Crieff really is at the heart of Scotland. Due to the Crieff Hydro, which in its early days attracted Victorians to dubious water treatments, the region has a refined reputation. But it's also rich in scenery, outdoor adventure, and we also discovered a secret or two.
Here’s a list of child friendly exploits in and around Crieff, both indoors and outdoors, for all the family. And for more ideas have a mooch around www.visitcrieff.scot.
Start the Weekend with an Outdoor Adventure – Glamping at Comrie Croft
Glamping was a fantastic way to start the weekend. Rocking up to a Nordic Kata (a very cool type of wigwam) to spend the night! The kids were beyond excited. With a wood burning stove, crockery, a gas hob and our own private toilet it was a fab mix of home comforts and the great outdoors. Read our full review here.
Get On Your Bike
The Croft is renowned for its cycle trails and cycle hire. It also has a well stocked bike shop for any last minute purchases. An activity for older children, this is a lovely part of the world for peddle power.
Talk to the Animals
Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre is pretty vast. It has two indoor play sheds, featuring everything from ball pits to target practise, as well as an outdoor course for miniature ride-on tractors, but the animals are the main attraction. My favourite area was the hatchery, which was full of cute, fluffy baby animals; from chicks and rabbits, to lambs and guinea pigs. Outside we met lots of native Scottish farms animals and wild animals – a highlight of which were the Scottish Wild Cats. But we also came across tiny monkeys, meerkats and a taste of the exotic too. A fab wee café to boot. We spent hours at Auchingarrich.
We visited Innerpeffray Library, the oldest lending library in Scotland. It’s a short but scenic walk from the carpark to the library itself, with a stunning viewpoint thrown in for good measure, but the highlight of the library are the staff. In some ways it could be said that there’s not much going on, the library is full of ancient texts, not modern kid’s literature, but the staff took the time to go through a book, yellowed with age and full of line drawings of animals. The boys were drawn in engaged, distracted and entertained by a wonderfully patient woman, and this left my husband space to browse the books and ask lots of geeky questions. The library is also free to visit.
There was also a display of old children’s books from the 18th and 19th century, which reveal how far we’ve come. Many texts were very class specific. The books were also gender specific, but I sometimes wonder if we’ve moved on that far in that regard. An unusual stop.
A highlight for me was visiting a site I never knew existed. Cultybraggan Camp once housed some of the most zealous Nazi Prisoners of War held in the UK. A serious process of ‘reprogramming’ was undertaken before the men were returned to Germany after the war. Today, as the kids ran around the open space, we took in the Nissen huts that once held these notorious prisoners. We saw the solitary confinement jail where inmates were isolated. And we heard tales of murder among the inmates.
Whilst this isn’t a typical child’s day out, our pair were happy with the space to stretch their legs, they loved the overgrown assault course, and their eyes widened with our very gentle tales of prisons and prisoners.
For adults it’s a free and intriguing slice of Scottish World War II history that I didn’t know was located in this green, leafy part of the country. The camp has just been gifted significant cartoons, drawn by an inmate, depicting everyday life in the camp. This was another attraction that kept the boys’ attention, especially the drawings of the prisoners indulging in snowball fights and building snowmen! Whatever the circumstances children always find something to relate to.
Hit the Shops
Crieff is admittedly a very attractive town to saunter around. With numerous independent cafés, boutiques, as well as traditional sweetie shops, there’s a wee treat for everyone. I picked up a few birthday presents for friends in the lovely Red Squirrel Café where we’d had a casual lunch.
We checked into Crieff Hydro for our second evening in Crieff. If you haven’t heard of this family friendly institution then where have you been? It’s a treat for adults as the kids are so entertained here. After a bout of swimming, a bounce on the trampolines and a walk on the vast estate we checked the boys into kids’ club for the first time ever!! My heart was in my throat. My tots are aged 4 and 3, and I appreciate many children start kids’ club much younger, but each parent has to make their own choices on this one.
Admittedly Mr Husband and I never left the hotel, but we merrily skipped off to indulge in a cream tea in the elegant Winter Garden. We then hit the Meikle bar for a cocktail, and before long the three hour kids’ club session was complete.
That evening, having not booked a table in advance, we were appreciative to secure a seat in one of the on-site restaurants (do not underestimate how popular, busy yet efficient this hotel is), and our tots both opted for cheesy pasta from the kids’ menu. The staff are 100% on message when it comes to serving families, it’s what they do, so a relaxed meal was had by all. This was actually our second visit to Crieff – we made our first trip when Mr Tot was a mere 3 months old, so if you fancy discovering what it’s like to visit with a newborn then please click here.
Other highlights in Crieff worth mentioning include:-
Crieff Ceramic Experience – A popular destination for a family day of arts and crafts. The ideal spot on a rainy day for unleashing your artistic flare. www.theceramicexperience.com
Lady Mary’s Walk – Circular riverside walk (1.5 hours) – good for children. www.pkct.org/crieff-walks
The Crieff Food Company and McNee’s Delicatessen – Ideal for visitors on self-catering breaks, both have a wide range of local and homemade produce as well as an extensive choice of delicatessen products, all individually sourced by their teams. www.thecriefffoodco.co.uk & www.mcneesofcrieff.co.uk
Delivino – Child friendly Italian in elegant surroundings. www.delivino.co.uk
The Tower Gastropub – Family-friendly eaterie. www.thetowercrieff.com
The Square Bar & Kitchen – Child friendly dining option. www.squarebar.co.uk