balmoral Castle is a wonderful place to take a tour and a great place to play King and Queen for the day. Not too far from Balmoral lies Braemar. Braemar is a beautiful little village with incredible views and history dating back to 1059! Braemar is most famously known for the Braemar Gathering, where the Queen is often in attendance, however nearby lies Braemar Castle and amazing mountain walks including Keiloch Crag. The Braemar Lodge Hotel is a traditional, Scottish countryside hotel, boasting the perfect opportunity to get cosy under the sheets whilst enjoying the stunning views outside.
One of the most romantic little hideaways in Royal Deeside is Aboyne. Aboyne plays host to Deeside Activity Park and Glen Tanar National Nature Reserve. There is a very romantic little place to stay on the outskirts of the village named The Lodge on The Loch. The Lodge has views over the Loch of Aboyne where you can enjoy the scenery from the comfort of your own private hot-tub. Royal Deeside is also home to Alford which includes the Grampian Transport Museum and Craigievar Castle. The Burn’O’Vat, an incredible example of natures own sculptural work lies near Dinnet and is a wonderful place to walk hand in hand whilst exploring nature at its best. Should you fancy a winter warmer, Royal Lochnagar Distillery is propped up in bonnie Ballater. If you are looking for the perfect romantic getaway, it would be worth starting from Aberdeen on a romantic roadtrip through Royal Deeside which greatHerday can help you plan. Who knows, you might even meet royalty!
2. Peebles - Scottish Borders
By Patricia Cuni - Mad About Travel
One of my favourite spots in Scotland for a romantic break is the Borders, and there, Peebles. This quaint town on the shores of the river Tweed and the Eddleston Water, it does have a cute town centre with some great shops, lovely cafes and very romantic restaurants, perfect for a getaway. Last time, I stayed at The Park, a quirky and fun hotel with a winning decor and a restaurant that will have you salivating all day.
There are loads of things to do on a romantic break in Peebles. For instance, nothing better than a stroll by the shores of the river Tweed all the way to Neidpath Castle, still standing tall and strong. Or you could hike Cademuir Hill and make it all the way to the top, to admire the landscape while standing on two ruined massive Iron Age hill forts.
On the other hand, if you’re not feeling that adventurous, you can always just check out the tower of St Andrew’s Church, the ruins of the Cross Kirk or some other historic sites. But if you are looking for something different to do with your significant other, why don’t you drive to Innerleithen and have a go at printing at Robert Smail’s Printing Works? After all these activities, make sure you have some spa treatment at the Peebles Hydro. I can’t think of a better place for a relaxing yet adventurous romantic break in Scotland.
3. The Hermitage - Perthshire
By Ana Barrera - Lovely Scotland
The most romantic walk through the woods I have ever seen is, no doubt The Hermitage in Dunkeld. As if Tay Forest was not beautiful enough, the walks, falls and all sort of delicate corners in The Hermitage make the place even more scenic. The highlights are Ossian’s Hall, Black Linn Falls and the mystical Ossian’s Cave. If you want to experience the best romantic getaway ever with your partner, take him (or her) to this amazing place in autumn (mid October will be perfect).
If you have plenty of time, Dunkeld and Birnam themselves are perfect places to wander around. Do not miss the stunning Cathedral, Beatrix Potter Garden and Exhibition, the birds and landscape at Loch of the Lowes and, most of all, the Birnam Oak trail: it will lead you to an extremely ancient tree that lies in a very Shakespearean spot beside the river.
For a romantic accommodation you can choose Eastwood House, a historic place where Beatrix Potter herself spent a few months back in 1893. Definitely not an affordable option, only advisable on special occasions and generous budgets. If you have a smaller budget, the cute Jessie Mac’s is a very nice option. A dinner at The Tay Bank –such a lovely view- can totally finish up a perfect day with your significant one.
4. The North Coast 500
By Gemma Armit - Two Scots Abroad
Head to the Highlands for your next romantic break in Scotland. The newly marketed North Coast 500 route is a dream destination for couples. From Inverness to Durness up the west coast and back around the east; couples can visit distilleries, caves, hills for wandering and fine dining (or the casual pub grub). This packed road trip takes you along winding roads, white sand beaches, the cutest of fishing villages inhabited by even sweeter people. Not up for socialising? Shy away in one of the many east coast castles; you won't find ruins like Ardvreck Castle (Loch Assynt) on this NC500 accommodation list. Although this road trip can be completed in two days (whizzing around), it is recommended you set aside at least four days to stop, relax, dine, drink, discover and even hop aboard one of the many boat tours to Handa Island for the puffins, Cape Wrath to see most northern westerly lighthouse on Scotland's mainland or even Orkney. Camping is also an option and some of the campsites are the most scenic ones you'll ever see. Unzip to the turquoise seas of Achmelvich Bay but remember the midge repellent! Nothing says sexy like bites.
5. Lewis and Harris
By Sonja Thomson - Migrating Miss
The Isles of Lewis and Harris are the perfect place for a romantic break in Scotland. They have history, mystery, and stunning landscapes that you won’t believe are part of Scotland. Walking down the beach might be a romantic cliche, but you won’t care when you’re walking hand in hand when along some of the best beaches in the world that might be mistaken for those in a much warmer locale, and would be packed with people if they were anywhere else! The Isles of Harris and Lewis are quite distinct in their different landscapes, but both have beautiful golden sand beaches, with Luskentyre in the south of Harris regularly voted one of the best in the world. While you’re there, stop by the Isle of Harris Gin Distillery to try their seaweed infused gin. To the west of Lewis you’ll find Uig, with it’s miles of sand surrounded by barren landscape and turquoise sea. It’s famous for the salmon caught there and for the historic chess set found buried nearby. Visit the standing stones at Callenish and marvel over how they might have come about, or what they were for (and channel Jamie and Claire from Outlander!). Stay in a remote location and enjoy the peace and a real escape to a isolated isle with your loved one.
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