Picture the scene: blue skies, glorious sunshine, a cool drink in front of me and a moment of peace. I might have been on holiday, relaxing in warmer climes. But no – I had journeyed no further than Glendoick Garden Centre on a balmy May morning! Not only that, but my toddler son, James, was playing only a few feet away. The reason for my (and his) unaccountable serenity was the fantastic new indoor soft play area in the Glendoick café conservatory. The Wee Squirrels Play Zone was keeping both of us happy, and that’s a winner for any parent.
Glendoick Garden Centre is handily situated on the A90 between Perth and Dundee. For James and me, it’s less than ten miles from home; we hopped on a bus from Perth city centre and got there in minutes. I’ve made many previous trips to Glendoick, usually for its shopping and foodie attractions. In addition to the garden centre, it boasts an enormous gift shop and food hall, alongside the spacious café and children’s play areas. Glendoick is open seven days a week, all year round, and is the deserved recipient of numerous awards. Children under ten years old can have a bowl of soup for free
On this particular day, James and I were checking out the new play facilities. The Wee Squirrels Play Zone opened in spring 2018 and is free for your little ones to use while you enjoy something to eat or drink from the extensive café menu. It comprises a play area suitable for babies up to two years old, and a play frame aimed at children from two to eight years old. It’s clear that a great deal of thought has gone into the design of this play space, and it works brilliantly. The baby area is enclosed by a soft, low wall which helps keep the wee ones safe, and incorporates various tactile play panels. There is a selection of soft shapes to encourage movement and exploration.
James went straight to the bigger play frame, which is structured to facilitate plenty of physical activity, as well as encouraging the older kids to interact. There are obstacles to navigate, nets to scramble across, a windowed tunnel to crawl through, and an open spiral slide. It’s fun, and challenging, and James enjoyed himself enormously. He only allowed me to drag him away in order to pick up some snacks from the café. Replenished by some tasty rice cakes, he returned to the serious business of play, while I quaffed a raspberry lemonade. Situating the soft play area next to the café allows parents and carers to keep a watchful eye whilst comfortably enjoying some refreshments and adult conversation. There are, of course, high chairs and baby change facilities.
After a while (a long while… ever tried to shift a toddler who doesn’t want to be shifted?) I persuaded James to move on to the outdoor playpark. Located just behind the café, the planning and development of this playpark won Glendoick the Community Commitment Award at the 2017 Association of Scottish Businesswomen awards. The local community was involved in the creation of the playpark, and it’s full of cool play equipment: a basket swing, slide, tunnel, rope bridge and climbing apparatus. Timber has been used throughout and this, coupled with its setting amongst flowers and greenery, lends the playpark a natural, rustic feel. The little magnifying glass for children to examine whatever little treasures they pick up is a lovely touch.
The local community was involved in the creation of the playpark, and it’s full of cool play equipmentAfter working up an appetite, James and I eventually headed back to the café for lunch. There is a wide range of hot and cold food on offer: sandwiches, toasties, nachos, burgers, jacket potatoes and more. I loved the Wee Squirrel Market where your child can pick up a basket and choose four different items to go in it. James decided on a cheese sandwich, fruit, biscuits and raisins. We got a bit carried away and ordered him a bowl of ham and lentil soup too (a case of eyes being bigger than belly). Children under ten years old can have a bowl of soup for free… it’s an offer that’s hard to resist. Tea, coffee and hot chocolate are available but on such a warm day I appreciated the jugs of water, complete with lemon and ice, which were laid out. There was also a range of delectable cakes and traybakes, and you can eat indoors or outside.
Our appetites sated, we had another quick whirl through the soft play and play park. Sadly, we didn’t have time to go to Glendoick Gardens, which are located just half a mile behind the garden centre. The gardens, open to the public every day during April and May, are home to a vast collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and countless other plant species. They sound stunning; if we don’t manage to visit this year it’s in the diary for next year.
James and I finished our day by picking up a few bits and pieces for our own tiny garden. We bought some herbs and veg from the garden centre and I tried to avert my eyes from the jewellery, clothes and other temptations in the gift shop. A short bus ride home and it’s great to know that we can do it all again some other day! Find full details about Glendoick and all it has to offer here www.glendoick.com
Alice and James were offered complementary lunch in return for either a published or private review.
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