Fergus Bisset took the family for a short break to the beautiful Murrayshall house hotel and golf courses set in the stunning Perthshire countryside.
For most families, the summer holidays present a chance to spend some quality time together – to remind one another that you’re not so bad really. But, as a freelance golf journalist that opportunity tends to be a difficult one for me to take.
The time the girls break up coincides almost exactly with the time things get hectic in the world of golf – I disappear on various trips to various tournaments and, when I am at home, club championships, club matches and other competitive events keep me out of the house. The girls (and mum) set off on a Scotland-wide tour, visiting family and friends. I’m precluded from participating in most of it owing, not only to my golfing commitments but also because of a general paucity of internet provision in the places they travel to – I wonder if that’s on purpose.
Whether or not that’s the case, we decided this summer to put a few days aside to do something en-famille. Last week, we took a jaunt over Glenshee from Deeside to Murrayshall house hotel and golf courses outside Perth for a wee break. You’ll note that “our” choice of destination has the words “golf courses” in its name… well, I can never fully let it go.
The original house at Murrayshall dates from 1664, and was built by Sir Andrew Murray – the son of the 1st Lord of Balvaird. The Murrays and Graham Murrays occupied the house for 260 years until the property passed into the hands of Francis Norrie Millar in the 1920s; his family held Murrayshall until the early 70s when it was sold to a group of local businessmen.
Those forward-thinking men turned Murrayshall into a country house hotel and appointed golf course architect Hamilton J Stutt to create a golf course within the striking 350-acre estate. He laid out the Murrayshall course and 20 years later added a second 18-hole track: The Lynedoch.
Our unpredictable sat-nav guided us on a very scenic route to the back entrance of Murrayshall via Blairgowrie and Coupar-Angus. It was an indication of what a secluded place this is. Despite Murrayshall’s proximity to Perth and the main roads of the A90 and A93, it feels wonderfully out of the way.
Parking at the front of the hotel, the oldest part of the building, we were drawn immediately to the view across the 18th green and out over the Perthshire plains to the distant mountains of the Trossachs in the far west and the Cairngorms in the north. It was a view I’d never taken in before and, as so often happens when I look upon the Scottish countryside, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. Murrayshall is set on the hillside above the ancient village of Scone and this affords a fantastic vantage point from which to take in a large swathe of Scotland’s heartland – it’s beautiful.
On the first afternoon we arrived, after an excellent lunch in the clubhouse, I wandered out onto the Murrayshall course – the original layout here – for a few holes (for that read 18.) It’s such a gorgeous spot that the girls were happy to stroll along too, soaking in the views and giving some sage advice on my persistent pull and erratic putting stroke.
Making use of the rolling terrain, this is an excellent layout that feels as though it has been here far longer than 40 odd years. Although it measures just under 6,000 yards, what’s written on the card belies the test that awaits. This is a supremely strategic course where placement from the tee to avoid burns and to negotiate the towering mature trees is essential. The undulating greens are testing and run-off areas mean your short game will have to be sharp if you’re to score well.
The views are a constant and are truly captivating. I had my eldest daughter Flora with me for the back nine and we kept stopping to absorb the stunning panoramas. On a nice day, as we were lucky enough to enjoy, there can be few finer places to be.
After the round, we retired to our room to spruce up for dinner. We were staying in one of the Lynedoch suites, set just a 100 yard walk from the main house. They’re a more recent addition to the accommodation here – completed in the early 1990s. The room was perfect for a family. We had a large living area with a sofa bed for the girls, a wee kitchen and an en-suite bedroom. It was like a home from home and we felt extremely comfortable throughout our stay.
Dinner in the Old Masters restaurant in the original part of the main building was superb. I had guinea fowl terrine followed by smoked duck breast – delicious. Although, the dining here is of superb quality and sophistication, there’s a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and the kids were catered for too – no problems to provide a chicken goujon or two and a spot of fish and chips.
I think this sums up the overriding memory I will take from Murrayshall. It’s a supremely chilled out place where everyone seems happy and friendly and keen to make sure a nice time is had by all – there’s a great atmosphere and that puts all guests at ease.
Early on the second morning I snuck out to play the second course – The Lynedoch. If possible, it’s even more picturesque than Murrayshall. It’s a short track at just over 5,000 yards but this doesn’t come close to telling the story. There are dramatic changes in elevation, narrow fairways lined by huge pines, small greens, burns and sections of thick rough – this is a track that demands precision and care.
Again, the views across Perthshire are stunning and enough of a distraction to mellow the mood of even the most disaffected golfer. I zipped round in two hours and walked off feeling I’d just enjoyed a unique golfing experience. The layout, like Murrayshall, is maintained in superb condition and, overall, I can’t think of anything to fault it. I was rather taken.
Later in the day, we visited historic Scone Palace and enjoyed a brilliant few hours looking around the palace and gardens. My favourite section was the Pinetum – pronounced pine – ey – tum – where an incredible selection of evergreen trees tower skywards.
Back on the estate we took a walk around the grounds, enjoying Murrayshall’s own selection of magnificent trees, plus spying deer, a red squirrel and an amazing array of birds which I’m far too ignorant to name.
We then went and hit balls on the estate’s driving range – there can’t be many ranges with a better outlook – and, perhaps inspired by the view, even our youngest managed to get a few airborne.
Dinner that night was in the clubhouse with brilliant burgers and succulent crab cakes followed by the most incredible ice cream sundaes. We went to bed feeling wonderfully full.
The next morning, following another fine feed at breakfast, we reluctantly said goodbye to our spacious accommodation and set off towards the mountains and our side of the Cairngorms. As we drove through the gates – we left through the front, ignoring our insistent sat nav – I asked what everyone had most enjoyed. The magnificent views, our suite, the driving range and the ice creams all got a mention… I agreed but thought to myself that there couldn’t be anything to top: a 2-hour round on the stunning Lynedoch course, playing amidst the pines and wild flowers with buzzards circling and roe deer bounding across the fairways. This is a special place and one where all the family will enjoy a thoroughly relaxing and restful stay.