AS we wander along the edge of the winding River Tay, trees loom over us. Each seems mightier and more ominous than the last.
“It’s not me, I’m a sycamore,” reads a sign in front of the first large stump. “Not me either, keep going,” the next scraggy tree tells us.
We clamber a short way from the riverbank and find ourselves peering up at the mighty Birnam Oak, a wide, ancient tree with bundles of dark, twisted branches.
It is supposedly the only survivor of Birnam Wood, the once great forest made famous by Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
In the play, Macbeth meets his end when his enemies cut off branches to use as camouflage as they march on his castle in Dunsinane.
Today, the area is home to Erigmore Leisure Park, a countryside retreat with woodland lodges, modern caravans and a grand Victorian mansion at its centre.
As many staycationers flock to the Highlands, we have travelled to the quiet county of Perthshire.
It feels somewhat off the beaten track, with breathtaking mountainous scenery. But, just 90 minutes from Edinburgh airport, it’s easy to visit for a short getaway.
Our contemporary two-bedroom Stewart apartment on the upper floor of the main building sits above a modern restaurant serving classic pub grub.
There’s also a swimming pool with whirlpool bath and sauna.
Across from the mansion, locals and holidaymakers alike have their fishing rods propped along the River Tay, hoping to catch brown trout.
After marvelling at the warped historic tree, we venture further from the river until we reach pretty Birnam village, where Beatrix Potter spent her childhood holidays.
An exhibition and gardens dedicated to the writer bring her Peter Rabbit story to life. Bunnies weave through our feet, darting into bushes as we explore lawns dotted with figurines from the much-loved story.
Inside, there are pottery workshops and art classes for kids as well as a cafe selling artisan bread and local smoked salmon.
Round the corner and over Dunkeld Bridge sits The Taybank pub. The pizza and taco menu draw large crowds to its riverside garden where, in the summer, regular live music events take place.
You could spend days gorging on great grub at the local pubs and roaming the surrounding landscape, but 20 miles north of Birnam you will find a famous vantage point called The Queen’s View.
Named after Queen Victoria, who visited in 1866, it is perched on the edge of Tay Forest park and is the starting point for lots of popular woodland walks. It is also a great spot for a picnic, with sweeping views over Loch Tummel.
We hire a car and loop further west to Loch Rannoch. Even the drive is exhilarating — winding roads through the unspoilt Scottish wilderness lead us to several small sandy beaches and vast marshes.
While there, it is well worth visiting the Rannoch Station Tearoom, a small cafe on a railway platform at one of the UK’s most remote stations. It serves cream teas, home-made cakes and great sandwiches.
Be sure to call ahead if you have a busy day of exploring planned and the friendly owners will whip up a packed lunch for you.
If you feel the urge to visit the Highlands to hunt for the Loch Ness Monster or hike to the peak of Ben Nevis, they are just an hour’s drive from Erigmore Leisure Park.
But for us, the Perthshire mountains and quaint towns had enough to rival any countryside staycation.
Source: The Sun