Climbing a winding flight of log steps through woodland, I feel like I have stepped into the setting of a fairytale. The light is dusky and I can hear the twittering of birds above me in tall trees and the whisper of voices and laughter from somewhere afar.
Step by step I am treated to an ever-enlarging view of a large round tent and as I reach the top step and walk on to a wooden path, I see the full size of my home for the night: A beautiful hand-built kata at Comrie Croft, near Crieff.
Unlocking the wooden door, I walk inside my canvas house and turn a full circle to take in the array of facilities. In front of me is a large raised platform that could easily sleep four people, or six more cosily. The platform is decked out with a fabric-covered mattress, blankets and numerous colourful cushions.
In the centre of the surprisingly big space is a woodburning cooker-cum-stove. I immediately decide to light it because it looks so cute and the firelighting kit and logs are laid out close by. The stove quickly warms the tent and it quickly feels like the perfect home for a damp spring night.
Two small tables are folded up against each side of the kata and I unclip them, pull out a leg and set the tabletops in place. I will use one for eating my picnic later on.
In one corner these is a gas stove, complete with a kettle, and beside that is a large canister of water. This is for a speedy cuppa if you can’t wait for the wood-burning stove to warm up. Already I feel like the stove is hot enough to cook a big casserole.
On another side of the tent there is a set of shelves filled with useful crockery and cutlery. Four coat hooks offer a place to hang my damp jackets and there is a basket for dirty outdoors shoes. I also spot a broom for sweeping the floor and small overhead lights (presumably run by solar energy).
Wondering about the toilet facilities I step outside the tent and walk further along the wooden platform to a shed next door. Inside is a toilet and basic hand cleaning facilities. Again the light is powered by solar.
There is also a barbecue and seating in my own space outside the tent.
It feels like a grand step up from my usual wild camping – and even my campervan – and I can’t wait for bedtime.
Unpacking, eating – then bedtime
Comrie Croft allow guests who are staying in one of the seven katas, or pitching a tent in a wild camping spot, to unload their own equipment from a vehicle. The deal is that you can drive close to a booked spot, unload kit and then return the vehicle to the main car park next to the main hub of the large camping site. This maintains the wild countryside feel to the camping area.
I have visited Comrie Croft before but it looks like there have been some big changes, including he reception area with farm shop, bike shop and hire outlet and café. The attractive wooden building is where you book in and I can’t help but be tempted by a few delicious looking products in the shop.
I have planned a picnic-style meal with wine in my kata and I add a jar of olives and smoked salmon to the items I’ve brought with me. To be honest, I wished I’d arrived with nothing and purchased them all from the shop.
With a sleeping bag, pillows, PJs and washing kit installed in the kata, along with my iPad loaded with a film or two, I head to the wash block for a shower. The showers are free to use if you are staying at Comrie Croft and they are extremely clean.
I think about going on a short exploratory stroll but all I want to do is relax in the warm kata. So I do!
I can still hear the murmurings of other campers in the woodlands but as the night progresses these quieten and it seems that everyone has turned in for the night. The chances are the rain chased people inside their tents and I listen as the heavy drops pelt the outside of my cosy home.
I can’t imagine that the robust construction will let in any rain – it doesn’t! – and thankfully I love the sound of rain on a tent.
I sleep really well and awaken to a damp but bright morning. Today I am planning to explore on bike and on foot and I have no intention of driving anywhere.
See Active things to at Comrie Croft and nearby.
6 more things to know about Comrie Croft
Looking after the environment
I was impressed by the efforts at Comrie Croft to think about the impact on environment. They call it “permaculture-crofting”, which translates as “conservation, low impact housing, sustainable enterprises, recreation, eco-tourism and other productive land uses wrapped up in a plan and land use design that ensures they are complimentary to each other”.
Included in their green goals are:
- Land and environmental stewardship
- To localise
- Aims of zero waste
- Energy self-sufficiency
- Influencing suppliers, partners and visitors to be more sustainable.
Five ways to sleep at Comrie Croft
There is a range of options for overnight at Comrie Croft including seven Nordic katas; eco camping, which is like wild camping but still within easy walking distance of a hot shower and toilet; hostel-style accommodation in The Steading; the farmhouse for around 14 to 16 people; and campervan parking (no electric hook up).
So much to do at the Croft
Comrie Croft has:
- Its own mountain biking trails network that extends to16km (blue, red and black graded).
- Bike skills park and pump track
- Hire bikes from Comrie Croft Bikes. They also offer bike for sale, guiding, service and repairs.
- Plus there are four waymarked “squirrel” trails.
- Facilities including a bike wash, showers (small charge), toilets and car parking.
So much to do nearby
There are some great ideas on the Visit Crieff website for things to do in the local area.
The Croft also offers easy connection to some 90km of walks and cycling routes as part of the Crieff/Comrie paths network. Within an hour’s drive there are 43 Munros to ascend and one Ben Chonzie (can be walked from the Croft.
I enjoyed a great walking/running route to find a reservoir called Loch Turret.
Eat and drink
Of course, you can cook for yourself if you are camping or staying in a kata but what about treating yourself to a lunch or cake stop? There is a Tea Garden with the most amazing array of savoury and sweet treats. I was blown away by the choice and quality.
The Farm Shop also has a brilliant range of local and organic produce. If I lived near Comrie Croft I would pop along all the time to make use of this shop.
Easy to reach
Comrie Croft is surprisingly easy to get to. It’s about an hour and a bit from Glasgow (if the traffic is kind) and around 1.5 hours from Edinburgh. I found the drive to be really pleasant.
Once at Comrie Croft I ditched the van and used a bike or my own feet to get about. There is a lot to do on the doorstep.