Hogmanay holidays in Scotland
New Year breaks and getaways in Perthshire, The Borders and Dumfries & Galloway
Gail Tolley and Anna Millar go adventuring, and cherry-pick some of the winter breaks and Hogmanay hangouts for those looking to get away from it all
If you’re looking to escape the Hogmanay street parties or simply get away over the winter break, Scotland has opportunities galore. Whether you want to bring in the New Year in a West Coast castle or snuggle up in a Perthshire log cabin, Scotland is alive with possibility for those seeking beautiful, easily accessible places. Sure, a quick Google search offers an array of pricey city centre hotel packages for those looking for a hassle-free trip, but we like our experiences a little more rustic.
Castle of Park, Glenluce
On the edge of the village of Glenluce, ten miles east of Stranraer, a track leads up behind an imposing viaduct. Castle of Park appears suddenly: an austere mass of stone with a scattering of red painted windows. Just as you’d expect, the castle key is a huge hunk of metal that opens the heavy wooden door with a long, slow creak. At this point even those with nerves of steel might begin to have second thoughts about spending a few days inside these 16th century walls. Thankfully any fears quickly evaporate once inside: this is one of the cosiest castles you’re likely to come across and hasn’t lost an ounce of character.
From the grand entrance a spiral staircase leads up to the main hall, a vast room that forms the very heart of the building. There’s a huge open fire on one side (remember to bring some logs) and an equally impressive table that calls out for a banquet or two. Upstairs, the living room offers a more intimate setting with comfy sofas and a well-stocked book shelf. There are also four bedrooms and three bathrooms, spread out over the castle’s five floors.
What works so well here is the balance of raw edges you’d expect from a 500-year-old property (lime-washed walls, rope banisters and flagstone floors) and touches of comfort just where you want them (deep baths, crisp sheets with thick blankets and a fully equipped kitchen to boot). It might be something to do with the 4ft walls or the open fires in most rooms, but this castle keeps wonderfully warm too, perfect for when venturing outside doesn’t seem like an attractive prospect.
Beyond the stone walls there is plenty of scope for winter walking. Follow the footpath along the river to St Helena Island and the sandy Luce Bay or head north to the ruins of Glenluce Abbey, just over a mile away.
Castle of Park is owned by the Landmark Trust, a charity which invests in unusual buildings with historical significance and rents them out as holiday homes. Not only does it offer a chance to stay at some incredible places (everything from stately homes to converted barns grace the pages of their brochure) but your money goes to the upkeep of the property and others like it.
Before you leave don’t forget to look at the castle’s logbooks – hefty leather-bound entities filled with tales of hide and seek, board games and late-night whisky drinking. Oh, and the odd ghost story too.
Loch Tay Highland Lodges, Killin
Nestled on the banks of Loch Tay between Aberfeldy and Killin on the A827, this camp and lodgings site is an easy two-hour drive from Glasgow and Edinburgh, the compelling sight of a mountainous Ben Lawers announcing your arrival. En route we stop at Mhor Bread in Callander and the village deli in Killin for supplies, cramming the car with freshly made pies, breads and wine for our stay. All of which come in handy for a picnic breakfast on the banks of Loch Tay the following day.
An unassuming portacabin-cum-reception greets us, where we pick up the key to our home for the night: a self-catering woodland cabin. Logs, we are informed, have been left in there for us to make a fire. Octagonal in shape and tardis-like in design, these one-bedroom cabins can sleep up to six, offering ample scope for either a romantic night away or using the space, with its handy kitchen area, as a glorified, cutely decorated bunkhouse for a bigger group. Mod cons include a flat-screen TV and boogie box complete with i-Pod dock (neither of which, incidentally, is touched during our time here).
Wander down the hill of this spacious camping site and there’s something for every camping want (not to mention budget), with teepees, two-four bedroom lodges, a large cottage and a Mongolian yurt all up for grabs. Down by the loch, a restaurant bar, The Boathouse, offers stunning views and tasty local fare, with this year’s Hogmanay menu coming in at a very reasonable (comparatively speaking) £35 for three courses.
Those looking to blow away the cobwebs over the winter holidays could do far worse than to pack their mountain bikes and check out the cycling paths around the loch, Glen Lyon and Drummond Hill; alternatively there’s plenty of scope for those just looking for a bracing wintry walk in the countryside. Queen’s View, a short drive north of the site, is a suitably awesome spot, giving visitors the chance to take in another of Scotland’s vast watery spaces, Loch Tummel.
For those with money to burn, Monachyle Mhor has a high-end New Year’s bonanza to satiate the most demanding of foodies. Their motto ‘Be Mhor, Live Mhor’ is there for good reason. Set on the banks of Loch Voil, with Tom Lewis at the helm, this is boutique hotelling and locally sourced food at its best. Vegetables come straight from the garden, bread comes fresh from their bakery, eggs come courtesy of their hens, while any of the cattle on their 2000-acre farm could end up on your plate. Over the festive season, they have a special Christmas and Hogmanay menu, as well as package accommodation deals. Be warned though, you will want to take their gorgeous house dog Betty with you when you go.
Monachyle Mhor Hotel, Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Perthshire, 01877 384622, www.mhor.net
There is much to love about this cheap and cheerful wigwam village. Set just beyond Berwick-Upon-Tweed, five minutes walk from the coast, and a short drive from Holy Island and the Farne Islands, these wooden, compact wigwams can sleep up to five (two or three more comfortably). Basic is the name of the game here with just a small heater, fridge, table and mattress inside; outside there’s a decent sized communal kitchen and TV lounge area, with washing machines, toilets etc. A good shout for those looking to go back to basics on a reasonable budget with great views thrown in. Ensuite wigwams are also available.
Pot-a-Doodle Do, Borewell Farm, Scremerston, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, 01289 307107, www.northumbrianwigwams.com
Loch Lomond Waterfront
Situated just three miles from the popular village of Drymen, these large, well-appointed lodges, as the name suggests are on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. Each lodge can sleep up to six and comes with a hydrotherapy steam shower; some even boast outdoor hot tubs. Fully equipped with open-plan lounge, kitchen and dining area, there are no worries about falling over each other. Better still, pets are allowed in certain lodges. Those looking to head out for tipples would do worse than the nearby Winnock, Oak Tree Inn and Clachan Inn, nearby.
Loch Lomond Waterfront, Main Road, Balmaha, 01360 870144, loch-lomond-waterfront.co.uk