Our Scotland Canine Critic, Maggie, took her family away for a short break in the Aberdeenshire countryside for her first assignment. She had a ball sniffing out the best accommodation, castles and countryside in the area. Her owner, Jo, tells us what she got up to:
Back at the end of November, Maggie had her first assignment as the Scotland Canine Critic. Maggie and our three children were looking forward to a weekend enjoying walks and family time away from our busy day-to-day life.
We chose a long weekend in the beautiful Aberdeenshire countryside – an area of Scotland we had not properly explored as a family. We headed off from our home near Edinburgh on a 3-hour drive north to the small town of Turniff and 4 miles on to our cottage for the weekend.
Our destination was North Lodge, a charming three-bedroom estate cottage set within the grounds of Craigston Castle. We arrived at the lodge in the dark and were greeted by our lovely hostess for the weekend, Elisabetta. She had arrived ahead of us at the cottage to put on the heating, and provide us with a very warm welcome and all the information we needed to enjoy our weekend.
The cottage has recently been renovated by the Craigston Estate to rent out as a holiday cottage and Elisabetta had put up Christmas decorations and provided us with a lovely welcome package of fresh fruit, wine and chocolates. Love Louie had also sent Maggie a lovely welcome hamper for her to open on arrival.
On our first evening, we couldn’t see much of our surroundings, but the inside of the cottage was comfortable, spacious and well equipped for a family of five plus Maggie. The kitchen is spacious with a great breakfast bar perfect for the kids to eat at. The kitchen leads onto a comfortable lounge area with a lovely dining table set in a bay window looking out onto the garden.
There is also a pretty sunroom with a back door leading out into the garden, giving Maggie a great route in and out to explore (towels were also provided to wipe her muddy paws). Maggie was provided with a lovely doggy rug for sleeping on along with everything she would need, from dog bowls to doggie treats.
The cottage had three large double bedrooms, all nicely furnished. There was also a bathroom upstairs and downstairs. The house was decorated in a homely way so we felt comfortable having Maggie with us, especially on a damp November weekend.
We settled in for the evening with a Chinese takeaway picked up from nearby Turniff, a 4-mile drive away.
The local area
The following morning, we all awoke to a clear cold day and opened our curtains to see a large garden surrounded by woods and beautiful countryside. The garden was not yet completely secure for dogs but Elisabetta explained they were working on this for the coming season.
Elisabetta had also given us information about the Craigston Estate and directions for us to take Maggie on gorgeous walks through the surrounding woods and grounds. We all headed out in the morning and walked through the woods behind the house towards Craigston Castle. The walk took us to a small burn (river) with an old bridge that provided lots of opportunities to play Pooh sticks and for Maggie to have a swim! We could have spent the whole day out and about on the estate but we went back to the lodge to get changed before heading out in the car to explore the surrounding area.
We headed into Banff for lunch and a look around. Banff has a wonderful beach for walking and blowing the cobwebs away, with dogs allowed at any time of the year We found a lovely hotel/restaurant called the Fife Lodge Hotel that was happy to have Maggie join us for lunch. The staff were very friendly and the food was good pub fare.
We headed back to the lodge for the evening after picking up takeaway pizzas in Turniff and cosied in for our second night’s stay.
Elisabetta stays at the castle and, on our second morning, she offered to give us a tour – the children were delighted by the chance to look inside a real Scottish castle and Maggie was also welcome to come and sniff around. We all walked Maggie again through the estate to the castle and spent an amazing couple of hours looking around the castle and gardens.
Craigston has been a private home to the Urquhart Family since 1604 and is being lovingly cared for by the family in an ecologically sustainable manner with stunning results. The castle can also be hired out in its entirety for large groups wanting a true Scottish castle experience.
Getting away for a weekend to this special area of Scotland was a real treat. Even with the cold weather and short time we had available to stay, we thoroughly enjoyed our time at North Lodge and would happily return in warmer weather!
The area is perfect for days out with dogs and children, providing access to beautiful scenery, stunning beaches and country pubs. If we had had more time, we would have certainly made more use of the extensive opportunities for dog walking and beach trips. Our host, Elisabetta, certainly helped make our weekend special and we were all sad to leave.
Maggie would definitely recommend the lodge to other dogs and their owners, old and young.