We are hunting for little gems; sifting through the muddy waters for anything that sparkles and shines. Amethysts, rose quartz and fools gold, they’re all there. The children love rummaging through the cold murky trough for their pieces of treasure, in fact our oldest is so absorbed by it, an hour goes by and she hasn’t even looked up. Her fingers are beginning to prune but she’s loving every minute of it.
We’re gold panning in Aberfeldy; and would you believe it but Highland Perthshire is rich with Gold deposits? And nearby on the banks and hills of Loch Tay, there’s copper and silver and at Loch Rannoch, you can find Garnet, Mica and Quartz.
But Highland Safaris – who have installed a gold-panning flume next to their lodge – have taken all the hard work out of it and promise that with every bucket of sandy earth comes a good handful of gems. You just have to find them and our tribe is not disappointed. They are all given little bags which are soon bursting with precious stones; our eldest is so enthralled, she takes the others’ buckets once they are done, to make sure nothing is missed.
Once the children finish panning; there’s a play area and nature discovery garden to run around in; the farm shop is loaded with goodies and if you’re looking for souvenirs in the gift shop, it won’t be long before you’re hungry as the wafting smells from the restaurant are impossible to resist.
Do book though if you want to eat in the jam-packed little café, especially if you have a small child. We haven’t, so we meander over to Kenmore and head for the Courtyard Restaurant on the Mains of Taymouth Estate and despite hurricane-type conditions, are able to eat outside under giant umbrellas much to the delight of the little ones. We decide to walk round to the stables at the back of the estate to find out about pony trekking. It’s booked well in advance; so again make sure you’re organised and phone ahead to avoid disappointment.
We’re staying in a garden cottage at Moness House Hotel & Country Club, Aberfeldy, for seven days, and so manage to squeeze in a trek for the two oldest children later on that week. Our home-from-home cottage is set in 35 acres of beautiful countryside, in the heart of this picturesque region and provides us with an ideal base from which to explore.
On the estate, there’s a hotel, which has recently undergone a full refurbishment and has 26 rooms, made up of family suites, doubles, twins and singles plus a separate leisure complex, which has a pool.
If you have small children, who are up at the crack of dawn every day; you will already know the value of a pool on site. It’s the only activity that has to be done every day and when you have Scottish weather; going to the warmth of the indoor pool when it’s raining outside is just a godsend.
And because the self-catering cottages on the estate are technically attached to the hotel, you can order food from the hotel café and take it ‘home’ with you. This is a smart idea for tired mums everywhere who normally just swap their kitchen for the holiday home’s kitchen when they’re on a self-catering holiday.
Later on that week, we decide to take a boat ride and hire a boat with an engine – it’s in between a small fishing boat and a speed boat, at Loch Tay Boating Centre. Bubble-wrapped in life-jackets, the children excitedly make their way down the wobbly floating jetty. The instructor gives us a two-minute ‘how-to-operate-the-boat’ instruction and then lets us loose on the loch, and despite firing many questions about rescue vessels and asking him – mobile in hand – to stay near his phone should we need assistance, he just smiles and reassuringly says we will be fine..
My over-zealous fears of capsizing are totally groundless; as our boat – though a little worse for wear in places – provides us with a day to remember.
We take off and just as we leave the jetty, the sun comes out; making the dark loch sparkle and glisten. The water is calm and there are only a handful of other would-be ‘sailors’ out here too. The children shriek and hoot as the little boat begins to build up speed and even our toddler settles into the leisurely pace we’re coasting along at.
Of course, we all have shots driving the boat – albeit very slowly and in circles for the most part but it’s great fun and if you look around most of the other boats are keeping a safe distance and are making ever-decreasing circles in the waves too.
It’s not long before we have been ‘sailing’ for half an hour and it’s time to make our way back. You can book a boat for a day and even overnight, which would probably suit a larger party of adults.
But this really is a must if you’re holidaying in this neck of the woods. It’s safe, relaxing and suitable for all the family. We got our boat for just £30 for the hour; which was well worth it, especially for the children.
It was perfect for our stage of family; but for the more adventurous, there are also things like white water rafting, canyoning and sphering on every corner here in Aberfeldy and Kenmore. Nae Limits, Freespirit and Activ-8 are all reputable firms. Again it’s best to book your activity before you go.
Once on dry land we head to the Kenmore Hotel – Scotland’s oldest inn – for supper; and bask in the warm evening sunshine in the glass restaurant at the back of the hotel. The menu is great value for money and suitable for children too; offering good quality meals for everyone.
The next day, the children go pony trekking; and are taken a short walk through the woods by the side of the loch on the Mains of Taymouth estate; they plod along as part of a larger group; led on reigns which is perfect for the little ones. And just like that our time is up here in beautiful Highland Perthshire; we’ve loved every minute of it and feel we’ve only scratched the surface of what there is do here. We’ll be back when the season changes safe in the knowledge that there’s even more to discover.
Moness self-catering accommodation:
There is a selection of luxury one, two and three bedroom self-catering cottages, many with views overlooking the magnificent Aberfeldy Hills. Fully equipped and furnished , these cottages have attained Scottish Tourist Board 4 star grading and RCI Gold Crown Award. Self-catering cottages around £700; based on a family of six for the October break. 0845 330 2838 for bookings or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Gold and Gem Panning flume is open daily from mid March until the first week in November – call 01887 820071; from Highland Safaris, Aberfeldy Perthshire PH15 2JQ T: 01887 820071; email@example.com www.highlandsafaris.net Ask for a Safari pass; filled with lots of discounts on local attractions.
Loch Tay Boating Centre: 01887 830291; Mob : 07770 822849; firstname.lastname@example.org