WHEN looking to go for a weekend break within an hour or so’s drive of the Central Belt, when time is short but you want a blast of what Scotland does best, Kenmore, in Perthshire, has it all – mountains, lochs, rivers, waterfalls and stunning scenery where wildlife abounds, and often winds up on the plate.
Situated on the eastern shore of Loch Tay, Kenmore offers boats and kayaks for hire, Ben More to climb, the Falls of Dochart at Killin for a picturesque picnic and a range of eateries nearby where the local produce exemplifies the best of Scotland’s larder.
Scottish Hotelier of the Year Steven McLeod, the man behind the Aurora Group, which carried off a total of seven awards at last year’s Scottish Hotel Awards, took over Kenmore Hotel in 2011 and since then has also been converting the picturesque white-painted cottages in the village to five-star self-catering lodges. There are now 14, some with hot tubs, others with balconies and loch views, all with the latest word in boutique hotel kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms and furniture.
In the hotel itself, which is Scotland’s oldest inn, the dining options include the Taymouth restaurant, with its stunning terrace views overlooking the river, or the Boar’s Head veranda.
Then there’s the Poet’s Bar, a traditional affair with an open fire and a poem handwritten in pencil on the chimneybreast by Robert Burns himself, no doubt inspired by a whisky or two from the gantry.
Visiting on a Christmas weekend, when the village was wrapped in a blanket of thick white snow and Ben More not even visible through the deluge of flakes, we had the perfect excuse to kick back in the lodge, overindulge in the hotel restaurant and lounge in front of the roaring fire in the bar, drinks in hands and borrowed dog at feet. Bliss. n
WINING AND DINING?
Our one-bedroomed Saddle Lodge, a stone-built cottage with accommodation over two floors, had a very well-appointed granite and chrome kitchen and dining area, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t stroll over to the hotel, where we tucked in to Perthshire smoked salmon and Shetland scallops and superlative steaks cooked on an Inka charcoal oven and grill. Follow this up with a nightcap in the atmospheric Poet’s Bar before trudging through the snow to your lodge and you’re guaranteed a great night’s sleep.
Arriving with what turned out to be flu, and spending serious amounts of time spreadeagled on the bathroom floor, I can vouch for the cleanliness of all the fixtures and fittings. Not that the huge bed wasn’t a dream; I have never been ill in such seductive surroundings. Crisp white sheets, cosy blankets, huge TV to while away the hours and glorious heating kept us snug while the snow drifted down outside. Then there was the rest of the lodge, the big kitchen, spacious bedroom and en-suite, and woodburning stove in the lounge, where french doors led on to a little courtyard with a hot tub and barbecue.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR?
We did manage to amble along the loch shore to the Crannog Centre for a glimpse of how people used to live, and the drive along the loch to Killin, where the Falls of Dochart were freeze-framed in a winter wonderland photo-opportunity. A reviving whisky at the Falls of Dochart Inn, with its vast open fire, sent us on our way.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
Definitely boutique, from the hot tubs to the kingsize leather beds, and prices reflect this.
With everything from free wi-fi and waffle dressing gowns to high-end toiletries and a welcome pack of provisions (which we barely made a dent in), this is a place where you feel thoroughly pampered.
When can I go back?
• Kenmore Luxury Lodges, The Square, Kenmore, Perthshire (01887 830205, www.kenmoreluxurylodges.com). A two-bedroom lodge costs £385 for three nights or £695 for seven nights; a four-bedroom lodge costs £475 for three nights or £895 for seven. Book before 31 May and get a two-bedroom lodge for £346 for three nights or £625 for seven and a four-bedroom lodge for £427 for three nights or £805 for seven – this offer excludes Easter weekend and bank holidays and is subject to availability. Call 0844 800 4000 and quote ‘Spectrum 2’.