It may have been an over-long winter, but at the start of May, a dash of sunshine has finally brought back the bright green colours of flourishing life. With the longer days also upon us, there is no better time to escape the cities for a dash of fresher, albeit pollen-filled, air.

As soon as clear skies and hot weather – by Scotland’s standards, of course – arrive, I feel the need to leave the confines of Glasgow. But in Scotland, you needn’t ever go far and in this case, there is less than an hour on the train until we reach our getaway destination – Auchterarder. On the day in early May when my partner and I headed to the Perthshire town, it is the first day of the year we had seen the mercury hit 20C.

You can rarely go wrong with a stay in a rural town on a day like that. After the train journey, we make our way to the Cairn Lodge where we were spending the night. Hidden behind tall pine trees, the picturesque hotel with its turret-style towers is a welcoming sight.

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Its location in the heart of rural Perthshire will appeal to both golfers, keen walkers and those just seeking a break from the city. Within minutes of arriving at the hotel, we are headed for the sun-trap of a beer garden that lies behind the building.

It is the type of terrace that would never see empty seating in any Scottish city on a “scorching” Saturday.

Surrounded by just the smell of pine trees and the chirps of garden birds, it would probably also be an unlikely find in a city. I could not picture a better place to sip a fresh, cool cocktail – especially if it is one of the Cairn Lodge’s fig daiquiris. We were staying in one of their signature rooms and we were greeted with a selection of chocolate-covered strawberries. A very sweet welcome, indeed.

The spacious room, while beautiful in many ways, had one key highlight in our minds – the bed.

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Goldilocks and the three bears famously teach us that that may be a matter of preference, but it was certainly the most restful sleep I have had in some while.

However, the point of a rural getaway is not so much the sleep but what the area has to offer during the day. Experienced golfers likely recognised the town name from the get-go as it is home to the well-visited Gleneagles Golf Course.

A stone’s-throw away from Cairn Lodge, there is also the Auchterarder Golf Course. While we may not be golfers ourselves, both courses do make for a lovely scenic walk, and they are not the only location on offer for a stroll through nature.

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When we walked through and around the gorse-covered golf course, the smell of coconut emanated through the air.

It is also worth keeping your eyes open for the many species of wildlife which make the area their home (not just for the flying golf balls).

Young deer and rabbits are thriving as much on the golf course as they are in the surrounding forests. The majority of our day was spent walking along the forested paths of Auchterarder.

Known also as the “Lang Toun” for its long-stretching High Street, the area does not disappoint for its walks.

If you are there with a car, many stunning hikes and walks are within your grasp, but even the town’s very own Provost Walk makes for a delightful afternoon. The river, which is shrouded by bright green trees, can be followed directly with a return route along the mile-and-a-half-long High Street.

Here once again we spied two young deer, a male and a female, just on the other side of the river from us.

At this time of year, the foliage is also filled with bird life and once we decided to take a break, we were serenaded by a skylark that had been climbing high into the sky. The long walk had helped build our appetites and by the time we returned to the hotel, we were prepared to experience Cairn Lodge’s Garden Room Restaurant.

It was named “Restaurant of the Year” at the Scottish Bar and Pub Awards in 2020 for its food and customer service, so our expectations were high and we weren’t disappointed. However it is worth noting that the accolade for customer service would suit across the board. 

The conservatory-style restaurant is bright and welcoming when the evening sunshine pours in, highlighting the roof-high canopy of the tree forming a centrepiece for the venue. The food highlights seasonal Scottish ingredients, with local produce taking a starring role but with twists inspired by different cuisines. For starters, we had Orkney scallops which came alongside an onion bhaji and curried cauliflower.

It was an unexpected take on the seafood treat, but the flavours remained balanced and allowed the scallops to shine. We also did not go wrong with the venison carpaccio, which was accompanied by wild garlic and parmesan.

For the main course, we both turned to the fish options. The halibut was tender and accompanied by a prawn wonton and a light honey and soy glaze. But the grilled sea bass stood out as the perfect refreshing dish for a spring day. It was served alongside a bed of orzo, grilled vegetables and dollops of a wild garlic-based sauce.

Cairn Lodge Hotel, Orchil Rd, Auchterarder PH3 1LX. Rooms start from £140 BB.
For more information, visit  Tel: 01764 661095