Taking a road trip in Scotland during a pandemic was always going to be a little different.
At the time of our jaunt to Coupar Angus in between lockdowns, restrictions had eased enough to allow travel, hotel stays and restaurant visits, so long as you provided details for contact tracing, wore face masks when required and stuck to the rules.
But, with many venues still closed, we took along picnic equipment including a wee gas stove, flasks and chairs – described by one of my kids as a “pensioners on tour kit”.
Very funny, but we loved the picnics and estimate saving around £100 with our DIY lunches during the trip.
Our destination was Coupar Angus, but keen to make the most of our trip away, we took the scenic route which included an overnight stay in Pitlochry.
Zig-zagging our way from Inverness to Coupar Angus we stopped at many wonderful locations, among them, the hamlet of Dull, simply to get a photo of ourselves at the sign for the village, which is paired with Boring in Oregon, and Bland in New South Wales in Australia.
Great to see officials with a sense of humour…
Looping around Loch Tay we stopped at several places including Fortingall Church, near Dull, which has, within its grounds, what’s thought to be the oldest living thing in Europe – an ancient yew tree.
It’s quite a thing looking at a tree, thought to be 5,000 years old, while thinking about all the world-changing events it has lived through.
Rumour has it Roman baddie Pontius Pilate was born locally, which also sent a shiver down the spine, thinking about his role in world events…
Another excellent stop was the village of Killin, which has at its heart the Falls of Dochart – stunning waterfalls you can view up close if you’re happy to scramble over rocks, or enjoy the view from the safety of a historic stone bridge.
Equally nice is the picture-postcard village of Kenmore, at the head of Loch Tay.
Then it was on to the Red House Hotel, Coupar Angus – you can’t miss it as it’s a big building dating back to Victorian times, situated on the edge of town.
It’s been owned by members of the Bannerman family for more than 40 years, and has been upgraded and refurbished to ensure it has plenty to keep today’s guests happy.
Every bedroom is en suite, while three rooms are suitable for the less able. It has a large function suite which makes it a popular venue for weddings, and has a surprisingly large amount of leisure facilities including a squash court, gym, snooker and pool hall, darts areas and two saunas.
The facilities and hotel’s location make it a popular choice with sportsmen and women making the most of local sporting attractions such as golf, fishing, shooting and hill walking.
We checked in and, as per the style now, made our own way to our room clutching a sealed bag containing sanitised keys.
Inside our large room we found items such as the TV remote bagged and sanitised, while cushions and throws had been removed to reduce risk of contamination.
After enjoying a wander round the town, we found a really beautiful park about a 20-minute walk from the hotel. The beauty of Coupar Angus is that it’s a good base for visiting the Perth and Kinross area, with places like Blairgowrie within easy reach.
It was there we enjoyed a walk called Cargill’s Leap, alongside the River Ericht, which passes several old mills.
The river tumbles over rocks and is surrounded by fabulous trees, which were showing off their superb seasonal colours.
Before leaving Blairgowrie we swung by The Dalmore Inn, a sister hotel to the Red House Hotel, for coffee and scones. Impressed by the stylish, on-trend venue, it’s a place we’ll revisit, stopping next time for dinner.
After a day in the countryside, we headed back to the hotel to chill out and be looked after by the friendly, super-efficient staff.
We dined in the hotel restaurant which had tables well spaced apart. Appetites whetted by fresh air, we ate well and particularly enjoyed the pork medallion, vegetable curry and yummy warm raspberry frangipani.
After a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed, we tucked into a nice, full Scottish breakfast, served in the hotel’s airy conservatory, overlooking colourfully planted gardens. A perfect start to a day which was spent, rather reluctantly, returning homeward.