If you’re looking for luxury self-catering accommodation in Scotland or a romantic bolthole for a special occasion, then East Gatehouse Lodge near Crieff ticks all the boxes. I spent a long weekend up here with mum on a girl’s weekend, and the location couldn’t have been more perfect for an Autumnal getaway with plenty to do outdoors, and a roaring log fire to come home to at night.
There’s something rather special about waking up in your turret bedroom, watching the mist rising in the valley and hearing the sheep welcoming a new day. Life here is relaxed and mornings are relished rather than rushed, with steaming mugs of coffee out in the garden surrounded by nature. It feels remote and indulgent, yet isn’t far from some of Scotland’s top sights and is surprisingly affordable, seeing as you have an entire gatehouse at your disposal.
Staying at East Gatehouse Lodge
Renovated in 2017, the East Gatehouse Lodge stands guard at the eastern entrance of the 4,000 acre Monzie Estate, which is home to the 17th century Monzie Castle and has been the seat of the Crichton Clan since the 1850s. The land has been inhabited from pre-historic times, with a stone circle, a standing stone, pack horse bridge and iron age forts all found in the area.
Monzie is very much a living estate with livestock, several local craft workshops and luxury self-catering properties on site. The castle itself is still inhabited by members of the Crichton family, with Clan Chief David and his wife Alexandra being hands on with running the estate and continually developing it for sustainable agriculture, tourism and local business needs.
As guests in staying in self-catering accommodation, we didn’t see another soul except for the stocksman who arrived early one morning on his quad bike, just as I was padding across the field in my pyjamas and wellies to take a photo of the mist. He didn’t seem perturbed at the sight and we shared a cheery morning chat.
Location on the Monzie Estate
East Gatehouse Lodge is one of four unique self-catering cottages on the Monzie Estate, just a couple of miles north of the town of Crieff. The secluded Monzie Valley makes a perfect base for exploring the Highlands of Scotland, and isn’t far from Edinburgh either. If you’re looking for a luxury Scotland staycation that’s in the heart of the action, then this is it!
Accommodation and Facilities
East Gatehouse lodge at Monzie can accommodate four people, but personally I think it works much better with two. There are a couple of bedrooms (one double, one twin that can be made into a double), one of which is in the turret. Each room has views out over the estate, as well as their own staircase so they are completely private.
Between the two bedrooms there’s a shared bathroom with an original cast iron bathtub from Monzie Castle. Lovely to look at, but we used the downstairs shower instead which was rather more practical.
Down the turreted stairway you’ll find the octagonal lounge, with several windows letting in lots of light, and shutters which make it super cosy at night. Especially if you’ve mastered the art of fire lighting! There’s nothing quite like roaring flames and a glass of gin (yeah, I know, it should be whisky up here) to get the evening off to a good start.
Also on the ground floor there’s a modern kitchen constructed by the talented folks at Monzie Joinery, which has everything you could possibly need for a few days away from home. The dining room has plenty of space too and overlooks the garden, a great place for a leisurely bowl of cornflakes.
Things to do at East Gatehouse Lodge
The Monzie Estate
The first thing to do is explore the Monzie estate, which is private land and not open to the public so it’s a real privilege to be able to wander around. There are several tracks to follow, through fields, woodland and lawns, with lots of hidden discoveries, such as this gorgeous old bridge which we thought would also make an incredible self-catering property.
Guests who are staying three or more nights are given a complimentary tour of the castle on request (April – October), although do remember this is still a personal residence rather than a tourist attraction.
A couple of miles south is the town of Crieff, home to restaurants, shops, supermarkets, and Campbell’s Bakery which we highly recommend for their donuts! The Crieff Food Hall is a great place to shop for essentials, with lots of fresh local produce and tasty treats perfect for indulging on a luxury Scotland self-catering holiday. We probably spent more time in here than anywhere else on this trip!
For dinner go to the friendly family-run G’s Bistro in Crieff which has a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere, and most importantly, amazing fondues! Chef Yann hails from the French Alps and the menu reflects his heritage. Dipping into a fondue savoyarde surrounded by flickering candle flames on a cold October night was nothing short of perfect.
The Highland Games are held in Crieff each August, and the town is a great base for a whole host of outdoor activities and hikes.
The Famous Grouse Experience at the Glenturret Distillery, just a couple of miles north west of Crieff, is a highlight for many visitors to the area. There are tours and tastings, as well as a restaurant, and it’s one of the top places in Scotland to visit for whisky enthusiasts and curious amateurs alike.
Gleneagles Golf Course
Gleneagles is home to one of the greatest golf courses in the world, but you don’t have to be a pro to play here. There’s a hotel, several restaurants and an array of country pursuits such as fishing, riding and falconry if you want to go the full tweed for a day.
We’d heard about the amazing Autumn colours up at Killiecrankie Gorge, a 50 minute drive from East Gatehouse Lodge, so decided to spend a day up there walking along the river and admiring the leaves. This spectacular wooded gorge is known for its Autumn foliage, as well as being the site of one of the bloodiest battles during the Jacobite Risings.
There’s a pleasant circular walk that takes in all the main sights, including Soldier’s Leap where a Redcoat soldier jumped across the churning River Garry to escape the Jacobites, a viaduct, and a footbridge with excellent views of the gorge. Wildlife is rich here, with red squirrels and woodpeckers amongst the most commonly spotted. Parking is at the Killiecrankie Visitor Centre which has more information about the battle.
We also walked up to the Linn of Tummel, which was probably our favourite part with its towering trees and riverside pathways. Salmon can often be seen leaping up the falls here, although they weren’t performing during our visit.
Castle Menzies, Aberfeldy
You can’t visit Scotland without seeing at least one castle, and this one is a corker! Just outside the town of Aberfeldy and 40 minutes from the Monzie Estate, Castle Menzies is a dramatic 16th century stronghold, and the seat of the Chiefs of Clan Menzies (pronounced ‘Menis’). There’s heaps of history here, including involvement in the Jacobite risings when the castle sheltered Bonnie Prince Charlie as he fled from the Duke of Cumberland’s forces (who incidentally also stayed here a few days later).
Today the castle has been restored, although much of the original structure can still be seen inside as well as out. It is far less furnished than many other renovated castles, and this is its charm. Personally I much prefer old stone walls and exposed beams to painted facades and piles of frilly sofas. The other major plus is that you’re free to wander as you please, rather than being ushered around on a stuffy guided tour. Absolutely loved this castle, it’s now one of my UK favourites!
St Mary’s Church, Grandtully
We stumbled across this rare highland church by accident, and were so glad we did! Hidden in an inconspicuous single-storey building beside a farm that’s well off the beaten track not far from Aberfeldy, St Mary’s Church looks like nothing remarkable from the outside.
But step inside and prepare for the unexpected!
The entire ceiling of this austere medieval Scottish parish church has been painted with magnificent murals, depicting saints, angels and even death. The colours don’t seem to have faded even after 400 years. As they say, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
The current church was built in 1533, although an earlier church stood here in the 1200s. St Marys was used for local worship and burials until 1892, when the building was divided with a family vault at one end, and a cattle byre at the other!
There are several lochs accessible from East Gatehouse Lodge, but my favourite has to by Loch Tay. Surrounded by mountains including the Ben Lawyers range to the north, this is one of the deepest lochs in Scotland and is encircled by a panoramic driving route. There are watersports such as sailing and kayaking here at Taymouth Marina, as well as plenty of walks and the Scottish Crannog Centre which is an authentic replica of an Iron Age loch dwelling.
Falls of Dochart
The Falls of Dochart at the western end of Loch Tay are worth a stop too, with their panoramic mountainous backdrop in the village of Killin. Viewing is best from the bridge, where you can also see the islands of Inchbuie – the ancient burial grounds of Clan MacNab.
Muthill Old Church and Tower
We discovered this little gem as we were driving to East Gatehouse Lodge from the south, and had to stop to investigate. Not far from Crieff, the 15th century church ruin with its 12th century Romanesque tower was built by a religious community of monks who settled here. Muthill Old Church is the only remaining structure from the ancient village, which was destroyed during the Jacobite Rising in 1715. It’s well worth stopping for 10 minutes to explore if it’s on your way!
How Long to Spend here
We spent 3 nights at East Gatehouse Lodge, but could happily have stayed a week as there’s so much to do. It’s worth noting that although the Monzie Estate is right up in the heart of Scotland, access is easy on major roads, and actually it only took us 2.5 hours to drive there from north Cumbria, so a long weekend, if you’re in the north of the UK, is entirely do-able.
Who Stays at East Gatehouse Lodge
The lodge has accommodation for four people in two bedrooms, but I felt it lends itself much better to two, mainly because the seating in the lounge isn’t overly generous and it would be quite cosy at full capacity.
What We Loved
Location, location, location! The setting on the edge of a rural Scottish estate that we had full access to couldn’t have been more perfect for a luxury Scotland staycation. The whole experience was so relaxing and the facilities did just what we needed them to. There was also some wine and chocolate brownies as a welcome treat which we thought was a lovely touch.
What Wasn’t So Great
The only slight negative is that the sofa and chairs in the living room look the part but aren’t really that comfy, and the sofa is quite small for two people. And it’s this reason alone that I hesitate to recommend for four people.
Would We Return?
We don’t often return to places, because there’s just still so many other spots out there to experience, but my mind keeps wandering back to the East Gatehouse Lodge as somewhere to take Hubbie one day. He’d love poking sticks in the fire, going for early morning walks on the estate and scampering up and down the spiral stairs. So maybe I’ll make an exception. Just this once.
Good to Know
- 2 night minimum stay
- ‘Monzie’ is pronounced ‘Monee’
- Take your wellies or hiking books for walking on the estate, especially when it’s been raining
- You can book your own East Gatehouse Lodge holiday right here.