LYNN O’Rourke checks into The Loch Lomond Arms Hotel, a “country pub with bedrooms” surrounded by nature that oozes charm and character
If ever you feel the need to reconnect with nature (before sitting down by an open fire with something equally warming to hand), or simply to remind yourself what a truly beautiful country we live in, head to the Loch Lomond Arms Hotel.
Set in the conservation village of Luss (all two streets of it) on the western shore of the loch, it has been welcoming visitors since its 17th century days as a coaching inn.
Having abandoned our two children with their grandparents, my husband and I have left Edinburgh and frantic family life behind for a couple of days. Described online as “a country pub with bedrooms”, this place oozes charm and character. A quick walk to get our bearings and before you can say “Large gin please”, we are settled down against tartan cushions on the sofa by the fire, trying not to cheer out loud.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
Boutique, boutique, boutique. From the duck-egg blue walls to the flickering fire, stags’ heads and tasteful hints of tartan, this is one carefully thought-out interior.
Bedrooms are named after Scottish clans, and each of the nine rooms are individually styled using plaid blankets and antique furniture. Our spacious Colquhoun room has wingback chairs, super-king bed with canopy drapes plus en-suite with double-ended bath and rainfall shower. And if you peek outside you can enjoy the lovely views across Luss. I madly snap pictures on my phone to show my daughters, quashing a pang of guilt at leaving them behind. Guests can also stay in seven cottages situated a short walk away; most of them have kitchens and some are pet friendly.
WINING AND DINING
The dining room is an extension of the bar area with a partition wall that houses the fire, so you get the effect in both rooms. It’s a gorgeous space with deep blue-grey walls, church-style bench seats, vintage prints and an ornate case of stuffed owls, while candles in brass holders add to the warm atmosphere.
Head chef Allan McLaughlin uses fresh local produce in an inventive way (the day we leave, one of his staff is out foraging for mushrooms). The menu changes regularly and we enjoyed wonderful Shetland mussels with homemade bread, roast Ayrshire beetroot salad (a particular high point for my veggie husband, although not quite as high as the hand-crafted ales). The fish and chips (fresh haddock and the most delicious thrice-cooked chips) are excellent, and well priced at £13.50, while the pappardelle with walnut and basil pesto is also a hit. And if you can manage dessert, the crème brûlée is quite special.
At breakfast the next morning, the sunlight creates a dappled effect across the groaning wooden buffet table in a Downton-esque manner, while the cooked options are very good for both vegetarians and carnivores.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
There is a lovely walk just by the side of the local school which leads you through a field and up the hill. It’s not overly arduous, but it will work off that breakfast and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views. Just a short stroll away is the Luss General Store (www.lussgeneralstore.com) where you can buy presents for your abandoned children. Weather permitting, you can take a speedboat trip on the loch. Staff are familiar with the local sights and the best places to visit and will happily suggest walking, cycling or driving routes. And after it all, you get to head back to that lovely fireplace in the bar.
Tea and coffee-making facilities; toiletries.
This is quite simply a great place to escape to. The interior is lovely, and there’s good food, friendly service and stunning scenery on the doorstep. If you can manage a midweek break, you’re more likely to bag that seat by the fireplace. And although the hotel does welcome children, it’s rather nice going without them. n
• Celebrate the festive season with The Black and Bling Christmas Party, 18 December, £38 per person. To stay at the hotel costs from £120 per room, bed & breakfast, based on two people sharing. Visit lochlomondarmshotel.com/christmas-new-year-loch-lomond for Christmas Day and Hogmanay offers. The Loch Lomond Arms Hotel, Main Road, Luss G83 8NY (01436 860 420). For speedboating and other activities on the loch, visit www.lochlomond-scotland.com and www.lovelochlomond.com.