Gin and lawn bowls

Heading north to Perthshire...
Heading north to Perthshire…

Since I can remember my family has been going Crieff Hydro for weekend breaks, family reunions, the odd bank holiday Monday. So when my fiancé and his family announced we were heading there for a surprise birthday weekend, I was 100% on board. 

There is something extremely comforting about going to a hotel or resort that you know like the back of your hand. It may not be the most luxurious place in world, but it is the familiarity of Crieff Hydro that makes me so fond of this family retreat. Not to mention the hundreds of indoor and outdoor activities on offer, both for children and grown ups, the swimming pool and spa facilities, various eateries to choose from, the list goes on. 

Crieff Hydro exterior

Crieff Hydro sign

 Crieff is a mere hour and half from Edinburgh city centre. We left promptly after work on Friday and arrived in time for dinner. First thing I want to mention is the fillet steak I had in the Brasserie on the Friday evening, because it was absolutely delicious. Now, with the surprise birthday celebrations and, if I am honest, the hunger we had worked up driving there, I don’t have a single photo to show you, do you will just need to take my word for it.

Over the course of the weekend we made the most of good weather and lots of the activities on offer. The grounds of the hotel are vast and inviting so it was easy to spend most the Saturday running around outside in the sunshine.

Crieff Hydro grounds

hotel frontAs we were staying in the hotel on the dinner, bed and breakfast rate, Mr F&P’s nephews were given packed lunches in the Winter Garden. The boys refuelled after morning of soft play, football and trampolining, and the adults enjoyed some gin and lawn bowls. The grand Victorian front of the hotel gives the perfect setting for such a civilised game, and we weren’t the only ones to think so – the lawn was mobbed all weekend. Caorunn gins in hand, a quick lesson from Mr F&P on the rules, we chose our end, rolled the jack and got to work. 

front of hotel instagramGin and Lawn BowlsMaybe it was beginners luck, or perhaps the gin, but I very quickly came to appreciate everything about a game of lawn bowls. If only I had discovered this earlier in the summer!

Later in the day, half of our group hit the pool and the birthday girl hit the spa after a morning of horse riding. Mr F&P and I decided to go for a walk up The Knock. Not really knowing where we were going, we set off into the woods behind the hotel and found ourselves at the top much sooner than we though. 

The Knockthe knockthe knock 2

top of the knock

 Our walk up and down The Knock was no longer than 40 minutes. For the proper hill walkers out there, the Perthshire is a stunning area to explore. Plus, the lodges on site at the hotel mean you can take the dog with you for the weekend and they also allow you to be completely self sufficient. 

On Saturday evening we dined in the Meikle Restaurant and I must be honest and say I much preferred our more casual, relaxed dinner in the Brasserie on the Friday night. On Sunday Mr F&P and I had a slower start to the day. We enjoyed some breakfast followed by coffees outside in the sunshine with the Sunday papers. 

Soon it was time to head home. We all made one last stop at Gloagburn Farmshop (more on that later) before saying our goodbyes and going our separate ways.

Crieff Hydro is perfect for a family weekend away. It is just really easy. Everything is in the one place, the staff are really friendly and there is something for everyone to do. For those wishing to venture into the town it’s a quick 15 minutes walk away, or you can go further afield and explore Perthshire. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be everyone’s cup of team. For example, the hotel is not ideal for romantic weekend away – there are kids everywhere and you need to be OK with that. That said there are some gorgeous luxury lodges which would be a better bet for some peace and quiet. 

Until I have the opportunity to go back, I’m off to find my local bowls club…

Blondes have more fun!

I love planning. I love organising my diary, I like to know exactly what’s happening and where I’m going when. If I say “see you later” I’ve probably already got a good idea in my head of when that’s likely to be. So this past weekend was one I had been looking forward to for weeks, marked in the diary, the whole Saturday and Sunday blocked out, with absolutely no chance of anything getting in my way. The catch up with my fellow blondes, my journo girls, had arrived.

Location this time around was Glasgow, so two of us set off from Edinburgh to join the 3rd amiga. A minor exploding tyre incident on the M8 west involving two policemen and new 4 car tyres delayed our arrival somewhat, but once we got there we set about doing what we’ve always done when we are together – chatting, eating and drinking!

Our hostess with the mostess had the kettle on and we found these little treats in our room! I was already keen to come back!

Rooms

Having lived in Glasgow’s West End for four years, I am no stranger to the awesome menagerie of foodie options the city has to offer, but on this visit time I ended up trying out not one, but two new restaurants. After welcome cups of tea, we turned to some fizz and nibbles and got ready to head out.

journo fizz

I love this idea of using cute china tea cups as dishes for nibbles.

Nibbles in teacups

For dinner we headed to the new Ox and Finch in Finnieston, at the west end of Argyle Street. When I lived in Glasgow a few years ago, this part of town was had started to get going, and The Crabshakk was the first of the new up-and-coming restaurants that I can remember to take up residence in this surprising part of town. Now Finnieston is FULL of great places to eat and drink.

Ox and Finch interior

Ox and Finch interior 2

The Ox and Finch describes itself as relaxed contemporary dinning, and the menu doesn’t distinguish between starter and mains. It is a smorgasbord of sharing plates, and for three foodies like us, this style of dining is perfect. We order a bottle of wine and start to rank the menu from must -have-my-mouth-is-watering dishes to if-we-have-room close seconds.

Menu

On ordering we are told that the dishes simply arrive when they are ready, unless we specify otherwise. We kick off with some light and crispy fried squid – a freebie due to a mistake in the kitchen, not a mistake that bothered us!

Fried squid

From then the dishes arrived at a steady pace. The beetroot cured gravadlax had us all in awe of the fun, bright colour, and for an extra £3 came with a shot of cucumber vodka. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it! It was really refreshing and more like a cucumber juice than a shot of vodka. The tomato and mozzarella salad was light and creamy, so for a cheese that doesn’t often taste of much, they had done well.

Beetroot cured salmon 1

Salmon close up

Cucumber vodka

Tomato and moz salad

From the seafood selection we chose the scallops which were big and juicy and came on a bed of cauliflower purée. They went very nicely with the side of asparagus with a poached egg and pancetta – this dish hit the spot with us all.

Scallops

Asparagus poached egg and pancetta

The star of the evening was the hanger steak. It was perfectly cooked, still really pink, and just melted in your mouth. On top were the yummiest, thinnest, lightest onion rings I’ve seen in ages. So delicious.

Hanger steak

The lamb meatballs were ok, but we all agreed nothing to write home about.

Lamb meatballs

And we just couldn’t resist getting some creamy dauphinoise potatoes…

potatoes

dishes on table

Room for desert? Probably not, but after a little break we decided to share the dark chocolate cremeux, which came with popcorn (nice gimmick) peanuts and banana ice-cream. I could have done with the chocolate tasting a little darker and stronger, but the banana ice cream was great. By this point we had spent so long grazing our way through the menu the sun had set and so the light is not very good in the pudding picture!

Pudding

Coffees followed and we moved on to a tapas bar called Rioja for another drink. Some more nattering and and after having put the world to rights and we were finally ready to call it a night. All of the above, a bottle of sauvignon blanc and two coffees came to £27 per person. We all agreed this was a really reasonable price for a yummy evening of eating.

On to our next foodie adventure – Sunday brunch at The Central Market in the Merchant City. We walked in and I knew this place was for me – Veuve Clicquot bottles lined the bar and an Oyster bar sat in the middle. Girls, you can just leave me here…

The Central Market

The Central Market 2

An afternoon at the shops beckoned, so we needed to fuel up! French toast and bacon with maple syrup featured, as did scrambled eggs and bacon on toast. A side of chips and a pain au chocolate between us all was probably a step to far, but we did have a lot of shops to get round.

French toast and maple syrup

Scrambled eggs and bacon

Pain au chocolat

Fries

After a good few hours of retail therapy, our chatter had not yet run out but unfortunately the weekend had, and it was time to say goodbye. Great girlfriends are the ones you can just pick up with where you left off after months of not being together, and I’m so lucky to have found that in my journo girls.

All that’s left now is to get another date in the diary, and er, maybe go for a run once the food coma has passed!