24-Hour Room Service: Crieff Hydro, Perthshire

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The Independent Travel

When winter bears down, Crieff – on the boundary between the Lowlands and Highlands of Scotland – is a good place to be, particularly if you're sheltering in the Hydropathic Establishment.

When winter bears down, Crieff – on the boundary between the Lowlands and Highlands of Scotland – is a good place to be, particularly if you're sheltering in the Hydropathic Establishment.

Crieff is a market town on the river Earn, west of Perth. For generations, it was the site of huge cattle markets; indeed, next week a recreation of the celebrated drove walk from Skye to Crieff is taking place. But in Victorian times, with the arrival of the railway, the prosperous town became a fashionable spa resort. The Hydropathic Establishment (hydropathy uses water to treat illness, with steam baths and the like) was created in 1868. The centre quickly became known simply as the Hydro.

Crieff is a good base for exploring. It is within easy reach of Stirling Castle, the Trossachs and Loch Earn, while some visitors come for winter walking on Ben Vorlich and Ben More.

The Hydro has retained the grand hotel tradition, with ballroom, gym and indoor pools. Its 900-acre estate has a golf course and gardens. The spa tradition has been renewed for the 21st century; the "Victorian Spa" offers aromatherapy and massage.



Location, location, location

Crieff Hydro Hotel, Crieff, Perthshire, PH7 3LQ (01764 655 555, www.crieffhydro. com), is planted snugly in the rolling hills of the Strathearn valley, 19 miles west of Perth. The centre of Crieff is 10 minutes' walk away.

Time to international airport: Edinburgh is an hour's drive south. Or take a train: the Edinburgh-Perth line crosses the Forth Bridge. Perth is linked to Crieff by a 45-minute bus ride (£2.30), or half-hour taxi trip (about £20).

Are you lying comfortably?

The bedrooms are spacious, the bathrooms even more so. Glimpses of tartan and pictures of romanticised Highlands views are much in evidence. The decor and furnishings are luxurious.

Freebies: own-brand toiletries.

Keeping in touch: telephones and TV in rooms; fax and internet facilities available.

The bottom line

Standard doubles/twins range from £90 to £180.

I'm not paying that: the Hydro has November specials of £80 per night doubles, for dinner, bed and breakfast midweek (£110 at weekends). Or try the nearby Ardo Howe Guest House (01764 652 825, www.ardo-howe.co.uk), which has doubles from £36.

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