Walking, Wildlife and Wine – The Perfect Pre-Birthday Weekend

As we drove away from the city and the hustle and bustle of the city began to fade the tranquillity of Perthshire hit us. The rolling hills of the surrounding countryside were gorgeous in the late evening light. As we hit Perth the roads turned to tree lined, narrow winds and each village we passed became smaller and smaller. We finally arrived in the small hamlet of Kirkmichael, our home for the next two nights.

The village was quiet but a few locals offered some cheerful comments as we worked out the entry code system. When we walked inside we were greeted by a beautiful staircase that took us upstairs to our spacious 2 bed, twin room apartment. After we had unpacked our things we popped our first bottle of wine of the evening – a Nyetimber – and settled in for an evening of wine, olives, cheese and cured meats.

We awoke to the sun shining through the curtains and popped our third bottle of the weekend – a Cava – to enjoy with our breakfast of bagles, cream cheese and smoked salmon. Absolute luxury! After a very filling breakfast we went for a stroll through the village to explore.

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Kirkmichael is probably most famous for being the first stop on the Cateran trail. After we wandered the very small town and took in the pretty cottages and old Kirk, we made our way along the Cateran trail. The trail traipses the countryside past farms which due to the time of year were littered with lots of baby animals. The lambs ran away from us as soon as they clocked us coming, but it was lovely to watch them frolicking in the sun. As we approached the top of a small hill some beautiful white horses came into view in a small paddock at the bottom of the hill. They were neighing away as we strolled past before we entered a small patch of forest. We explored through the darkness but unfortunately, our plan to cut back round from the bottom didn’t quite work out as planned and so we had to climb back up and backtrack through the trail we had just traversed.

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After arriving back in the village we changed and had a quick rest before making our way to the nearest large town – Blairgowrie. We didn’t have much of a plan for Blairgowrie, and so once we arrived decided to take a walk around the small town. We by chance, stumbled across the Cornerstone Deli. We only decided to check it out because we could see from the back a few bottles of wine and we were so glad we did. The shop is a great little deli selling a selection of local cheeses and meats as well as some specialty crackers etc. However, the piece de resistance was the wine shop at the rear of the shop. We were perusing the shelves when the owner who had obviously overheard our conversation came out to chat with us. He has visited the vineyards of all of the wines that he stocks and he has some absolute crackers. After a tasting of a pinot noir from South of France, we had all purchased one of his wines and Robyn even got 2!

Suitably shopped out we stopped at the recently re-opened Cargills Bistro for a spot of food before our Beaver Walk later in the evening. The restaurant was empty due to the early time but you could tell they were going to have a busy night ahead of them. Maeve and I had a lovely white wine, and Robyn as designated driver was stuck on coke, thanks Robyn! It went perfectly with my Scallop salad and I decided to go all out with a side of chips which were pretty fantastic. This place was a great find and would definitely recommend.

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After our meal we headed back to tesco to meet up with Bob our guide for the beaver walk. I had met Bob previously when I was writing a research paper on the beaver re-introduction while at University. He is part of the Scottish Wild Beaver Group and runs tours down to the river for people to see beavers, completely free of charge. He is extremely knowledgeable about the surrounding area and quite an inspiration in the beaver world! He guided us down to the Etrict River where we would be watching the beavers and along the river banking to the perfect spot directly across from the main lodge. We sat and waited.

It was not long at all until Bob spotted something hidden in between all of the wood hanging in front of the lodge – it was a beaver. However, for the life of me I could not make out the shape of any animal in between all of the wood before it moved off. Although disappointed to have missed the first spot, I was still hopeful for a more open view. Sitting waiting for action on the riverbank was extremely relaxing, the aromas from the wild garlic and other plants added a lovely air and the sounds of the river added a beautiful background track to our evening.

I was having a great time chatting about wildlife when we saw a brown shadow pass under the water. It was huge and turned out to be the heavily pregnant female beaver who popped her head up and continued to swim around for a bit. I couldn’t quite get over her size and the fact that we had managed to spot a wild beaver in Scotland. We really do have some fantastic wildlife opportunities right on our doorstep, I have certainly been inspired to get out and see what is going on around me.

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We walked back along the river and managed to spot a kingfisher flying past before walking through the strawberry tunnels, helping ourselves to the ripe ones as we made our way back to the car. We said our goodbyes to Bob and headed back home to Kirkmichael after a very successful day to Eurovision and wine. What more could you want!

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After another peaceful nights sleep I was once again awoken to the gorgeous views of the Perthshire countryside. We had breakfast, packed up and made a quick stop off in the tiny village shop for a customary postcard before making our way back South towards Perth. We stopped off at a strawberry farm en-route to pick up some yummy fresh strawberries and homemade jam – absolute bliss – before arriving at Scone Palace.

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This was to be our last stop of the weekend and as we pulled in to the car-park we were met by a family of hairy cows! The baby was adorable and kept trying to itch his hip, which made for some funny positioning and photos. After taking a hundred cute photos we paid our entrance fee and made our way up to the palace door. It felt a bit like opening the door of a medieval castle hundreds of years ago until we were met with the modern entrance room. Unfortunately, since Scone Palace is a private residence there is a no photography policy and so you will just have to take my word that inside is gorgeous. Each of the rooms are decorated in different styles and they have information cards in each of the rooms to explain the significance of certain items of furniture/paintings etc. Each room focussed on a different era, with one specifically detailing Dido Bell, the mixed race daughter of one of the Admirals who resided in the palace. Having seen the film adaption I was particularly intrigued to see certain aspects in the flesh.

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After you had toured through each of the rooms there was a video playing at the end that explained the history behind the palace – it is where many of the Scottish Kings were crowned and the proper home of the Stone of Destiny which was stolen by King Edward I and then stolen back by some students from Edinburgh University in the 1950’s. Although it was taken back to Westminster it was eventually returned in 1996 to mark the opening of Scottish Parliament (although it now sits in Edinburgh Castle). After our history lesson we made our way back out into the gale force winds outside. We saw a peacock displaying for a peahen right outside the door but due to the wind decided it was time for scones and tea at Scone Palace. It was absolutely delicious and afterwards we felt ready to tackle the gardens.

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Outside was the mound, which houses a small chapel that was used for coronations and where there is also a replica Stone of Destiny. We then wandered round the trail a bit to see some of the ruins of the old palace. Regrettably, the Murray family who now inhabit the palace tore the old one down in the 1800’s as it was too draughty and built a sparkly new one. They are now trying desperately to restore some of the old building. Behind the chapel there is a graveyard and next to that a small butterfly garden, although given the weather all of the butterflies appeared to be sensibly hiding from the gusty wind. However, the piece de resistance of the gardens has to be the maze. It is designed in a star shape and is wonderfully colourful and as we discovered quite difficult to navigate (as I suppose a maze should be). After wandering aimlessly for a while we decided to head up the stairs to work out the route before descending back down. Robyn led the way and we eventually got to the centre and had a chance to bask in the sun, free of wind, for a short time.

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As we made our way back to the car and into back to the city I felt completely relaxed. Going a couple of hours up the road felt like another world from my hectic city lifestyle. A perfect weekend getaway with some great friends.

Posted in UK

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