With the countdown to the Solheim Cup – the biggest team event in women’s golf – gathering pace, Perthshire is preparing for a new influx of visitors. Just like 2014 for The Ryder Cup, there is a buzz about the place. All eyes will be on The PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles as European captain Catriona Matthew seeks to deliver victory on her native soil.
With fans’ plans being finalised for the Solheim experience in September, a stay-and-play break to picturesque Perthshire is a must. Golf? Take your pick from plentiful choices. Auchterarder sits next door to Gleneagles, with Crieff another 18-holer of repute. If 9-hole golf is your favourite, Crieff (Dornock Course), Comrie, St Fillans, Muthill and Killin have collaborated to offer visiting golfers fantastic value through the West Perthshire Golf Pass – just £50 for 18-hole rounds at any three of the five 9-hole venues.
Crieff itself, sitting less than 20 minutes north of Gleneagles, is a par-fect base if you are journeying to the Solheim. Indeed, look no further than staying at a venue synonymous with Perthshire, and Scotland in general, the wonderful Crieff Hydro Hotel. Offering plentiful golf options, while working closely with neighbouring Crieff GC, the Hydro is a leisure resort that continues to move with the times.
Having attended high school in the town some 25+ years ago and used the Hydro for PE facilities, it’s been eye opening to watch the physical transformation of the site and its ever-growing reputation as a family holiday destination. With £40 million invested in recent years, the money has been well spent on a now truly modern hotel and associated facilities. Take your pick from over 60 onsite activities across 900 acres – meaning your stay can be as energetic or relaxing as you like.
With my two young children in tow, we took the latter option on a recent visit. ‘Why is it called the Hydro?’ came the first question from my inquisitive youngest on the drive north. Well, in 1868 under the management of physician Thomas H Meikle, it opened doors as ‘The Strathearn Hydropathic Establishment Company,’ with the word ‘hydro’ described as ‘a hotel or clinic originally providing hydropathic treatment.’
Fast forward and Crieff Hydro is now managed by fifth generation descendants of Dr Meikle, with the family focus integral to the resort’s running. On our arrival on a Saturday afternoon, families were raising a glass with a wedding in full swing, before we made a quick dash to the leisure facilities for our own family fun.
Offering swimming for all in a heated 20m pool, it is a great place for children to swim and play. Kids splash time (10.30-11.30am and 2.30-4pm on weekends and school holidays) also features an inflatable slide for as many turns as you can manage – while dad relaxed in the whirlpool!
For those aged 18 and over, and with more time on their hands, the tranquil Victorian Spa is arguably the most relaxing place on the resort, with a steam room, sauna and spa bath.
With Scotland in football action that evening, we made the short walk to The Hub to view the big match on the big screens in the welcoming, glass-panelled area which also serves food and drink. During the day you can do lawn bowls, try tennis and much more, while kids can enjoy the dedicated play space in BIG Country. My two found the computer game screens and the pool table, as The Hub certainly lived up to its name in the early evening – a hive of activity!
The Meikle for breakfast, the Hydro’s original restaurant serving locally sourced, lovingly prepared food for generations, was the ideal venue to start the morning, before we made our way in a three-minute car drive to the top of the resort and checked into Basecamp. With the instructor, Callum, quickly offering tips, my son was soon hitting the target in no time as he enjoyed an archery session – chasing high scores, playing ‘pizza’ games and then firing at an apple, just like days of yore!
Looking around the vast activity area, known as Action Glen, there really is something for everyone – especially for golfers! You can try crazy golf, disc golf, footgolf or the driving range with its new ‘swing and ping’ fully automated teeing system. The 9-hole par-3 course, set right in the Strathearn Valley, with vistas of Ben Vorlich and Ben More, looks great fun too.
We were soon off to the riding centre where my pony-loving daughter enjoyed a lead rein walk for 30 minutes in the fields and woods nearby. An hour later, on the drive home, she was starting to have a snooze… which probably sums up Crieff Hydro just perfectly. Relax and kick back… or explore and do far more. The choice is yours.
(Posted on Monday 24th June 2019)