I love self-catering especially if it is somewhere scenic with lots of great local produce close on hand. Balbinny in often ignored Angus definitely ticks both of these boxes and many more besides, as I discovered when I took my young family up there for a memorable weekend.
Great First Impressions
First impressions count with self-catering. Balbinny was a winner on this front as we drove in by their swimming pool and spa complex, which enjoys the same sweeping views of the nearby Angus Glens as the trio of luxury steadings and seriously cool brace of broch-style stone-walled and grass-roofed abodes that have more recently opened.
Our broch was Lethnot. We loved the underfloor heating that they had installed throughout and the cosy wood burning stove. As a family we also appreciated the open plan dining and living area. It was full of fun touches too like a funky hairy Highland Cow footstool and a hidden cutlery drawer. Best of all were the epic views out across the wild expanse of the Angus Glens, which for me is a seriously underrated corner of Scotland.
Superb Local Produce
Angus these days is renowned for its superb local produce. I have long rated its soft fruits as highly as those from more renowned Perthshire. I didn’t know (until this trip) that the world famous Aberdeen Angus beef was the brainchild of a local Angus farmer! We’d arranged for a box of foodie goodies to be delivered from Fresh Food Express. In it were beautiful ribeye steaks and that most famous of Angus delicacies, gloriously tasty Arbroath Smokies.
Another treat was soup in a bag from Gather. No, not the often tasteless supermarket stuff you reheat. Oh no, here we had a recipe on the bag and inside were an onion, turnip, carrots, potatoes, vegetable stock and honey. I popped off for a relaxing massage in the spa, and on my return was impressed to find my girls (and their mummy) had conjured up the delicious soup. We went on to cook the rest of the goodies together in our designer kitchen.
Exploring the Angus Glens
We were tempted to spend all weekend tucked away in our cosy abode. We made the effort, though, to explore and were glad we did. In Kirriemuir we enjoyed a wander around the wee independent shops. I loved the old fashioned sweetie shop, the chocolatier and the proper butcher and baker. At the latter we snared a couple of those giant Forfar Bridies that Angus is famous for.
Pushing on into the Angus Glens proper signs of life slipped away and in their place the hills crowed all around. In place of people we had new companions as we went on a ‘wildlife safari’ as my girls enjoyed ticking off a list of red squirrels, buzzards, pheasants, grouse and even the mighty red deer, the largest land mammal in the British Isles.
The Angus Glens may often feel remote and wild, making them brilliant for walking (I love the scenic hike up Corrie Fee in particular), but they also have great places to eat and drink. On this trip we checked out Peel Farm, an old timer of the farm shop and café scene that has been around decades longer than most of the new operators. We tucked into their homemade soup and homebaking, before letting the kids loose in their craft shop and for a duck feeding session in their pond.
Peel Farm has plenty to offer grown-ups too. As well as the aforementioned craft shop they also have a craft gin distillery, the Gin Bothy. What sets them apart from many of the swathe of new small-scale gin producers across Scotland is that they actually distil the spirit on site. They then flavour and colour it with a range of natural ingredients, which opens up a lot more mixer possibilities than just tonic. The raspberry gin with prosecco caught my attention!
Balbinny Walking Trail
The next morning, I was glad I hadn’t made a dent into the Gunshot Gin we’d picked up at Peel Farm. I set out on the walking trail recommended by Balbinny, which takes in some of the surrounding countryside. I enjoyed the distant views of the higher hills of the Angus Glens, as I rambled alongside burns and across farmers’ fields. The highlight was coming across the legendary local Pictish Stones.
All too soon our weekend was over and it was time to turn tail away from the brooding glens. If you’re looking for an unusual escape in a criminally undiscovered scenic corner of Scotland, as well as bit of self-catering luxury, I thoroughly recommend you head to foodie Angus and the welcome embrace of Balbinny.
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