Highland Perthshire Holiday Homes

Local guidance and advice for the Aberfeldy area during the Coronavirus pandemic

The guidance below has been issued by the Visit Aberfeldy Tourism Group on 13th July 2020

BE SAFE
Keep up to date with current Scottish Government Guidelines.
Every person in Scotland must comply with these measures. Latest advice can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Safety is our first priority for the people who live and work in the local area, COVID-19 has not gone away. Although restrictions are easing, you will find that some facilities and businesses remain closed.

Please visit us only if you are willing to adhere to current Scottish Government Guidelines, try to cycle or walk within our local areas whenever possible.

Observe social distancing & cough etiquette both indoors and outdoors.
Visitors must refrain from travel or visiting facilities, tourism and hospitality services if you have symptoms of illness or if you are in the shielding group, or others in your household are unwell or symptomatic.

Please wear face-coverings in line with current Scottish Government Guidelines. As some people can have the virus but experience no symptoms (asymptomatic infection), wearing a face covering in an enclosed environment may help protect other people from catching the virus. Please always remember to carry a suitable bag to place your personal belongings onto and do not leave them lying on tables, counters etc.

Pay attention to and follow all instructions and advice that is provided by businesses and their staff – this is for your safety and that of other customers and staff.

Please ensure that you are considerate to staff that are providing guidance and advice, and abide by their instructions. Please be courteous and understand that staff are working in challenging circumstances.

BE AWARE
Please plan your visit in advance. Things to consider:
• whether and how you will avoid touching surfaces that others have touched and how you will practise good hygiene
• where physical distancing might be more difficult to follow, and how you will avoid or reduce the risk
• what additional things you may need to take with you, such as hand sanitiser, a bag for used tissues and a face covering

Please be prepared before you set off, some areas and facilities may be busy.
Different businesses will have their own set of practises to keep both visitors and staff safe.
If you are planning to visit local accommodation, visitor attractions, shops, restaurants, cafes or bars during your stay, please check their websites as many organisations are implementing special procedures for welcoming visitors during this time (eg: some are operating on-line, pre-booked ticketing systems only).

Please do all you can to protect each and every one of us.
Bear in mind that some people – for example those with sight loss, autism, learning disabilities, dementia or other communication or mobility needs – may find physical distancing rules more difficult to follow than others. Please be kind by giving way when you are out and about.

BE CONSIDERATE
Please be considerate to other visitors and the residents of our local communities. Follow latest Scottish Government Guidelines. Remember there will be queues at various shops and venues. Please be patient.

Remember your public access rights include you taking responsibility for your actions; please take extra care around farmland and community land. Keep dogs on leads and leave gates how you found them. If you touch gates, stiles etc. please use hand sanitiser both before and after contact.

We ask that you do not light open fires and if using disposable BBQ’s please do so in a responsible manner. Take all your litter and belongings home with you.
Aberfeldy and the Upper Tay Valley acknowledges people enjoy Wild Camping and the majority are responsible and considerate during their stay.
‘Dirty Campers’ are not welcome in Scotland – ‘Dirty Camping’ leaves behind hazardous items and a clean-up operation for our local residents. ‘Dirty Camping’ is disrespectful and will be reported to the Local Police.

Some of our glorious outdoor spaces will be busy, be prepared to move to another location if necessary. Planning your visit in advance should alleviate some of these issues.

Look out for the ‘We’re Good To Go’ logo (above) showing individual businesses are adhering to Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland Guidance, and have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment to check they have the required processes and protocols in place. For more details click Visit Scotland.


Ours is a land of superlatives: Perthshire’s highest mountain; Scotland’s longest river; and Europe’s oldest living thing. Offering all the best of Scotland in a nutshell, there is something for all ages and interests here whether you seek adventure, cultural stimulation, wildlife, or well-being.

First made famous by Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet, today Aberfeldy is Scotland’s first Fairtrade town and retailers and attractions throughout the area do their best to promote Fairtrade, organic and environmentally friendly products. Just six miles west of the town, Loch Tay is the largest loch in Perthshire, framed by majestic mountains and hillside farms and cottages. As well as being the popular playground of sailors and watersports enthusiasts, the loch is home to 18 ancient dwellings called crannogs. Nearby to the north, Glen Lyon is often described as the longest, loneliest, and loveliest glen in Scotland, and has a wonderfully mystical atmosphere.  Why not download our 24 page area guide?

We hope you enjoy exploring the area.  There is so much to do – you’ll need to return time and again to experience the best of what we offer!

So, welcome, and welcome back.

We are delighted to share this third piece in the series by Ally, one of our regular guests at Ben Lawers, Shoreside on Loch Tay.

Alexander Whytock o’ Blairgowrie

Blog #3

A favourite walk we enjoy begins and ends at Fearnan village, pivoting at the village of Fortingall. It is a five mile there and back again stroll with lovely scenery on the way.

Following the tarmacked road, we begin at the junction with the A827, taking in the westward view of Loch Tay. The village sits on a south facing slope, with the road winding its way upwards, following a gurgling burn, winding its way down to the loch.  On the northside of the burn there are scattered houses, with lovely gardens, a mix of wild and ornate landscapes. On the opposite side of the road other dwellings lay hidden behind high hedges, surrounded by small fields & pasture.

Advancing upwards, taking care of the occasional vehicle, we approach a row of cottages, one of which is an artist’s gallery. As the road levels we approach the outskirts of the village. To the right is a memorial to Russian and Czech aircrew who were killed during a training mission in 1943. Even though Fearnan is a relatively remote village, we’re reminded that world events do affect these tranquil retreats, yet serenity and tranquillity continue.

Leaving the village, we observe the silhouette of Scheihallion range to the north, with the ridges of Carn Gorm and Carn Mairg; to the west the outliers of the Ben Lawers range and to the east the gently wooded slopes leading to Drummon Hill. In the evening, with the sun to the west you can spot, with binoculars red deer on the far ridges; or to the immediate left and right, roe deer deftly shifting from copse to copse.

We pass various dwellings, some of which are splendidly outlaid with young orchards or landscaped woodland. To the right there is a view of the River Lyon, with evenly well grazed and tree lined embankments reaching down to the river. 

River Lyon
River Lyon

To cross the River Lyon there is a stone bridge. Parapets girded by iron straps, with the dark peaty waters flowing underneath through the arches.  This late July evening has a blue sky mottled with small rain clouds, creating shafts of sunlight to embellish the lush green banks and reflect chaotically of the river. Rain is expected.

River Lyon from the bridge
River Lyon from the bridge

After the crossing we continue to the junction with Glen Lyon. Fields of sheep, cattle and domesticated deer. Can a eye out for reindeer and in particular albino individuals. An interesting sight.

Looking towards Glen Lyon
View towards Glen Lyon

Approach Fortingall we realise that this is delightful village with thatched cottages on the left and long fields of hay rolling down to the river. Families play outdoors, fun and games with a bounty of warmth and joviality. The countryside is the place to recover, regroup and reconnect with ourselves, our friends and our family.

Fortingall Village
Fortingall Village

Arriving at Fortingall Hotel we order a welcoming refreshment. The hotel provides a range of beverages and foods, which can be consumed outside and enjoyed whilst sitting watching the evening roll by.

Fortingall Hotel
Fortingall Hotel

Next to the hotel is the church and within the church yard are two yew trees of immense age. Estimated to be between 2500 to 5000 years old, these trees are living testimonials to the annals of history. What stories they could tell of the visitors from late prehistoric, ;the bronze age, the Roman invasion and the history of Scotland through Dark Ages to now. As a request I plead that folks admire the tree from outside the fence and do not snip cuttings, tie things to the branches or break into the enclosure to sit for photographs. Within the church, which is normally open, a dropping from the tree can be purchased with a donation.

Fortingall Yew
The Fortingall Yew

After a relaxing drink we decide to head home, to Fearnan, our second home, retracing our steps. A fresh & warm evening rain falls, but the it doesn’t dampen our spirits. The air is warm and even though we a soaked, we’re in high spirits. I say second home because that’s how we feel. We relax, we chill, we laugh and sometimes we cry.  It is home.

Strolling with your loved one,

a companion, with whom there is serenity.

Moments of surprise, a hawk or a deer,

followed by whispered observation.

Joy with laughter, sharing a thought,

embracing a new idea with passion.

Walking, then talking, talking whilst walking,

stopping to look, to wonder and to remember.

Senses absorbing the evening world,

colours, smells and shapes of deep clarity.

Indelible memories, enshrined with love,

Cherishing, each new experience, memories that complete us.

We are delighted to share this second piece in the series by Ally, one of our regular guests at Ben Lawers, Shoreside on Loch Tay.

Alexander Whytock o’ Blairgowrie

Blog #2

I love a tranquil holiday. That wonderful feeling of awakening realisation that today is not a work day. A day with no big plans, no rush and being here at Loch Tay. I ease myself up the stairs, open the balcony door, and take in my first panorama of the day. I perceive the newness of unveiling morning scene, with colours and shapes of deep clarity, as if drawn for the first time.

I am drawn down to the loch. Here at Shoreside, there is a small pier, a timber jetty that slopes down into the waters. As I step onto it, the jetty takes me out, deeper and closer to the heart of this natural mirror. With a sense of being enveloped into something greater, at the end of the jetty I sit down, relaxed, void of all intrusive thoughts, just enjoying the brightening day. The jetty is made from strong wood, weathered by sun, water and wind; sometimes partly submerged by turbulent wintry waters, re-emerging, having strong foundations, recovered and refreshed. The jetty carries you to the heart of the matter, providing a portal towards private moments of refreshing joy and serenity.

Looking across the loch, the tips of the hills are defined by the light of the rising sun, lifting the veils weaved by the dawn mists that regularly drift through the hillside forests. As the air is gently warmed by the sun’s rising, the early morning stillness is stirred by the sound of distant cattle, making their way down, for their morning water. Resonating gently across the valley, the lowing of the cattle enhances a sense of remoteness, which is then contrasted by a sense of closeness as their deep voices echo and entwine with the gathering chirps and tweets, that ebbing and flowing of the morning bird chorus.

The stirring of the air is reflected by the stirring of the waters. On a summer’s morn, of little breeze, the loch will be flat calm, still and deep. Reflecting the hills, as a near perfect mirror, the gathering morning will gently wisp the waters into serene patterns. From stillness to a gentle ripple, the patterns will flow and ebb across the surface, stirring the reflection, complementing the lifting mists and the gathering dawn chorus.

For those mornings of light drizzle rain, warm humid air and still waters, the fish will rise, close to the shore, seeking what insects are caught in the tension of the surface or those that skate across or hover above. With a soft plop, the fish will feed, causing little ripples to grow and then fade into the expanse of the loch.

On a brisk, breezy morning, the surface undulates with wavelets, white tipped as the wind catches the water. The loch is active, the movement stirs the heart as the waters are stirred, wavelets rise and fall, obscuring perception of depth and reflection of the sky and surrounding hills.

Though all inspire, my favourite morning is the summer’s morning, late July to early August, when the coolness of the night gives way to the warmth of the day. Sitting on the jetty, pondering nothing but the joyful immersion, a great sense of being rises within me. The joy is to be within something greater, partly in a sentient way but mostly in a basic belonging to, without being a distinctive intruder of, this natural environment. I rejoice in this belonging without hubris or vanity.

Cherishing, each new experience as it comes, those little things: the young osprey learning to fish as a vigilant parent soars above; the aerial antics of swifts and swallows as they soar and dip across above water, competitively mirroring the skillful darting trout below the surface; and offshore, a family of huddling ducks and ducklings, wary of the intense eyes of a rock bound heron, a grey standing and silent sentinel.

With these experiences, from the end of this humble jetty, I am grateful to bear witness to the beauty of Loch Tay.

We are thrilled to share our first guest blog with you! Ally is one of our most loyal guests and we were so delighted to receive this first piece from him following a post we put up on our Facebook page on 25th February 2020. We are looking forward to seeing more from Ally over the coming months.

Fearnan by Loch Tay: My Place of Calm

Alexander Whytock o’ Blairgowrie

Blog #1 – An Introduction

Perthshire is truly the heart of Scotland. Textured by multi-hued fields, rolling hills, woodlands and forests of towering trees, deep valleys, bright lochs and majestic mountains, Perthshire presents a rich and luscious tapestry through which thread the great rivers and roads that provide the lifeblood of Scotland. As a Perthshire person, still living in Perthshire, I am obviously biased, yet having travelled the world and visited many fabulous cultures and epic places, my heart still yearns for Perthshire and in particular, Loch Tay, and to be specific Fearnan. I will admit that I am a relatively recent visitor to Loch Tay. In 2014, a work colleague posted on social media a photograph viewing from one of the Shoreside homes, Ben Lawers, looking onto and westerly along the loch. I was captivated and booked a summer week. Since then we have been recurring visitors, perhaps three times per year, allowing us to savour the changing seasons, captivated by the beauty, the wildlife and soothing recovery from the demands of modern life. Travelling from Blairgowrie to Dunkeld, you take in fields of raspberries, cereals and bright yellow Brassicaceae before crossing the Tay at Dunkeld; this won’t be the first crossing. Motoring up the A9 you experience the gradual change from Lowland to Highland Perthshire. Turning off at Ballinluig you must visit the Highland Chocolatier and taste some inspiring deliciousness. Following the Tay, which has now become a tumbling rumbling cascade, you approach Aberfeldy, allowing an opportunity for your passengers to savour a taste of uisge beatha or auqa vitae from Aberfeldy Distillery i.e. single malt whisky. Still travelling upstream, the road follows the twists and turns of the river, you arrive at Aberfeldy, an important town providing a place of refreshment and refuelling given at several eateries, taverns and inns, each of unique and individual characteristic matching a wide range of choice. Following the road straight through the town, you embark on the penultimate leg leading to Kenmore. The road, hugging the tree lined river, undulates and to the right provides glimpses of distant mountains and side valleys. Passing several farms and Victorian lodges you ascend and descend to the end of Loch Tay, having reached Kenmore. The glimpses become a glorious view of soft green hills Fearnan by Loch Tay: My Place of Calm Alexander Whytock o’ Blairgowrie Page 2 of 4 dipping into the dark yet reflective Loch Tay, all contextualised by the rising Ben Lawers range, and perhaps, at many times of the year, snow tipped, with a background of blue sky. Kenmore, a small village with a big heart, grew into a Victorian resort and spa, providing a relief for the weary Victorian traveller. Petite white terraced cottages pave the way to a splendidly welcoming village square, backing onto the start of the River Tay. Crossing a beautiful Wade Bridge, the gateway to the Loch, you begin the end of your journey, the last couple of miles to Fearnan. With tree lined hills to the right and the loch to the left, you again pass tree bordered windows onto the loch, until you arrive at Fearnan, where it is here you are presented with, in my humble opinion, one of the loveliest views in Scotland, looking out and west along Loch Tay. Here my heart begins to soar as I breath the air, smell the nature and hear the gentle lapping of the loch against the wooden pier. Here I find peace, rekindle my spirit and relax. A week of gentle contemplation, listening to the owls and spotting the Osprey.

At the beginning of May the owners of Saorsa invited Baxter, Katie and Laurie from Dog Friendly Perthshire to come and stay at their stunning 4 star house. They had a great time at the house and exploring the local area and wrote this wonderful blog about their experience. With their permission, we are sharing their blog below and have included a link to their new website where you can find out more about all the dog friendly businesses in Perthshire and also see the full version of the blog with all their great photos.

 

“It’s been a week since our stay at Saorsa in Kenmore and I think it’s fair to say we are all missing it!

Located a short walk from the banks of Loch Tay and Kenmore, it’s ideal for a dog friendly holiday. Surrounded by beautiful walks and not far from dog friendly restaurants, cafes and pubs you are spoiled for choice of the places you can visit with your dog.

Saorsa is a stunning new build close to the picturesque village of Kenmore. It’s beautifully decorated throughout with an open plan living and dining area. It also comfortably sleeps 6 with 3 double bedrooms (one bedroom can be turned into two singles) with the master bedroom having an ensuite. Saorsa has an upside down design with the living areas upstairs. It has the most amazing balcony with stunning views over to Loch Tay and the surrounding hills. The balcony was definitely Baxter’s favourite spot and he loved making the most of the beautiful weather by doing some sunbathing.

Dog Friendly cottages in Perthshire

Baxter from Dog Friendly Perthshire

Saorsa is also very dog friendly in terms of accommodation. It has a secure garden at the rear of the house which is always a bonus as a dog owner. Inside the house there are extra features such as doggy bowls, a coat peg to hang your dogs lead and a welcome box at the entrance which has a list of dog friendly eateries nearby and things such as towels, poo bags, biscuits and a spare lead in case you have forgotten to pack any essentials for your dog.

 

Baxter had a great time in the garden too! It was such a benefit to us knowing it was secure and he could run around with his ball and we needn’t worry he could wander off. We all had a great time enjoying the fabulous weather we were blessed with.

Saorsa has a fabulous modern kitchen so if you are wanting to do some cooking while you stay it has everything you could possibly need but we decided to head over to The Courtyard Bar & Brasserie in Kenmore which is about a 10 minute walk away. The Courtyard Bar loves welcoming dogs and has a great doggy station where you can help yourself to a blanket, a bowl of water and biscuits for your dog. Baxter was extremely happy with this so while he was chilling on his blanket we were able to tuck into a couple of delicious burgers. The portions are great and I struggled to finish mine but I still found room to manage dessert, I highly recommend trying the creme brulee!

 

We also discovered the nearby Highland Safaris which has a great dog friendly cafe and gift shop. The staff are so friendly and welcoming and Baxter was pleased he got to say hello to the resident black labrador Tia. They also have lots of fab walks nearby to explore with your dog and you can also try panning for gold! Baxter says he is going to try panning for gold next time he visits so he can buy a lifetime’s supply of gravy bones.

We also had a quick visit into Aberfeldy where we visited The Fountain Bar & Restaurant, Aberfeldy Pet Shop (where Baxter picked up his favourite sausage treat) and had a walk around the Birks Of Aberfeldy which is a superb walk. We were disappointed not to be able to visit Habitat Cafe on this trip as it has an excellent reputation for welcoming dogs (check out their instagram Dogs Of Habitat Cafe) so it’s on the top of our list of places we must visit next!

Saorsa Holiday cottage is the most perfect place for a dog friendly holiday. It ticks all the boxes you could want for going away with your dog whether it’s for a long weekend or a week or two. We were made so welcome and felt completely relaxed at Saorsa which after a very hectic few months is exactly what we needed. Seeing your dog just as relaxed and at home as you shows that Saorsa have nailed it in terms of being dog friendly.

We would happily stay time and time again and so would Baxter. He gives it a big paws up and a waggy tail so it definitely gets our approval too. He is still day dreaming of his favourite spot on the balcony, it’s going to be difficult to top that!

If you would like to book a stay at Saorsa then please contact Highland Perthshire Holiday Homes. If you quote Baxter 2018 then you will get 10% off your stay!”

http://www.dogfriendlyperthshire.co.uk/saorsa-holiday-cottage-and-kenmore/

Highland Perthshire Holiday Homes

My faithful companion Millie

 

One of my very favourite things to do when I have any spare time is walking, preferably with my wee dog Millie who is a very small Lhasa Apso.

I live just a couple of miles outside of Aberfeldy so there are lots of great walking options in this beautiful area. One of my favourite walks is Kenmore Hill which is accessed from the Glen Quaich road in Kenmore. There is a car park there and a selection of marked walks you can follow. If you head up the hill, the view from the Cairn at the top is stunning. You are looking down on to Kenmore village and along Loch Tay with its back drop of Ben Lawers.

As you walk along, you may be lucky enough to hear Black Grouse calling and you can also see deer and various birds and other wildlife. It is not a hard walk and the paths are good so do give it a try sometime.

There are so many wonderful walks in this stunning part of Highland Perthshire and the Visit Aberfeldy website is an excellent resource if you are looking to explore the area http://www.visitaberfeldy.co.uk/aberfeldy-walks Some of my other regular walks are Drummond Hill in Kenmore, the old railway path from Aberfeldy to Grandtully and Weem Rock. I would say that all of these make good family walks as they are not too difficult.

So, as the weather starts to improve and the daylight hours extend, why not try and get out and enjoy one of these lovely walks next time you visit.

self catering accommodation on Loch Tay Perthshire

Kenmore village taken from Kenmore Hill

holiday lettings in Perthshire

Loch Tay taken from Kenmore Hill

Here are our TOP 10 things to do for kids, in and around Aberfeldy and Kenmore area

  1. Go to Highland Safaris and try panning for gold, feeding the deer or some mountain biking https://www.highlandsafaris.net/
  2. Visit the Scottish Crannog Centre on Loch Tay http://www.crannog.co.uk/
  3. Go for a swim at the Breadalbane Community Campus http://www.breadalbane.pkc.sch.uk/BCC/leisure-timetables/
  4. Visit the Birks Cinema on a Saturday morning for the “Little Birks” screening of the latest movie http://www.birkscinema.co.uk/
  5. Go to the play park in Victoria Park in Aberfeldy
  6. Feed the ducks by the Black Watch Memorial in Aberfeldy on the River Tay at Wades Bridge or in Kenmore at the rear of the Kenmore Hotel
  7. Go for a cycle through the grounds of Taymouth Castle in Kenmore
  1. Book a session with the Wee Adventurers who offer lots of outdoor fun and activities for kids https://www.weeadventures.com/
  2. Take Mum and Dad for a walk along the banks of the River Tay anywhere between Kenmore and Grandtully and keep any eye out for otters, beavers, jumping salmon, ducks, Dippers and lots of other birds and wildlife
  3. Have an ice cream from the Courtyard Deli in Kenmore

Have Fun!

Kids having lots of fun with Wee Adventures

Here is our list of the Top 20 Things to do in the Aberfeldy and Kenmore area.

  1. Take a Highland Land Rover Safari https://www.highlandsafaris.net/
  2. Have lunch at the Taymouth Marina Restaurant on a sunny day and sit outside overlooking the Loch http://taymouthmarinarestaurant.co.uk/
  3. Walk up Drummond Hill and take in the view of Kenmore from the view point http://www.visitaberfeldy.co.uk/aberfeldy-walks/180-Black-Rock-Drummond-Hill
  4. Have a picnic on the beach at Kenmore and go for a paddle or a swim http://www.highlandperthshire.org/all-places-by-area/all-places-by-area-all-aber/1347-The-Beach-at-Kenmore
  5. Visit the Aberfeldy Watermill Bookshop, Gallery and café. Have a browse and then enjoy a great coffee and some delicious cake http://www.aberfeldywatermill.com/
  6. Visit the Birks Cinema. See the latest movie, have a coffee or enjoy a glass of wine http://www.birkscinema.co.uk/
  7. Visit Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery. Take a tour of the distillery and enjoy a wee dram https://www.dewars.com/gl/en/aberfeldydistillery/
  8. Have a Spa Signature massage at Ultimate Serenity in Aberfeldy – Absolute bliss! http://www.ultimateserenity.com/
  9. Hire a boat on Loch Tay and take a run down towards Killin. Stunning scenery from a whole new perspective. http://www.loch-tay.co.uk/
  10. Take a drive through Glen Lyon; Scotland longest and loveliest glen http://www.visitaberfeldy.co.uk/34-explore/87-glen-lyon-tour
  11. Bag a Munro (if you have the stamina!) Try Ben Lawers or Schiehallion http://www.visitaberfeldy.co.uk/component/sobipro/203-Ben-Lawers?Itemid=0
  12. Go white water rafting (if you are brave enough!) https://rafting.co.uk
  13. Go for a Sunday Carvery Lunch at the Aileen Chraggan in Weem http://www.chraggs.co.uk/
  14. Visit the Highland Chocolatier at Grandtully. Amazing chocolate, great gift shop and an excellent café https://www.highlandchocolatier.com/
  15. Do some shopping at Spirit of Wood. They sell some lovely gifts and home décor items as well as fabulous furniture. http://spiritofwood.uk/
  16. Take a walk up the Birks of Aberfeldy to see the beautiful falls http://www.visitaberfeldy.co.uk/aberfeldy-walks/161-The-Birks-of-Aberfeldy
  17. Go for a Loch Tay Safari and learn about the history of Perthshire’s largest Loch and see some of the local wildlife http://www.lochtaysafaris.net/
  18. Do a Bungie Jump with the Highland Fling! https://www.bungeejumpscotland.co.uk/
  19. Visit the beautiful Cluny Gardens http://www.clunyhousegardens.com/
  20. Take a drive to Queens View https://www.pitlochry.org/outdoors/queens-view.html

    Kenmore Loch Tay holiday cottages

    Kenmore

In today’s world of Social Media and everything being done digitally and online, I wonder how many people really understand how big companies such as Trip Advisor and Holiday Lettings (one in the same!) and Owners Direct and HomeAway (again, one in the same!) work. I find it more and more frustrating as a small holiday cottage booking agent, to compete with these big global companies but I think if people understood how they work, they may think twice about using them and instead, support the small, hardworking independent company.

For example, you may have left a review on Trip Advisor for a holiday cottage that you stayed in recently but did you know, that in order to receive reviews, a holiday cottage owner has to pay to have an entry on the Trip Advisor site? It costs £350+vat pa to have an entry but in spite of paying that amount, if you do not opt to let Trip Advisor take your bookings for you and pay them commission/booking fees, they push you down the search results.

So, as a potential guest, you may think you are seeing the best houses listed at the top of your search results but in fact, you could be missing some really great houses, just because Trip Advisor’s objective is profit, rather than giving you the best service and objective search results.

Owners Direct work in a similar way, charging owners in the region of £300 pa but still pushing a property down the search results if the owner has not opted to use their booking service. In addition, they charge the guest a service fee. I often get Reservation Requests from guests via Owners Direct and can see that the service charge is often in the region of £100 or more. If I do not accept the request, I often get an email from the guest asking if I will refund their money as this payment is charged via their credit card details at the time of placing the request. When I go back to them and explain that the charge is nothing to do with me and was taken by Owners Direct, they are usually very surprised to hear this as they had no idea how the system works. In addition to this, in relation to a reservation request, Owners Direct will not give me any of the guests details and if I reply to an email giving a link to my own website for booking or my contact details, Owners Direct delete it before the email reaches the guest. All correspondence has to be done through the Owners Direct mail system so they control the contact and ensure no direct contact between me and the guest until the booking is paid for and confirmed by Owners Direct. Whilst a guest can just send me a general enquiry, the same set up applies in that I cannot provide a link to my website in my reply email as the Owner’s Direct mail system will delete it.

Obviously, this is how big business works and that’s just the way of the world which is fine, but how many people actually understand this and would they still use these companies if they knew all the facts. We all understand that all companies, big and small are ultimately in business to make money and its up to each business to make itself stand out in order to attract customers. Clearly big global corporations like Trip Advisor have huge marketing machines and massive budgets to do this and they are incredibly successful.

However, from a guests point of view, what you want is value for money and the knowledge that you will receive good customer service and the property you book will at the very least, live up to your expectations. In my opinion, this is where small companies such as ourselves have the edge. If a guests calls us for a chat about the property they are thinking of booking, as often happens, they will find themselves speaking to myself, someone who has set up the majority of our houses and knows each one inside and out. I can probably even tell you how many teaspoons there are! Have you ever tried to call Trip Advisor for a chat like that??

Nowadays, everyone looks at reviews before they book anything. This is a great way to get objective feedback from previous guests about a property you are considering booking. Trip Advisor is of course the most commonly used platform for this but did you know that there are other companies who provide review services? Here at Highland Perthshire Holiday Homes, we have recently started using a company called UpFront Reviews. They are completely independent and at our request, they contact each of our guests after their departure and ask them to complete a very short scoring questionnaire and give any additional comments they wish to make. The results then automatically appear on our website and as well as giving a score for each individual property, it also provides an overall score for us as a company, something that Trip Advisor does not do as it does not connect each of our properties on their site, with us as a booking agent.

When I find myself chatting with friends or family about this subject, more often than not, they are very surprised and frankly a little shocked. Most have no idea about how much we have to pay to appear on Trip Advisor in order to receive reviews. Even friends who have booked with Owners Direct in the past had no idea that the Service Fee they paid went to Owners Direct and not the owner of the house they were booking. It is so easy to just listen to all the hype and go along with the crowd without ever questioning things isn’t it?

So, here is an idea! Next time you are browsing a website like Trip Advisor or Owners Direct, why not Google the name of the house you are considering and see if the owner has their own website or if they also appear on a site such as ours – a small locally based agent. If they do, why not book direct and get a more personal service from someone who cares about and supports local tourism and takes a pride in ensuring your holiday accommodation exceeds your expectations. You will probably save some money too!

I hope this gives you some food for thought and helps you make a more informed decision when deciding how to go about booking your next self-catering holiday!

When you start looking for a cottage to book for your next holiday in Scotland, do you know what to expect from a 4 star cottage? Whilst you know that if a house has 4 stars, it should be of a high standard, do you know what the criteria is in order to attain a 4 star grading from Visit Scotland (The Scottish Tourist board)? You might be a little surprised to know the standards that a holiday home owner has to meet in order to attain that grading.

For example, all furniture has to be of a solid wood construction, preferably with dovetail joints! The china must be of a high quality with a name such as Denby or Maxwell and Williams. You must provide everything a guest may need to lay a dining table for a formal dinner party – i.e. all matching china, glasses and cutlery, quality matching serving dishes. Everything you can think of, right down to the butter dish and egg cups must be provided. Pots and pans must again be of a high standard with names such as Stella or Prestige being expected. A good selection of baking trays and roasting tins along with everything you may need to do some home baking should also be available.

As you would expect, bedrooms must have good quality beds and mattresses as well as linen and towels. In addition, there must be both drawer and hanging space for clothes and a surface to be used as a dressing table which must have a mirror and lamp and be near a socket for a hair dryer. Sofa beds are not acceptable – a proper bed must be provided for each guest.

Living rooms must have comfortable seating for the number of guests that a house sleeps and similarly, dining tables must have enough space and chairs.

When a house is inspected, there are a number of areas looked at. These are:

In each of the internal areas, inspectors look at:

In addition, they look at Beds, Linen, Crockery and Glassware, Kitchen equipment, Appliances etc etc. The list is extensive to say the least.

After the initial inspection to determine if a house reaches the standard for the 4 star award, it is then inspected biannually to ensure the standards are being maintained. These follow up visits used to be done annually but Visit Scotland recently changed their system.

It goes without saying that cleanliness is massively important and something we take very seriously. Visit Scotland include this aspect in their inspection and give a mark out of 10 for the property as a whole. For a 4 star grading you need to score 8/9 out of 10. I am very proud to say that we consistently score 10/10 for all of our houses.

Anyone used to booking 4 star properties in England and Wales may be surprised to see how much higher the standards can be for the same star rating in Scotland. This is because the grading systems and requirements are very different and much higher in Scotland. In fact, Visit Scotland now sell their grading system to many countries, as it is recognised as being one of the best in the world.

Whilst this may sound like a huge undertaking from an owners point of view, the great thing is that a guest has the reassurance of knowing what they can expect and can be confident that a house that has been graded as 4 star by Visit Scotland will live up to their expectations.

We get so many wonderful comments from our guests who regularly tell us that the property they have stayed in has actually exceeded their expectations and this is ultimately what we are always aiming to do and why we work so closely with our owners to maintain standards and keep everything in tip top condition.