By Joyce Reid


There are many reasons for wanting a holiday. It could be the chance to explore new places, or you may be looking for peace and quiet. Or perhaps you want to learn more about the natural surroundings, or are you looking for a digital detox? All of these – and more – are available at Bamff Estate, near Alyth, Perthshire. And you could add to the list, quirky, but luxurious, accommodation.
Bamff Estate has been owned by the Ramsay family since the year 1232 and current owners, Paul and Louise Ramsay, moved there in 1981. They run the 1300 acres of farmland, woodland, wetland and hill with an emphasis on environmental management, conservation and wildlife. Perhaps the most significant example of this ethos is their beaver project, which they see as a pioneering  model of restoration ecology. It was the first of its kind in the UK.
The European beaver, hunted to extinction in the UK in the 16th century, is now in the process of being re-introduced in Scotland, following successful schemes all over mainland Europe. It is clear that Paul and Louise just love their beavers. 
Paul remembers fondly how he drove to Kent in 2002 to collect the first pair of Norwegian beavers, driving back through the night with them, keeping them hydrated by giving them lots of apples, and released them himself into a secure enclosure.  He went on to acquire Polish and German beavers. Since then, the beavers have, of course, multiplied and have migrated from their enclosure and transformed a large part of the land, converting a ditch into a series of ponds and swamps by building their many dams. 
Millie Barrest from Merrist College in Portsmouth is currently carrying out a research project on the Bamff beavers, doing aquatic and terrestrial surveys to see if the species has increased. She said: “It is such a dramatic change in the wetland in such a short time.” This new habitat has seen many wetland species, including otters and water voles, make their homes on the estate.
It is often the hope of spotting a beaver that draws visitors to the estate. The best chances come in the summer with the kits (young beavers) going out in July. As with all wild animals, you can never be sure, but you can get an amazing surprise. Paul remembers one June evening having the most wonderful sighting of a beaver swimming along when, suddenly: “Plop, about twenty yards away up came a face – a water vole,” he said.  
Even if you are not lucky enough to catch sight of these enigmatic creatures, just seeing their habitat is thrilling. You cannot help but admire the work they do when you see the evidence of where they have been, the distinctive gnawed trees are fascinating. Trees that have been felled by the beavers offer habitat to many species of fungus, insect and bird. 
Paul will take you on a guided wetland and wildlife tour of the estate, pointing out all manner of interesting things that you might otherwise miss, like the root plate of a tree that blew over some years ago and now has lovely moss and a birch, spruce and rowan tree growing out of it. He explained that the tree was left deliberately to help with natural regeneration.  
“It is wonderful way of regenerating the woodland, as it is just above the level where the Roe deer come, so they won’t eat it,” he said. There is truly an abundance of wildlife at Bamff. The beaver wetlands have encouraged indigenous and migrating species of birds. Roe deer, red squirrels, pine martens, wildcats, hedgehogs, moles, stoats, weasels, polecats, badgers and foxes are all to be found. There are even a small number of wild boars living in the area. Even if you do not see the animals themselves, you will see signs of them having recently been there and Paul’s enthusiasm will quickly become infectious.
Since 2000, Paul and Louise have been offering holiday accommodation – and what accommodation! The Gate Lodge, full of vintage character, sleeps four and has its own enclosed garden. The Old Brewhouse, a cottage-like wing of the main house was converted in 2000 but, again, retains many original features, and also sleeps four.
Last year brought two exciting new options. How about spending a night or two in a yurt?  The Bamff yurts are made in the traditional way in Mongolia, but are adapted for the British climate.  Much as they look beautiful from the outside sitting in a clearing in the woods, it is the interiors that really take your breath away. The beds and chaises longues are covered in layers of luxurious blankets and a wood burning stove just invites you to go in and relax. As with the cottages, there are antique textiles and china to delight the senses. And, according to previous visitors, one of the nicest things is hearing the owls overhead. The yurts have winter covers, so are cosy right through the year.
The yurts share a bonfire area and barbeque, but guests can escape indoors if the weather is less than ideal. There is a large common room with comfy seating, a dining table, kitchen facilities and a wet room for campers to use.  And if you need to return to 21st century living for a while, that is where you can re-connect to wi-fi.
But for the ultimate romantic getaway, you would want to book the off-grid Hideaway. Paul describes this as last year’s project. “It was originally going to be a hide but then Louise and our daughter, Sophie, thought it could be a place where people could stay,” he said.  
So, once again, what might be considered a basic structure has a truly sumptuous interior, with all manner of interesting objects to catch your eye. The four-poster bed was made using posts gnawed by the beavers and there are two vintage armchairs beside the stove. Should you need more than the one bed, no worries, there’s a foldaway bed and – imagine this – a hammock can be strung up. You’ll be quite self-sufficient as there is a camping gas stove at your disposal. And it truly is off-grid, with a compost toilet a few metres away.
The Hideaway sits on a footpath overlooking the beaver pond and dams with a wood full of red squirrels behind it. What a place to enjoy complete peace and quiet while watching the wildlife.
Standing there, Paul said: “When I first came here this was a ditch with water trickling at the bottom. We now have this tremendous pool and a whole wetland.”    
The accommodation is well placed for those tackling the Cateran Trail, a circular 64-mile, six-day route through East Perthshire, that passes through the estate, going right past the biggest of the beaver dams. It is also a magnet for keen birdwatchers as literally hundreds of species of birds are seen here, due to the wide variety of habitats. Bamff is within easy reach of the waders of Kinnordy Loch and the Ospreys of Loch o’ the Lowes.
Staying at any of the accommodation on the Bamff estate is a magical experience.Paul and Louise are excellent hosts, doing everything they can to make your visit easy. They provide logs for the stoves (with extra bags available for purchase if necessary), and welcome well-behaved dogs. Children are encouraged to use the lawn for ball games and to make use of the tree swing, climbing frame and the old family trampoline and are positively urged to try pond-dipping and searching for mini beasts, and generally enjoy the freedom of the place. You can even borrow a bike, free of charge, and you can ask to have your shopping done for you in advance, which is probably a good idea, since once you are settled, you will not want to leave the tranquil, captivating surroundings.
It is hard to believe that the cities of Dundee and Perth are barely half an hour away.


Reader offer: 

Readers of Country Lifestyle Scotland who book two nights or more in any of the accommodation before the end of April for stays between May 1, and June 30, 2017, will receive  a 10% reduction PLUS a free two-hour guided beaver and wildlife walk, worth £30.  

Please quote 
“Country Lifestyle Scotland” in the “promo code” when you book online at