The internet is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to searching for that special somewhere to stay on holiday. I’ve had some internet disasters (glorious websites, horrific hotels) in the past; something you just don’t want to risk with a little one in tow.
We know that when you’re looking for somewhere to stay you really need to know that ‘child friendly’ means more than a tatty old highchair and a travel cot.
We’ve searched out a few family friendly gems from right across Scotland, from luxury family friendly hotels to excellent self catering for that ‘getting away from it all’ break. Family friendly doesn’t ever have to mean a compromise on quality.
Mist and Mountains; the view from the hot tub…
Mains of Taymouth
As a family we’ve stayed in cottages all over the UK and nowhere has compared with these stunningly renovated, stylish cottages in Perthshire; a perfect mix of traditional with contemporary flair and a touch of decadence thrown in for good measure. It’s hard finding baby friendly accommodation which also fills you with delight, but this is it! They take being family friendly very seriously here (the owners have three children of their own, so they know what they’re doing). All the cottages have stairgates, cots and highchairs and I’ve never stayed anywhere that was so immaculately clean and spotless; an important consideration with babies, crawlers and toddlers. These beautiful five star cottages are truly in a class of their own. When we walked in through the door of our cottage, Granary Court, every member of the family (even the two year old) uttered a collective ‘wow’. We dropped our bags by the door and went from room to room with more wows and then into the large, enclosed garden where exclamations of delight reached their peak when my girls spotted the hot tub and started demanding their swimming costumes. The toddler found the sauna and thought it was his own private house. Fortunately a garden big enough for hide and seek soon distracted him. There’s such a feeling of space here, I’ve never stayed anywhere so perfectly designed. Our bedroom was enormous, the living space was huge and the kitchen was stylish. The houses have appeared in several interiors magazines, but still manage to balance utter chic with being family friendly.
The Mains of Taymouth is a family owned 120 acre estate in the pretty village of Kenmore with great on-site facilities, built in the 19th Century and formerly the home farm for neighbouring Taymouth Castle. Kenmore lies at the heart of Perthshire, arguably one of the most beautiful areas of Scotland. Queen Victoria came here to Loch Tay for her honeymoon and this is where her love affair with Scotland began. I’ve explored Scotland over the last few years, from the Highlands to the Lowlands and I would highly recommend Perthshire as the perfect base for a Scottish holiday. It has all the highland wildness you could dream of but you’ll also be within easy distance of Edinburgh and Glasgow for day trips.
It took a while for my husband to drag me away from eying up the décor but we went for a stroll around the area. There’s so much to do here that you might arrive and not want to get your car out again. The cottages are by Loch Tay, with stunning views, glorious mountains and even a little beach with safe shallow swimming if you’re visiting in warmer months. There are loads of walks to be found from the cottages themselves, from Lochside walks with the buggy, to riverside nature walks and strenuous yomps up the mountain. My other half went for a proper stretch of his legs later that first day (without three sets of dawdling little legs and a panting pregnant wife) and spotted two red squirrels, the first he’d ever seen. This is Britain’s wildlife wilderness and you can find osprey, eagles, roaming stags and many other highland creatures to enchant you on almost any wander through the hills of Perthshire.
The Mains of Taymouth has its own golf course (didn’t tell husband about that until we got there or we’d have never seen him) and guests can enjoy free winter golf and discounted golf in the peak season. There’s also a fantastic restaurant and a wonderful deli. We ate in the restaurant on the first night; great food, excellent service and we felt totally comfortable with our brood of not-always-perfectly-behaved offspring. They do take-outs at the restaurant so if you’ve arrived exhausted after a long drive then phone up and someone will bring up a wonderful meal straight to your cottage! You can also take advantage of the excellent food pre-order service and arrive to find a fridge well-stocked with delicious produce from the on-site deli. There’s a stable on site offering incredibly reasonable trekking for age 4 and up, and a Boat Centre on Loch Tay for boating, sailing, kayaking, canoeing and bike hire.
The Mains of Taymouth offers a great choice of places to stay, ranging from their traditional cottages to modern Mews houses, large family houses and some apartments, all of which are stunningly designed and sit perfectly in the mountainous landscape. It’s an ideal place to come as part of a larger party (we’re planning our next visit with a group of friends!) and the visitors book in our cottage was full of recommendations from groups of families and friends who were on their second, third or fourth visits; always an indication that this is a very special place. If you’re looking to experience Scotland at its best, and to really enjoy the romance of the landscape from a luxurious base, then this is for you. We think once you’ve discovered it you’ll go back again and again!
Tel: 01887 830226 www.taymouth.co.uk or www.childfriendlycottages.co.uk
On the Bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, G83 8QZ
Cameron House, with its turrets, tartan and tweed; views of the mountains and loch and roaring log fires, is everything you could dream of in a highland hotel. The scenery is breathtaking, so you can rest assured that you’ll have some proper Scottish views. The rooms are a blend of traditional Scottish design with everything you’d expect of a luxury hotel; monsoon showers, Egyptian cotton linen et al. We know that plenty of hotels offer luxury but we’re looking for that extra special welcome for babies and toddlers and facilities which mean we don’t have to pack for a trekking expedition. They’ve got that here. There’s a crèche for younger guests (from age 6 weeks to 6 years) packed with toys and games, arts and crafts, activities and dressing up. Children are cared for by qualified nursery staff (meeting all the national care standards). The crèche operates 7 days a week from 9am until 5pm and also on a Friday and Saturday evening. If you have older children there’s a Kids Zone with computer games, air hockey, pool, table football and a Wii. At weekends 5 to 12 year olds can join in with the Cammie Club with its fun packed activity schedule. There’s also family dining in the Boathouse, or take advantage of the baby listening service and dine without the need for bibs and plastic spoons and remember the pre-children days when you could chat amiably over fine cooking! You can take advantage of all the fantastic child-centred activities, or you could sneak off to the spa or even just curl up by the fire with a glass of peaty single malt, soak up the views and fall in love with Scotland.
Telephone: 01389 755 565 www.cameronhouse.co.uk
Five Star Babies in Edinburgh
The Balmoral Hotel
1 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2EQ, Scotland
The Balmoral is located right in the heart of Edinburgh, on the main shopping street, overlooking the castle and right next to the train station. This is Edinburgh’s landmark hotel; stylish interiors, Michelin Star restaurant and world class spa. But could you truly bring a baby here you ask? Yes, definitely is the resounding response. The Balmoral has both a Five Star Kids programme and a Five Star Babies programme, so you can rest assured that your every parental whim will be met!
They’ve thought of everything, from Balmoral-branded ducks, bubble bath and pampering products for bath time, a “Balmoral Teddy”, which is placed on their pillow during the evening turn-down service, and customised children’s robes and slippers, perfect for curling-up and watching the wide choice of kids’ movies and programmes on offer. Each child also receives a gift in their room on arrival, with seasonal highlights including a special visit from Father Christmas on Christmas Morning and a visit from the Easter Bunny on Easter Sunday. You’ll also find a Children’s Room Service Menu with a range of delicious treats and Hadrian’s Brasserie also offers its own Children’s Menu created by The Balmoral’s Michelin-starred Chef Jeff Bland. If you’re looking for a city break with your five star baby, I think this is the place for you!
Tel: 0131 556 2414 www.thebalmoralhotel.com