Bridge of Allan had its glory days in the early 19th century, when a local landowner developed it as a spa town – capitalising on recently discovered mineral springs, that are still utilised today by international water company, Highland Spring.
At its height, there were five hotels and more than 100 guesthouses catering to visitors who had come to “take the waters”, including Robert Louis Stevenson and Charles Dickens. Those days are long gone and the town has become an affluent suburb to both Dunblane and Stirling, with workers commuting to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Just how affluent is evident by the location of Scotland’s only wagyu butcher on the high street.
Budget or boutique?
Built as the main destination for spa-goers, The Royal is a huge building on the main street and still has splendid Victorian touches (the lift being one of them).
It is undergoing a major refurbishment of all the guest bedrooms and it was apparent that the onus is on getting all the rooms to a boutique standard. Astonishing interior design is present in every touch – from the mirrored furniture in the bedrooms to the quirky light fixtures and soothing tonal range of all the soft furnishings.
Wining and dining
The restaurant, The Fifty Five, was one of the first parts of the hotel to be refurbished and the design flourishes are evident, with statement light fixtures and tactile fabrics contributing to a first impression of luxurious style. The Josper Grill means that steaks and sides are the order of the day for main meals – but they do an amazing afternoon tea of home baking, savoury treats, scones and sandwiches at £14. And if you’re pushing the boat out, we suggest you add a glass of fizz for another £4.
We were in one of the recently refurbished rooms and it’s obvious that no expense is going to be spared in the continuing revamp of the hotel. All of the furnishings are lush and plush, contributing to an overall sense that you are staying somewhere absolutely fabulous, darlings.
Worth getting out of bed for
Aside from a couple of welcoming pubs, there is not a great deal on offer in Bridge of Allan. However, Stirling is only three miles away, which means you can be at some of Scotland’s most famous historical destinations shortly after leaving the hotel. Everything from Stirling Castle to the Wallace Monument is on your doorstep.
But if history isn’t your bag, then some of the best golf courses in the country are nearby – with the Bridge of Allan course just at the top of the hill. Or you can just walk to the top of the town and you are in the beautiful Ochil Hills with a variety of walks offering you astonishing views out over Central Scotland.
Should you feel particularly energetic, then 20 minutes away in Dollar, SAS Adventures (I know, the name gave me pause for thought as well) can offer you everything from rock climbing to raft building with Tyrolean traverses thrown in for good measure.
And if you have children to entertain, Blair Drummond Safari Park is a short drive away with its giraffes, lions, elephants, tigers and meerkats for a whole day of family fun.
An in-house DJ on duty every weekend along with a cocktail menu (that they take very seriously) mean you can let your hair down and enjoy a party atmosphere. And if you book Sunday lunch before the end of April in The Fifty Five, for every two paying adults, a child eats free.
The proximity to Stirling means that you’re only minutes away from great attractions, but you never really escape the sense that you are in a suburb. Even the hotel is, technically, called The Royal Hotel, Stirling.
Rooms start from £99 a night (including breakfast). Stay and Dine rates start from £79 a night. The Royal Hotel, 55 Henderson Street, Bridge of Allan, Stirling FK9 4HG (01786 832284, www.royalhotelstirling.com)