As I was scrambling to pull together our travel path for Scotland Darrin's friend (a father of three young girls) emailed a link to a resort an hour outside of Edinburgh.
He mentioned the building was historic, the location was lovely and a few other interesting details my eyes quickly scanned. It wasn't until the words "kids club" popped off the screen that I started paying attention.
After a closer look, the place seemed too good to be true. Family suites, kid-activites, an extra warm kiddie pool, pony rides, all-inclusive high end dining and complimentary childminding. By the time I had finished browsing their website my heart was racing as I searched for availability. What were the chances this place could accommodate us on short notice?
Luck was on our side and I instantly booked a suite for four nights, five days for half the cost of a standard room at the Marriott in London. I was slightly nervous that I had set my expectations too high. It is really possible to blend luxury and children?
Sure enough. They've done it. It didn't take long once we arrived for life to get awe-some!
This is the kind of place I would plan an entire vacation around. In fact, I hope this post will inspire someone to do just that. If you are going to Europe with kids I seriously recommend a visit to Edinburgh followed by five days at the Crieff Hydro Resort. You can thank me later.
Overall, the food was quite good. They offered a decent variety of choices and there were three different dining options for each meal. The fancy restaurant was called the Meikle and we happily ate dinner there three nights in a row. Another highlight was the kid's high tea where healthy and fun finger food was available from 4-6:30pm every evening.
The staff was exceptional, especially if you consider how many kids are running around. I don't know how they do it to be honest. Everyone seemed happy to clean up messy tables after messy tables. I'm talking peanut butter and jelly with a side of jiggly jello messy. I heard that a majority of them live on site and have great fun hanging out together after their shifts are over. You can just tell there is a wonderful sense of team commoderie.
I could go on about all the great features (and I will) but the real value was the kids club. Six hours of childminding per day for children two and older is included. They call the centre "Big Country." It is enormous (think about the size of ten IEKA playrooms.)
It is divided into different areas for kids of all ages. Ava's section had a giant indoor castle, a play area with colourful climbing structures as well as a dress up station, a large play kitchen and even an over-sized tractor. Additionally, there is an adjacent enclosed jungle gym outside. They feature a new theme each day and incorporate stories, art and games. Pure heaven for restless little travelers.
We payed a small supplement to put Evan in their beautiful nursery called the "Creche." It was worth every pence. Also well equipped with soft sheepskin rugs, wooden mobiles and all natural sensory toys as well as high chairs, buggies and a crib. They absolutely adored Evan and I have no doubt he was extremely well cared for.
While the kids played mommy booked herself two visits to the spa. On that note, I must share a funny story about my pedicure. It was just a few days earlier that Ava said to me, "Mum, your toes look terrible." My last appointment was in Vancouver back in April before we left. The polish was all chipped now and my feet were desperate for some TLC.
So, I scheduled an appointment for the "Ultimate Fish Pedicure." The description said something about offering the latest and greatest under water massage, etc. When I arrived I was a quite surprised to see a tank of real fish (Garra rufa) waiting to nibble my toes. Eeeeek!
Apparently these little guys were hungry and wanted to lunch on my dead, dry skin. I thought about it for a all of two seconds and just couldn't bring myself to do it. After reading up on this afterward I learned that this treatment is actually illegal in most States, however, it has become a common trend in Europe. In fact, some spas offer much larger tanks where you can submerge your whole body. Ummm, yeah, NO. Thanks. Note to self: Always read the fine print.
At any rate, the spa was a welcomed treat and my toes left very happy. No tiny carp required. I also enjoyed a facial as well as a much needed neck and shoulder massage.
The other activities for the kids were very cool. Every day there are different things for families to do. They have an outdoor trampoline, lawn bowling and croquet but unfortunately it was too wet to partake. Some of the sheltered events include special art projects and scavenger hunts. They even have a small cinema with movies playing back to back. Ava loved the face painting and quickly made friends with a little girl about the same age.
They have several horses and ponies on property and offer rides throughout the day. Ava took a turn on Timmy and rode like a champion. She really does adore animals and has taken on a particular passion for horses.
Ava celebrated her third birthday while at the resort. While Evan was being spoiled in the nursery I took Ava to the spa for a "pretty in pink princess manicure." I confirmed in advance that no fish would be involved, however, the funny thing is she saw them and wanted desperately to put her hand in the tank. LOL
It wasn't until the second to our last day that I wandered off the resort into the darling town of Crieff. I followed a sweet man with his dog (see photo below) down the hill from the Hydro property. I was confused at first as to why he kept crossing the street, back and forth from one side to the other bending over every so often. I soon realized he was collecting trash along his walk. He knew exactly where the garage cans were located and deposited his findings every block or so. What a kind neighbor. The world needs more of these.
This was just the beginning of my adoration for the darling little town. To be frank, I fell in love. It has just enough of everything to keep a person happy. The shops were so sweet and there were a few bars, restaurants and cafes. In addition to diapers I picked up a couple of steak pies fresh out of the oven for our picnic lunch.
While staying here Darrin made reference to Kellerman's Resort in the film Dirty Dancing. Add a toddler's ball pit, a whisky bar and throw a kilt on Patrick and that pretty much sums it up. One thing is for certain here, nobody puts baby in a corner.