WE’RE heading for the hills. Towering trees and rolling fields line the route.
To the left a majestic stag struts his stuff while his harem graze oblivious nearby. To the right are working hill ponies – among the few in Scotland still used for deer stalking and bird shoots.
“It’s unusual to see them this far down,” says our guide Trevor Cordon, as he glides along the track ahead of us.
We’re on Perthshire’s breathtaking Blair Atholl Estate, home to the famous International Horse Trials.
But we’re not mounted, no siree! We’re here on two wheels and they are not of the cycling variety either. We’re doing it upright – the Seg-way.
These quirky transporters, with their chunky tyres, move effortlessly along the track and can reach electrically-powered speeds of up to 12 miles per hour.
We begin our Segway Ecosse tour with a safety and training session before being let loose on the private paths and roadways of the estate and its caravan park. And we cut something of a peculiar dash among the other tourists as we pass fairytale Blair Castle and Gardens.
Segways, it seems, are the love of Trevor’s life – along with his missus, castle tour guide Magdelena Dolezinska. The couple wed aboard the machines within the castles walls two years ago.
Trevor chuckles: “We had planned to completely cover the Segway with the skirt of Magdelena’s wedding dress so that it couldn’t be seen. We wanted to give the impression that she was floating down the aisle, but we were afraid she’d get caught up in the wheels.”
We’re keen to try one of the castle tours but are a little nervous that total immersion in its rich history might prove a little too tedious for our 10-year-old – especially after the excitement of the Segways.
But we needn’t have worried. The lovely Magdalena is as full of fun as she is information. She captivates our little group, who hang on to her every word.
Tour over, we are pitched back into the 21st Century and find ourselves in the newly refurbished Tullibardine restaurant. Here the chefs pride themselves on creating wonderful fare using the finest local produce.
Our base for the duration of our stay at the park is a luxury ‘CHH’ (aka caravan holiday home).
But the site also offers enchanting woodland lodges, fun camping ‘pods’ (arched, wooden accommodation units) and pitches for tents, ‘tourers’ and motor homes.
Our little girl is wowed by our accommodation. And it’s a far cry from my own childhood caravanning experiences which, though still magical, were not nearly as opulent.
Today we have a spacious lounge/kitchen/diner and two extremely comfortable bedrooms – one en suite – along with a separate shower room.
It’s just as well.
Outside the heavens have opened and the rain drums down on us. Bouncing onto the sofa, TV control in hand, junior pleads: “After this can we go and play table tennis? Or pool … or what about table football?”
This self-catering resort lays claim to being one of the most popular in Highland Perthshire and a real draw for walkers, cyclists and nature lovers, with more than 40 miles of waymarked trails to enjoy.
There’s plenty to see and do, particularly in the summer months.
Atholl Estates cover 145,000 acres, part of the southern end of the Cairngorms National Park. Guests can explore its dramatic landscape on the back of one of the working Highland ponies or by Land Rover safari. They can also discover hidden parts of Blair Castle’s grounds on a fun tractor tour.
And what charming grounds they are. There is an exciting playground for the little ones and for the grown-ups the walled Hercules Garden, which has been restored to its original Georgian design, is a haven of peace and tranquillity.
Junior is glum-faced as we check out at the end of our stay. There is still so much more here we’d like to see and do. But she almost bursts with excitement as we ask: “What’s the availability for next year?”
A short stay in a two-bedroom caravan holiday home costs £295-£410 (other rates apply during Blair Castle International Horse Trials).
A week-long stay ranges from £490 to £780. Castle and gardens entry included. Call 01796 481263 or visit blaircastlecaravanpark.co.uk and atholl-estates.co.uk. Prices for Segway tours start at £18 per person. Visit segway-ecosse.com
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