Thursday, 15 September 2011

Review - Good Crieff...what a stay!

It's not often we get the chance to get away, and to get away without the girls is even more of a treat (thanks Mum!), so we jumped at the chance of an overnight stay at Crieff Hydro Hotel when our friends were getting married there.

Crieff Hydro has always been a hotel that has appealed to me.  I had heard so many positive stories about it - the main attraction was that it was very family orientated. But would loads of kids running about spoil our nice quiet getaway?

Crieff is in Perthshire and the hotel itself is perched on top of a hillside overlooking the town (the views from the hotel are amazing, by the way!)  On approach, the hotel is more of a resort, with self-catering accommodation dotted around the grounds, as well as points for activities such as horse riding, archery, tennis courts and play areas for the kids.  They even have cool!

On arrival, we checked into our room (not the best experience of check-in ever, but I'll come onto that later) We had an hour or so to get ready before the wedding, so took advantage of the wine the hotel had kindly given us and enjoyed the peacefulness for a while before the big event.
Our room was plenty big for just the two of us - situated right on the corner of the hotel, overlooking the giant size outdoor chess set and mature gardens.  The decor was modern, but still classic and the bathroom was gorgeous (I would have taken it home had I been able to squeeze it into my handbag!) with an abundance of complimentary toiletries.  We had sparking and still water, the normal tea tray you would expect and the room had a DVD player and wall mounted TV, which would come in handy for entertaining children while you get ready in the morning, or for a family film before bedtime.

The wedding was in the Drawing Room - a large, but still intimate feeling room, with beautiful big windows, leading through to a conservatory. In all honesty, the wedding ceremony was the best I have ever been to...a lovely Humanist Service, with the guests singing '500 Miles' by The Proclaimers to break the ice and a very talented string quartet playing a repertoire of songs from The Darkness to Michael Jackson!   A very relaxed champagne reception followed in the conservatory and out into the immaculate gardens.  We just managed to catch every last ray of sunshine before the rain started (well, that is Scotland in August for you!)

The food at the Wedding Breakfast which followed, was amazing. Vine Tomato and Basil soup, Beef Wellington with Thyme Mash and the richest, creamiest creme brulee I have ever tasted in my life!

The rest of the evening was great, as we spilled downstairs to the Ferntower Suite where a band played a mixture of classic wedding songs and ceilidh music.  I also believe there was a residents disco which continued into the small hours, but after a midnight stroll outside, we retired for the evening - it's not often we get an uninterrupted night's sleep these days, so wanted to make the most of it!

By morning, we were ready for breakfast (must have been all that dancing) - a great selection of continental meats, cheese, fruit and cereals, along with the usual cooked breakfast...just what the doctor ordered after a few shandies the night before.

After breakfast, we visited the adults only Victorian Spa, courtesy of the complimentary spa passes we had been given.  After collecting our fluffy towels and toiletries at reception, we relaxed in the sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and kind of place, as snoozing was encouraged on the recliners which were dotted about!  Unfortunately, we didn't have time to experience any of their bookable treatments, however they sounded fab.

So far, we had enjoyed our 'just us' time and the hotel was certainly catered towards families, so we thought we would check out the facilities available for the girls.  Child friendly is definitely what Crieff Hydro does best, with 6 hours childcare included in your price when you book your stay - this comprises of two 3hr sessions per day, for 2-12 year olds.  They have a dedicated children's zone, Big Country, which is home to a large soft play area and hosts a range of activities for your children to get involved in.  Had the girls been with us, they could have been on nature walks, attended a puppet making workshop, gone on a treasure hunt or had a Movie Munchie night.  The hotel even boasts a cinema, showing recent releases - perfect for a rainy day.
In the leisure complex, there is a family pool (in addition to the Victorian Spa), with a great shallow area for toddlers and younger children who are not completely water confident.

Overall, we had a great stay at Crieff Hydro and we really only scratched the surface of it.  There are loads of activities and things to get involved in, however the atmosphere is very relaxed with lots of areas to chill out, if cramming lots into your stay is not your thing.
The hotel has a choice of restaurants, and dependant on your booking, dinner can be included in your rate. If the food we had was anything to go by, I dare say the choices in the restaurants would be equally as impressive.

The only thing which I feel let the hotel down, was a key part of the overall experience...first impressions.  When we checked in, our room wasn't ready, despite us arriving for a wedding and we were left milling about in reception.  The receptionist who checked us in, seemed very stressed, ill-informed and gave no information about times for breakfast, when checkout was, when our room would be ready and initially did not fill us with confidence about the rest of our stay.

As it turned out, Crieff Hydro did live up to expectations and in some areas certainly exceeded these.  I think it's safe to say we will be returning, and no doubt will have two little monkeys on tow with us.

Looking forward to it already...

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