WE had missed tennis champion Andy Murray’s visit to his home town by a week. But the celebrations were still ongoing in the beautiful town of Dunblane.
The Scottish town was made “famous’’ in 1996 when gunman Thomas Hamilton killed 16 children and their teacher in a senseless massacre.
But 16 years later, the scars have healed well and this lovely spot has plenty to cheer about. Around 20,000 people lined the streets of this small town to welcome home their favourite son and celebrate his win in the US Open and Olympics.
Seven days later and Kenny, Ruaridh (five), Flora (two) and I were in town for a short break at the majestic DunblaneHydro. Perched on top of a hill, this impressive hotel looks down onto the town which is still covered in Murray bunting and full of tourists wanting their photograph taking beside the gold post box painted to mark the Olympic win.
The Hydro is set in 10 acres of landscaped grounds and was given a multi-million pound makeover by Hilton. This Victorian style building boasts 200 rooms and suites which are spacious, well furnished and offer luxuries of LCD televisions and Internet access, as well as the top of the range toiletries from Crabtree and Evelyn.
It’s a popular spot for weddings and weekend breaks and its not hard to see why. You are greeted on arrival with double chocolate chip cookies to take the edge off the trip and the neighbouring leisure facilities give you a chance to unwind in the pool, sauna, steam room and bubble pool.
Dinner is served in the tastefully decorated Kailyard Restaurant, with celebrity chef Nick Nairn and his team of chefs providing top notch cuisine. Tarbet crab and coley fishcakes with an Asian slaw and coriander and sweet chilli sauce were given the thumbs up by Kenny and I loved the classic cocktail of brown shrimps, Loch Duart smoked salmon and a Hass avocado and cocktail sauce. A beautifully cooked rib eye steak and all the trimmings was enjoyed by Kenny, while I tucked into mock fish served with a warm orange Jacqueline sauce and vegetables and we found a bit of room to share a trio of cheeses, featuring Dunsyere Blue, Cornish Brie and Mull of Kintyre cheddar, all washed down with a nice bottle of South African pinotage.
Breakfast proved to be a feast too, with cold meats and fresh fruit and juice vying for your attention alongside a full cooked Scottish breakfast including the lovely haggis and black pudding. This certainly set us up for the day and we needed it, as we set off for some fun at neighbouring Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park.
Set in stunning countryside, the park is a hit with young and old alike. We had great fun spotting the lions and tigers as we drove around the park, the elephants, rhinos and giraffes could be seen closer up via viewing platforms and there are shows to see the birds of prey and sealions. You can take a trip to chimp island via a boat and once you have had enough of the animals, there is a pirate ship, fort and fun fair for the children to enjoy.
There are picnic and barbecue areas to allow you to stay all day and you will need to stay, as there are plenty of opportunities to feed friendly animals such as goats and horses and go wild on a special fun slide and zip wire. There are always new additions to meet and Ruaridh and Flora were particularly fascinated by the meerkats and marmosets.
The area is home to lots more attractions from the William Wallace Monument to Stirling Castle and is close to Glasgow and Edinburgh, meaning you can enjoy traditional Scottish hospitality not too far away from the Lancashire doorstep.
• Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park, Stirling. Log onto www.blairdrummond.com