Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Sledging at Little Briar Holiday Cottage in Perthshire

Our guests have been sledging! Little Briar's Christmas week guests welcomed the snow around the cottage. The family made good use of our circular sledge which usually lies in the hut. This week our New Year couple invited friends to join them and they used the sledge like a snow board, standing all the way. Very impressive! Fraser could not resist having a go too and spun around a little out of control but landed safely. Our neighbours son is a keen and talented snowboarder so we have invited him along to show us a trick or two with a real board.

The above 2 photos are by kind permission of guest Ruth Langdon.

I have not spotted any snow people on the grounds yet. I might have to build one or two myself before everything melts, though the cold spell is promising to keep the landscape looking white and gorgeous for a bit longer and into 2010. I am not sure if the local stags enjoy this weather but they do look magnificent with snow in the background. The roads up here have been terrific. Our gritters appear to be on the road at the slightest rumour of snow or ice. So we have been enjoying the snow in our gardens but have not been hindered on the roads travelling in and out of the surrounding villages and towns.

We are now looking forward to the New Year bash in the Lochearnhead village hall. New Year guests who are currently in our Perthshire cottage are given complimentary tickets to the village dance. We invite them to join us for an end of year drink in our lounge before we walk along together to the hall. We have just re-instated a real fire in our lounge which gives additional character to the 300 year old ex byre with its stone walls, thatched roof and cruck timber ceiling. We will be dancing in the village hall to the sounds of The Session. The three piece band were excellent last year starting with songs from the 1950's and working their way through the decades to the bells. Lochearnhead villagers do make visitors and guests feel very welcome.


A big thank you to everyone who visited Little Briar Cottage during 2009. I know that we will be seeing a few of you again in 2010 and we also look forward to meeting and greeting new visitors.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Choose a Holiday Cottage in Scotland in "The Loch District"


The Lake district is a magical spot but you have to stay in a holiday cottage in Scotland to experience the wonders of the "Loch District". There are over 31000 lochs and lochans (small inland loch) in Scotland. Yes really! You can ask Lochearnhead's resident sea plane pilot who has landed on many of them. There is only one freshwater Lake in Scotland. The Lake of Menteith. Many lochs boast individual records like Loch Ness (most volume) and Loch Awe (longest). As far as I know Loch Ness is the deepest if you record average depth but Loch Morar is said to be deeper (310 metres) at its deepest point. Its a good one for "Who wants to be a millionaire" .

Our south facing holiday cottage, Little Briar, boasts the most stunning views over Loch Earn. The loch garden is 250ft long and one of the best vantage points in the village to observe water skiiers, ospreys, fishermen, otters, ducks, swans, the sea plane and other interesting "creatures". Guests can fish for trout in season -March 15th to October 6th. Loch Earn is 6.5 miles long with 2 visible remnants of Crannogs (ancient Pictish dwellings). Loch Lubnaig is just down the road about 4 miles and Loch Voil, Loch Venacher, Loch Katrine, Loch Tay and others are within easy reach. Guests who enjoy space and the outdoors tell me that they can often enjoy mountains and Munro's all to themselves in this region where Perthshire and the Highlands meet in central Scotland. They are spoilt for choice too. Our own self catering cottage in Scotland sits across from Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin, with the Braes of Balquhidder, Ben Ledi and Ben Lawers nearby.

You have to be ready with your camera at all times to capture the mist banks, sunrise, sunset, full moon, rainbows and the everchanging colours and textures of the forest, mountains, sky and wildlife surrounding Loch Earn. I am delighted to show a real photographers work at last. Thomas caught all of the images shown on this blog early one morning and has kindly allowed me to show them off. He was on his way north heading for Skye when we met him. If you wish to see more of his photographs en route including other shots of Lochearnhead visit http://indafoto.hu/utasguszti/collections. Thanks Thomas. You are welcome to visit and take photos here any time.



Saturday, 17 October 2009

Video around Little Briar, a self catering holiday cottage with a view in Lochearnhead, Scotland

Previous guests of Little Briar Cottage in Scotland will appreciate that a video may not represent the true smells, sounds and sights that you experience when you arrive for your first self catering holiday here. We are delighted that many of you keep coming back to Loch Earn and the surrounding scenery in Lochearnhead and Perthshire, which rarely looks the same two days in a row. Whether it is the various hues of the seasons or the texture and wind direction of the water, snow, sunlight or mist; each day holds its own surprises. The photo above was taken from the Loch garden on October 16th when the water was calm and the sky was textured.


October has been gloriously sunny with temperatures reaching 18 degrees though it was frosty this morning. We woke up to the sun shining down on mist that was rising mysteriously from the Loch and a pair of swans swimming near our jetty. The trees are changing every day showing off their red, russet and gold leaves amongst the evergreens. Even visiting Canadians were impressed with the beauty of Perthshires Autumn trees.

I have taken a video on my faithful Kodak Easyshare from the holiday cottage terrace to give you a glimpse of the magnificence of the setting but you have to come and breath the air, hear the birds and feel your blood pressure drop to really appreciate what the surroundings have to offer.

Click on the image below.

video

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Photography heaven holidays thanks to digital cameras, photo editors and the magic of Loch Earn


Interested in photography? Then you might enjoy a self catering week or short break in Little Briar holiday cottage on the banks of Loch Earn. I have an artistic eye but am no Ansell Adams. Every 10th photo is a winner around here though (unless friends and colleagues are humouring me.) Probably more to do with the magic and surroundings of Loch Earn, my Kodak digital camera and Photoshop than any gift. I have uploaded a few images to Picasa, Blogger.com, Trip advisor and Flickr some used for Google Earth, Google Maps and Maplandia.com so that I can share my pictures with the world.

We have had one or two guests painting the landscape in water colour but I would love to see what a real photographer could do around here. (No offence to previous camera wielding guests). This week we caught a photographer from Edinburgh with his tripod and a grown up camera poised on our jetty at 7am. He was compelled to click at the sunrise approaching from the St Fillans end of Loch Earn. We understood. If he had stopped to ask our permission he would have missed the shot. You have to be ready around here. Only last week I captured a black mink. It popped its head up from the rocks on our garden shore line. I also caught a pheasant feeding on grubs on the sloping lawn between Briar and Little Briar cottage.

In addition to the ever changing moods and colours of Loch Earn, Edinample Castle and Glen Ample there are opportunities to capture osprey, otters, red squirrels, Canadian geese, swans, mallards (close up if you have food) as well as Neil’s red sea plane taking off and landing, water-skiers, wake boarders jumping, fisherman, yachts, canoes, swimmers, rainbows, paragliders, RAF aircraft, butterflies, bees and the deer that come into our paddock in the winter. So if you are a professional photographer there is plenty of material to capture all year round. If you are clueless about photography like me but like having a go, you might actually surprise yourself with the subjects that nature provides around here.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

New York Marathon Competitor versus Wedding Day Planner



Running the New York marathon is surely similar to organising a Scottish wedding on the grounds of your property. There is the all year preparation, tremendous reward on the day and you are thoroughly exhausted with aching feet when it’s all over. That’s how Fraser and I felt after his daughters wedding on the grounds of our old thatched cottage in Lochearnhead on August 15. It was a magnificent set up with a marquee on the 250 foot garden on Loch Earn. Angela commandeered our holiday cottage, Little Briar, and was able to admire the stunning views from her vantage point and keep an eye on us all flapping about getting things ready. The cottage turned out to be a perfect honeymoon suite for Angela and her husband Steven too.


Their wedding cake was built on site by MHOR bread from Callander who sent a couple to place the sugar roses on by hand and to make the leaves. It was not only a stunning work of art, it tasted magnificent too with carrot cake on the bottom then chocolate, then lemon, then a plain sponge with sugar thistles and roses on top.





Town and Country Catering provided the food impressing guests with canapés, a first class meal and a buffet in the evening. How they did it from a catering marquee I will never know. We had Jim Brown a local piper as well as a young string quartet during the day. The wedding band "Obsession" arrived from Edinburgh and had everyone dancing on their feet, including a few neighbours in Lochearnhead who confessed later that they were dancing in their gardens until midnight! It was a truly magnificent day. We felt a little flat afterwards but not for long as we are already working on plans for a second self catering holiday cottage. Putting on a wedding is so far proving easier to organise!

Friday, 7 August 2009

Tune into BBC Radio Scotland - A House With A Past


I wrote to BBC radio Scotland some time ago asking if they could help me to find more information on the history of our house, Briar Cottage, on the banks of Loch Earn in Lochearnhead. The producer of " A House with a Past" telephoned and asked if I would be happy to put my questions to their resident house detective to answer. Tune into the programme on Monday 10th August at 10.30 to find out what is said. We know that two centuries of McLarens lived in our thatched cottage and that the original owners were MacGregors using the pseudonym Murray. A MacGregor(nee Murray) baby was born here in 1727, registered at Balquhidder Parsh and the Duke of Breadalbane owned the land and property at one point. There are some missing pieces to tie up and the BBC's house detective might just be the man to point me in the right direction.


Monday, 3 August 2009

Eventful Villages around Loch Earn


Daffy Ducks chicks never made it. Not one of them! We bought these metal chicks at the Scottish Game Fair in Scone and have popped them on top of the hot tub roof as a memorial.

The Lochearnhead Highlands Games and WakeScot are over for another year however we still have the village Fete in Lochearnhead to look forward to on the 16th August and Festive Weekend in St Fillans at the other end of Loch Earn from the 14th. St Fillans hosts a real mix of family fun in their 3 day event with a mini highland games, a hog roast,cricket, ladies netball a jazz band and more. A great day for the kids before school term starts again. Throughout August and September there are various live music events in the area, with folk, jazz, rock bands and DJ's appearing in various venues. September sees the horticulture show in Strathyre village hall on the 5th, the Gents golf open in St Fillans and the The Loch Earn 6.5 mile open water swimming event on the glorious 12th, a jazz buffet at Tullybannocher Cafe on the 18th and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Doors Open Day on the 19th and 20th. The National Park organises Doors Open Day to give everyone a peak at unusual or interesting buildings that are not usually open to the public. Guests at Little Briar Holiday Cottage get to see inside our house "Briar Cottage", however we will be opening the lounge to anyone who would like to see our cruck timber ceiling, i.e., 2 trees holding up the thatched roof in the old byre of our 17th century renovated longhouse where centuries of McLarens and McGregors have tread before us! Pop in.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Water Skiing and Wakeboarding on Loch Earn with plenty of ballast in the boat!



We ventured out on to Loch Earn last week with neighbour Gordon and his son Stewart. They invited us for a spin in their boat while they demonstrated their watersport skills. Both men are confident enthusiasts and adore Loch Earn. Fraser and I assisted in our own way by being the extra ballast in the boat! Stewart went out first on the wakeboard, then on his knee board, while his dad showed us the art of water skiing. We were most impressed. I am hoping that Stewart will enter WakeScot, Scotlands premier wakeboarding event which is to take place in Lochearnhead at the Water Sports and Activities centre on the weekend of August 1st 2009. It is perhaps fitting that the event which is endorsed by governing bodies Waterski Scotland and British Water Ski, is being held locally given that Loch Earn was Scotlands very first commercial water skiing venue in the 1950's . It should be a great spectacle for visitors and fun for those participating. The centre offers a number of water sports activities as well as archery, mountain bike hire, quad biking and more. There is also a cafe offering breakfast, snacks, ice cream, meals, coffee, cake and drinks.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Briar Cottage enjoys new thatch thanks to Historic Scotland and Something Corny




Briar Cottage in Lochearnhead has a new reed thatch on the east end over the cruck timber ceiling in the byre room(now our lounge). Just in time too as the draughts in the winter were so bad that I could just about blow dry my hair on the inside. Thank you to Historic Scotland for awarding our B listed cottage a grant and to master thatcher Peter Brugge and his team for doing an excellent job. Elaine Lindsay from Something Corny (http://www.somethingcorny.co.uk/) in Inverurie also came up trumps when we challenged her to create straw finials in the shape of ducks in honour of resident mallard Daffy and her ducklings. We decided to place them on the west gable rather than the new section, in order that they could greet Little Briar holiday cottage guests entering the grounds. Anyone who would like a peek at our 17th century cruck timber ceiling should look out for the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Open Day on the 19th and 20th of September 2009.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Mallard chicks move to Loch Earn 2 days after hatching at Briar Cottage






Daffy duck (part time guest at Briar Cottages) sneaked off with her 11 brown and yellow fluffy mallard chicks just two days after hatching. They must have climbed down the fountain where the nest was, across the A85 and into Loch Earn. Only 10 chicks returned to our garden on Loch Earn and we wondered whether crows, gulls, pike or eels might have taken one. After feeding daffy returned to the loch over large rocks and the chicks rolled in faithfully after her. Two fell between the rocks. We could hear them cry but not see them and Daffy became distressed as they called out to each other. I followed the sound, picked up some small rocks to unveil two little beaks trapped and huddled together. I picked one chick up and our fisherman guest Danny handled the other. We quickly and gently placed them back in the water in the direction of their mum. Off she went with her 10 babes. This morning she only brought six back and this time they came safely up the slip-way. Nature must provide 8-12 eggs to ensure that at least two or three survive. I wonder if she will manage to protect the six that are left. Thanks to every guest who has stayed in Little Briar cottage in Lochearnhead, Scotland and watched out for Daffy and her male suitors over the last year.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Wisteria Hysteria, Lochearnhead, Scotland




Holiday makers in Lochearnhead, Perthshire often ask us how we get our Wisteria to flower every year on the west gable of Briar Cottage. We would love to respond à la BBC Scotland's Beechgrove Garden presenters, quoting Latin names, advising on pruning techniques and extolling the virtues of PH balanced soil, however, the truth is that they just appear. My husband Fraser does "chop" the plant back and we do water it after hot sunny days however I think that we are simply lucky to have inherited a healthy plant that enjoys its location and position. Well, it does grow on a 300 year old thatched stone cottage with stunning views over Loch Earn and the surrounding hills and forests so why wouldn't it? Beats "Wisteria Lane" any day.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Springwatch: 11 eggs in a fountain by Daffy Duck




My husband jumped out of his skin when something brown wriggled in the flower border around the fountain and fish pond in our garden. It turned out to be Daffy Duck. Our Daffy is a "wild" female mallard. A regular visitor to Briar and Little Briar cottage for years, she comes looking for any scraps of food - especially in mating season when she has a string of beau's following. Having not seen her for over a week we thought she must be nesting on the banks of Loch Earn. This happened last year after which she brought her two chicks to us every day for some food. We feel honoured that she has chosen our garden however she has popped 11 eggs this time! We are not sure how the chicks are going to get down from the fountain. They could always practise swimming in the fish pond but might need a helping hand to land comfortably on the ground. So thanks to all our holiday cottage guests that helped to feed her over the last month or so. I suppose it must be hard going eating for 11. Sending the photo's to BBC springwatch and I will try to capture the chicks when they hatch. Anyone know how long it will take?

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Whats On Events in Lochearnhead, Perthshire, Scotland


If you have never visited Lochearnhead in Perthshire, Scotland then you are missing out on some spectacular events in the area. We tell guests at Little Briar Holiday Cottage to check "what’s on" in the local villages. Whether you are self catering for a week, having a short break or just out for the day it is worth checking "The Villagers" newspaper and the on-line events calendar at www.robroycountry.com. There is something to suit everyone from The Loch Earn 6.5m and 1 mile Crannog Open water Swim, "Splash In" radio controlled water plane demonstrations over Loch Earn, disco's and live bands, painting, floral art and quilting exhibitions, an eclectic mix of music recitals, the Lochearnhead Fete, strawberry tea parties, Scotland’s premier wakeboarding contest, beer festivals, theatre performances, charity events, pool contests, food festivals, pub quizzes, hill races, horticulture shows, the Lochearnhead Highland Games, and the Lochearnhead Shears sheep shearing contest as well as Halloween, Christmas and Hogmanay Parties. In addition Lochearnhead and the surrounding villages of Balquhidder, Strathyre and St Fillans host classes in their community halls like; upholstery, ballroom dancing, oil painting, yoga, youth club, parent and toddler groups and keep fit. Visitors and holidaymakers are welcome to join in. So if you are visiting Little Briar Cottage at www.stayatbriar.co.uk or happen to be in the area around Lochearnhead check out www.robroycountry.com to plan in local events.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Little Briar Holiday Cottage view of Briar Cottage being re-thatched in Lochearnhead, Scotland





Little Briar Holiday cottage guests are delighted this week to have the best view of our 17th century cottage in Lochearnhead which is having part of its roof re-thatched over the original byre(now our lounge)that boasts a single cruck timber framed ceiling on the inside. Master Thatcher Peter Brugge and his team, Stan and Mr W, have done the stripping and are now rebuilding the new reed layer by layer. It really is a work of art. Little Briar holiday cottage is elevated behind our 17th century thatched cottage boasting the best views over Loch Earn to Edinample castle and Glen Ample, the best view of local pilot Neil taking off and landing his sea plane dodging the waterskiers at weekends and for the next 3 weeks a novelty extra while the master Thatcher's weave their magic. The original inhabitants of Briar Cottage were McGregors who lived under the pseudonym Murray because using the name McGregor was a capital offence at the time. We know from Parish records that they had a baby in 1727. Later it belonged to the Duke of Breadalbane(descended from Campbells)followed by two centuries of McLarens. Isobella McLaren changed the name to Briar Cottage around 1900 from its original name Easter Achraw. I am sure that these ancient families would be proud of the restoration work to improve the thatched roof and to know that the original rings that tied up their byre animals are still secure in the wall. Little Briar cottage guests will always be welcome to view the cruck ceiling room in Briar Cottage(see www.stayatbriar.co.uk). It is amazing to think that the cruck timbers were around when Rob Roy McGregor was in his prime.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

April Boat race and "Splash In" on Loch Earn, Perthshire


Briar Cottage is having part of its roof re-thatched in April which will be a novelty for guests at Little Briar holiday cottage as well as the locals and visitors to the area. April guests will also be able to witness 2 spectacular events on Loch Earn in Lochearnhead. On the 18th and 19th of April the Scottish Aeromodellers Association are having a "Splash In". Members will be showing off their radio controlled aeroplane flying skills with float planes of all sizes being flown above Loch Earn. Visitors are welcome. Just turn up at the Lochearnhead watersports and activities centre. I wonder how many will "splash in" as per the event title! Then on the 26th April the Loch Earn Boat Race takes place. This also starts at the waterpsorts centre. The charity row is organised by the Crieff round table. Anyone can take part at £80 per boat(supplied by Drummond Boats) and funds are awarded to Round Table nominated charities. The event starts off at the Watersports and Activities centre in Lochearnhead and Ends 7 miles down Loch Earn at St Fillans where the Achray Hotel supplies stovies to the rowers. These are both magnificent days out with Food and Drink available in the Watersports centre Cafe, two nearby hotels and the local village grocer.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

A Host of Spring Daffodils at Briar Cottages, Lochearnhead, Perthshire


"Spring is here at last, dreary winter's past..." That old child hood song is going on in my head. Must be something to do with the daffodils in full bloom down the side of Briar Cottages slipway into Loch Earn. And there are more ready to burst out around Little Briar Holiday Cottage. The birds have started to sing in full voice and I don't know whats up with the mallards. They have changed from their usual feeding spot on the Loch Garden and now follow me around the two acre grounds. They have even been known to knock on the back door with their beaks. The clocks will change at the end of the month and then around the first of April we are having the "byre room" (now our lounge) re-thatched. That will be a spectacle for our April guests.