The first trip away with a new baby is daunting. That was an understatement for me. I was mildly terrified. But I also had cabin fever and desperately wanted to get away. Some of you may have the bravery to go straight to long haul with small infants but I was way too scared to contemplate such a move. I opted for baby steps.
THE DESTINATION – I was petrified so I chose somewhere far away enough to be an adventure but close enough so that I felt relatively in control. We opted for Crieff in Perthshire, a neat two hour drive on a busy road (A90) with plenty of places to stop for food or emergencies (i.e. not a desolate spot where I panicked nobody could help us if something went wrong). En route the car did break down at the BP garage in Dundee – this first potential disaster proved to me that as long as you can breastfeed your baby is happy. Seriously, all you need are your breasts. It’s also pretty easy to change a baby on a car seat or on your lap. After half an hour the car started (we still have no idea what happened) and my husband was amazed at how zen like I’d been like through the entire episode. We arrived at our hotel a little later than expected but it did make me appreciate that if you’re breastfeeding you can wing it a little, whereas I’d pack a lot of formula for every eventuality if I was bottle feeding. Basically there are pros and cons to each method.
LOCATION – the Crieff Hydro, if you haven’t heard of it, is a Scottish institution and a notably child friendly one at that. Seriously keep reading. Opened in 1868, under the catchy name of The Strathearn Hydropathic Establishment Company, it attracted tourists to the rather baltic Scottish spring waters that tempted those in the know during the Victorian era. Today braving the Scottish great outdoors is still part of the appeal but the hotel reaches out to a much younger clientele. Read carefully. Your stay includes child care for children over two. That’s the headline.
2-12 year olds hang out at ‘Big Country’, an onsite kids club dedicated to giving little ones a holiday to remember, and giving adult holiday-makers a break – two three-hour sessions a day are included in every room rate. There is a creche (at an additional cost) for babies as well, providing care for up to 1.5 hours. This is something I’d certainly consider for an older toot but for me Mr Baby was only two months old and I was keeping him with me. (Check out Crieff’s Kids Appeal)
ACTIVITIES – Crieff Hydro offers over 60 activities on its 900 acre resort. Lots of adrenaline sports such as quad biking, pony trekking or Aloft (its new treetop adventure) but you can also tour on a segway or take in a movie at the cinema. There is simply SO much to do. Each activity is priced differently and some are free but all costs are available on the website – Activities. We made memories by taking Mr Baby swimming for the very first time – imagine that, first swim at Crieff Hydro. We were in the pool straight after breakfast and somehow got the place to ourselves – it was heavenly. It is the most wonderful thing to gently take your baby into the pool and see them take to it straight away.
ACCOMMODATION – In terms of accommodation you can choose between self catering villas or stylish hotel rooms – Hotel Options. We opted for a hotel room as a treat – to escape cooking and cleaning – but in hindsight I was anxious about my baby waking through the night and disturbing other guests – in the rooms below us, next to us, above us – so I did learn that hotel rooms and small infants stress me out. But I must add that our executive room (a free upgrade) was gorgeous, so comfortable, freshly decorated and really hit our expectations.
FOOD & DRINK – Select between five unbelievably child friendly places to eat and drink. Food and Drink The staff were so accustomed to serving children and babies of all shapes and sizes which is a huge relief when dining out. The courses arrived swiftly which is super important when you have a limited ‘window’ in which to eat before your baby loses patience. My favourite experience was taking afternoon tea in the Victorian Winter Garden. The views are spectacular, the building makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, and Mr Baby slept through the entire thing which was a delight for me. The Afternoon tea cost £11.95 per person and felt like a real treat.
We chose Crieff Hydro as we simply wanted to be somewhere where having a child wasn’t a problem, wasn’t a nuisance, wasn’t an anomaly. I just longed to blend in. I wanted my child’s cries to blend into the hue and cry of other children rather than a tiny solitary shriek to cut through an adult ambience like a knife. The Crieff Hydro went above and beyond my expectations. Having a child (crying, sleeping or otherwise) felt like the most natural thing in the world, which of course it is.
As we had a two month old baby the activities available were kinda wasted on us – we couldn’t participate ourselves and Mr Baby was obviously too tiny to do anything. – but we could enjoy the walks, the excellent service, the pool, the food and the accommodation. We also couldn’t utilise the included childcare, and we wouldn’t have wanted to when Mr Baby was so small, therefore I can’t wait to return when Mr Baby is about three upwards then we’ll all be onto a winner. It isn’t a cheap destination but I can’t wait to go back and watch my children try out all the outdoor sports and learn something new.