Every year since we turned 40 my best friends and I have spent the last weekend in January together enjoying a proper catch up without men, children or work interruptions. 2016 heralded year number five and although we usually head for the West Coast and a spa break at Carrick Lodges, this year we decided to stay a little closer to home.
As is the way when you live in Perth, Lynne knew a friend of a friend who had recently launched a self-catering home in Leetown. After a browse round the website, confirmation that we could secure a therapist to come to the house but without really knowing exactly where Leetown was, we booked up for 4th to 7th February.
I feel at this stage I have to explain exactly what this weekend entails for us. Nothing. In fact I have stretched the idea of a Perthshire adventure to absolute max for this article. We live in jammies, we eat, we drink and we’ll occasionally go for walks. To be fair, we have been known to go for dinner and we do enjoy a wee treatment but the bulk of the time is spent blethering, looking at magazines and laughing until we faint (this literally happened last year).
Collectively known as the Sparty Girls weekend, it is an indulgent little slice of heaven that starts the year off on an almighty high of sugar, fizz, love, tea and nonsense.
Cauldcotts House is a luxury self-catering accomodation property just outside Errol, situated beautifully on the edge of a sprawling field overlooking the Sidlaw Hills. The outlook is breathtaking, and with an entire corner of patio doors opening out onto decking, the view stretches for miles over Perthshire’s unspoilt countryside and carefully tended fields.
You can drive 8 miles to Perth or 12 the other way to Dundee but as driving really is too much effort for us girls on the Sparty weekend we planned complete lockdown and arranged accordingly.
The house itself is a modern build and is a sprawling 5-bedroom home with plenty of space for their maximum numbers of ten guests. Among us girls there is usually a race to baggsie the best bedroom (indeed, we usually share) but there was no need this year; every room was beautifully laid out, spacious, ensuite and with its own stunning views from first floor windows across the carse.
The main lounge is enormous with a wood-burning stove as its focal point; Jude was appointed chief firestarter and after a trip to well-stocked logstore in the garden she had a fire burning in no time. An hour in and we were in PJs, glasses in hand, sitting around a roaring woodburner and tucking into Lynne’s rocky road and homemade shortbread. It took a further three hours for us to prise ourselves up and into the games room for a look evern though its so close it can be opened up into the lounge via large folding doors.
Pool, table tennis, another TV (perfect for game consoles if you have kids with you) and two big comfy sofas which became our viewpoint for the outstanding rally of ping pong led by Judi and Judith.
The highlight of the home for me was the stunning kitchen (sad sad woman that I am) which was really spacious and had loads of storage. Opening into a central island, it had a 10 seater dining table, six-ring gas hob with two ovens and two grills and an American style fridge freezer. In other words, if you're ten people for a week there is plenty of space for shopping and cooking. Although, I would say if you were a ten and planning to dine well you might need a few more serving dishes and platters.
We cooked for every meal while we were there but had spoken to Linda Chan at The Jade Garden who was more than happy to deliver the short eight miles between Leetown and Perth. (We’d have stuck to this plan but for the fact that we all rocked up with an inordinate amount of food… Oink Oink Sparty Girls!).
We were spoiled this year by Lynnie who treated us all to a home-baked afternoon tea on Friday. She dressed the kitchen in bunting, chilled the champers in the dedicated wine fridge and although the cakes were all her own (and her Mum’s carrot cake – thanks Mrs B) she swung by Markies in Perth for a tray of finger sandwiches and some sausage rolls proving in one splendid girly treat that entertaining at Cauldcotts House can be done via weeks of baking or a trip to the nearby shops! (Cake stands models’ own…!).
Now, the best way to chill out after what was, quite frankly, an obscene amount of delicious cake, is obviously a spell in the hottub. Sitting on the decking looking out over the fields, the hot tub took all five of us comfortably. Lynnie’s self-catering box (please do bring a friend with one of these for the full experience) produced plastic champagne glasses but there are tumblers there if your friends aren’t as swanky / ultra-organised as mine.
I have to say, there is something gloriously life-affirming and wonderful about sitting in a hot tub in the middle of a field in Perthshire, a snowy drizzle falling from the dusk sky, best friends around you and the two nurses in high-alert mode in case Kelly’s red-wine-drunk sent her under the surface. 'Bridemaids' on the big TV in the main lounge finished off a fabulous first full day.
On Saturday, after a breakfast of local sausage, bacon and egg we had booked Rae Lamond to deliver treatments. She arrived with her table, set up in one of the spacious bedrooms and we took turns to spread out and enjoy a mix of massage and Neal’s Yard facials. This was an amazing way to enjoy the full luxury of a short-break away and for a girls’ weekend it is a perfect choice.
If you have a larger group Rae teams up with Lynne McDonald Therapies but we felt as she’d made us Afternoon Tea already and was actually on her holiday we shouldn’t make her work! However, if you book then you should get her through – her massage is even better than her shortbread!
Feeling in full spa-mode now, I poured half a kilo of bath salts into the double jacuzzi-style bath in the main bathroom (which is bigger than my sitting room at home!) and chilled out while being served tea and chat by Judi and Kelly who were perched on the steps, bathrobes on, awaiting their treatments.
Feeling suitably relaxed we realised that due to an emergency (we ran out of wine) we'd have to venture outside and this forced three of us out for a walk to the local St Madoes shop. Just a mile and half down the road it was an ideal wee stroll through Leetown and although it was cold the first signs of Spring were popping up everywhere.
There are loads of walks around the house and for the outdoorsy types, you will find quiet country roads ideal for cycling and rambling. We chatted to the sheep on the way, met several dog walkers and arrived back just in time for pavlova and coffee.
Saturday night. What to do? Well, we were ecstatic to find that Cauldcotts has its own built-in disco lights in the lounge! Coloured strip lighting got us in full on dancing mode (not one photograph is suitable for public viewing) and with Spotify banging out our favourite tracks we resisted the urge to hit Fat Sams and partied inside in our jammies. The lights make it amazingly good fun and gives the whole lounge a proper party atmosphere. Although you should pack a docking station or mini-speaker if you plan to entertain invited guests.
We left on Sunday, happy, chilled out and ready for a final treat before we headed home. We drove about a mile down the road to Glendoick Garden Centre for a spot of shopping in their fabbie gift hall and brunch in their gorgeous café. If you've not been, I can highly recommend it.
A huge shop with homewares, gifts, ladies clothing and jewellery opens into their foodhall which is brimming with local produce. The award-winning cafe served us homemade soup, baked tatties and a wee slice of rhubarb and cherry cake. A perfect end to a fabulous weekend staying in in Leetown.
Cauldcotts House is extremely comfortable (we all wanted to bring the beds home) and very spacious. As it's still quite new you should find good availability although my recommendation is to book fast. As soon as word gets out this will fill quickly. I happen to know for a fact that the first weekend in February 2017 is already booked out to the Sparty Girls!
We paid £800 for three nights at Cauldcotts House which was a winter special. No additional charges were made although we did leave a deposit which was refunded immediately.