WHAT do you want from a weekend break? Food better than you can cook at home and a stunning view while you eat it. Somewhere you can get to quickly, because if you’re away for a short time, you don’t want to spend that travelling. Finally, for me – and this is the hard one – somewhere that welcomes dogs too.
For those three wishes, check out the Four Seasons, on the eastern shore of Loch Earn (that’s the view taken care of), a mere 59 miles from Edinburgh (that’s the distance) and where (for a small fee) your dog can have its own butler.
Owner Andrew Low loves to get far away from Scotland (his last break was a 40-day trek in Bhutan) in the off-season. But while here, he runs a friendly, unpretentious three-star hotel with two AA rosettes for fine dining, 12 en-suite rooms, six chalets and a self-catering apartment. And, because he’s a dog-lover himself, he offers grooming, walking, sitting and fine dining for canines to boot. n
WINING AND DINING? At the 70-cover Meall Reamhar restaurant, chef Peter Woods puts together an impressive five-course £38 menu (£28 for a main and either starter or dessert) using locally sourced produce and baking his own bread and rolls. Signature dishes include beef fillet on a haggis base, red onion confiture, foie gras and Glayva jus and seared scallops on carrot and orange purée with minted pea velouté, and there is a six-page wine list. The view west, to the hills after which the restaurant is named, is spectacular, especially on those long summer nights when the setting sun turns the loch to gold. If you’re on a budget, you’ll get exactly the same view and only slightly more simplified cuisine at the informal Tarken café-bar. Breakfasts (with kedgeree on the menu – hurrah!) are excellent and ample.
ROOM SERVICE The chalets could do with refurbishment, but this is reflected in the price (for two people, the differential with the 12 hotel rooms, as Andrew points out, would pay for a good-quality bottle of wine with the restaurant meal). In the hotel, TVs are on the small side, but all rooms have excellent Bose stereos and en-suite baths and there is free wifi in the lounge. Guests are requested not to use mobile phones in the bars and restaurant – a restriction I thought was rather prissy but soon realised made sense.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR? Stay in one of the six chalets on the hillside above the hotel (no need to close the curtains: you can’t be overlooked), and you could wake up to one of the finest views in the southern Highlands. If the A85 in front of the hotel was anything like as busy as the north-south trunk roads (or anything comparable in the Lake District), this superb view would be compromised by the roar of too-heavy traffic. Here, it’s not. If you want to get further away from the madding crowds, though, it couldn’t be easier. Take your dog (or just yourself) on the Glen Lednock circular walk, check out the brown trout fishing or boat hire on the loch itself – or if you insist on roaring round rural Perthshire, ask Andrew about hiring a Ferrari F430 or an Aston Martin DB9.
LITTLE EXTRAS? Norma, the dog butler (she also does the hotel laundry), is a wonderful extra for any hotel. Rest assured: while you’re being looked after in the restaurant, your pooch will be no less pampered – and taken on its own post-prandial walkies too.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE? Oddly, it is both. Boutique because Andrew Low has filled the hotel with his own eclectic choice of artwork and furnishings (the opium bed in the lounge, for example, imported from Bangkok). But budget because today’s market is so heavily price-driven, so even in the height of the season you might be able to find a last-minute two-night B&B deal taking the price down to as little as £80 per person.
GUESTBOOK COMMENTS? A quirky, but engaging and friendly hotel that mixes the formal (no TV in public areas, waitresses in high-collared uniforms) with the informal (in the library, a sign tells guests they can take what books they like as long as they replace them with better ones).
The Four Seasons Hotel, St Fillans, Perthshire (01764 685333, www.thefourseasonshotel.co.uk)