THE WHERE AND WHY
You know when you want to get away, but you just can’t face the hassle of travelling far? Well, that feeling – paired with heading into the third trimester – means that minibreaks and staycations are the way forward right now!
Dunkeld is a quaint little village in the Perthshire countryside that has become a very special place over the years – in particuar, Dunkeld House Hotel, where we my husband and I were married in 2012.
Just 40 minutes from where we live, the river views are really breathtaking – it feels as though we’ve driven for hours because it’s so peaceful and picturesque. Exactly what we needed for some well deserved time off in August.
We’ve stayed at the hotel – which used to be part of the Hilton group – many times, so when it was taken over a couple of years ago we were a little nervous about what might change. The hotel had asked me to review the new rooms last year but having had a new baby it wasn’t the best timing, and I thought it might make sense to wait until the £2 million refurbishment was complete.
We finally managed to find some time to visit with Nathan and Jake for my husband’s 40th birthday last week – though we chose to stay in the General Wade’s building because they allow dogs in those rooms.
Sadly, the hotel no longer lets dogs in the main hotel. It isn’t a big deal in the summer months because we’d rather sit outside, but it’s really disappointing for wintertime – there was nothing more relaxing than sitting by the open fire (which has been replaced with the new reception desk) with a large glass of red, Jake lying peacefully at our feet. (Ironically, at 18 months, Nathan is probably more distruptive than the dog.)
Anyway, overall we found the hotel to be just as good as it was before, but with a much more modern touch. They’ve extended the restaurant to include a bright, airy and stylish conservatory which is as gorgeous on the outside as it is on the inside. In addition, new fittings (the marble bar is an Instagram dream), navy blue leather booths in the restaurant, and updated carpets, furnishings and headboards in the suite we stayed in all make the hotel seem much fresher without losing its country lodge feel.
The country-chic vibe has always been integral to the hotel’s personality and, in turn, the guests’ expectations, so it was a relief to find it still present, despite the lack of canine love going on. When you visit Dunkeld House Hotel you feel totally relaxed, completely at ease, and though the hotel is 4* and the service is fairly high-end, it’s not stuffy and you really do find yourself in a home-from-home. Jeans are just as welcome as evening dresses, coffee is as important at champagne, and each guest is treated the same as the next.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Sure, the hotel itself is excellent, but it’s the location that makes it as special as it is. Set on the banks of the River Tay, it’s just a ten minute walk into the pretty town with its pubs, cafes, delis and gift shops, while ten minutes in the opposite direction will take you into the woods where you can begin more scenic walks to tourist spots like The Hermitage and Pine Cone Point.
However, if your minibreak revolves around drinks and food, spa days and short strolls, the hotel gardens might be simple but they’re extensive and naturally pretty, so time there is well spent. There’s even a huge tree swing for the kids. Nathan loved it, we loved it, and Jake loved it. It makes me really happy to know that our special place as a couple has the potential to become a special family place too, that an annual is likely to become a Miller family tradition.
WHAT WE DID
My husband was turning 40 that weekend and though our initial plans for celebrating were to be in the South of France for a week, we decided that at 28 weeks pregnant and with an 18 month old in tow, it might be simplest and most relaxing (for me, and for him) if we did a staycation instead. And, when thinking about where to stay in Scotland without travelling for hours, Dunkeld House Hotel was our first thought for all of the reasons I’ve already mentioned.
It was such a lovely weekend, and just what we needed. When the baby napped, we did too, and we enjoyed our homely suite with its French doors onto a patio with garden furniture. We walked the dog, we ate plenty of very good food (if you’re a fan of red meat, definitely order the steak), and we enjoyed the pool and spa.
A FINAL THOUGHT
We have loved the House Hotel in Dunkeld the entire time we’ve been together (16 years) and despite the change in ownership, it definitely will remain our ‘special place’. We can’t wait to find time to go back as soon as we can… I wonder if they’re fully booked for Christmas yet.
THE LOW DOWN
1) We stayed in the General Wade’s Suite, a cottage-like building seperate to the hotel in which dogs can stay – we simply can’t do staycations that won’t accommodate Jake! If you’d rather stay in the main hotel, there are on-site kennels available for your furry friends. (Dogs cost £20 a night in your room, or £5 a night for the kennels.)
2) It’s worth booking dinner and spa treatments in advance, as both the restaurant and the therapist’s diary fill up fast.
3) If you fancy a bit more activity during your stay, book one of the many on-site activities such as salmon fishing, clay pigeon shooting, etc.
Book your stay at Dunkeld House Hotel.
With thanks to the hotel for providing a media rate for the weekend break.
Images: Kris Miller.