An idyllic Scottish getaway calls to mind sprawling views of the countryside, a loch, winding roads into the hills... and torrential rain. Which is what we were faced with on the drive to the Macdonald Forest Hills Hotel, situated just outside Aberfoyle in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
Luckily the hotel is only about 40 minutes from Glasgow and an hour from Edinburgh, and benefits from a beautiful location within the hills overlooking Loch Ard – giving guests a feeling of total escapism despite the relatively central location.
Consisting of 53 bedrooms, two suites and 65 self-catering lodges, the resort recently had a multimillion pound refurbishment and its interiors now are Farrow and Ball meets Harris Tweed, with muted creams and grey, soft purple and pastel plaid.
Budget or boutique?
With double rooms from £99 (without breakfast), an off-season, midweek stay at the Macdonald Forest Hills hotel won’t break the bank. But if you want a weekend break, plus extras such as breakfast and a spa treatment, the budget will be more in the boutique range.
We stayed in a spacious executive room which overlooked the loch. The colour palette was soft neutrals, brightened up with burnt orange accents in the Voyage Maison cushions and plaid throws. It had a king sized bed, desk area, huge wardrobe and large en-suite (with Arran Aromatic toiletries), the room also had a sitting area with two tartan armchairs – an ideal retreat for enjoying the country views.
Wining and dining?
There are two options – the The Garden Restaurant in the hotel, and Rafters Bar and Bistro in the leisure club. Rafters is a more relaxed affair and serves pub style grub, cooked to fit the theme of the night (think Scottish, Seafood, Indian and Italian).
We chose The Garden Restaurant, in which chef James McCulloch Thomson serves fine dishes with local ingredients including meat, game and wild fish. Moreish starters of a heritage beetroot salad and crispy beef shin fritters were followed by melt-in-the-mouth fillet steak medallions, served with hand-cut chips. A shared dessert of tarte tatin finished off the meal perfectly.
The Garden Restaurant is also where guests can enjoy breakfast. A small buffet is available but the cooked fare is worth the wait – which was considerable in our case.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Glengoyne distillery is a 30-minute drive away. With tours ranging from the Master of Malt Tour, where you can create your own single malt, to the whisky and chocolate matching tour, there’s something to suit every taste and budget.
Staying closer to the hotel, the on-site activity centre is across the road and can set you up with kayaking, canoeing and boat tours of Loch Ard. Our canoeing trip to the nearby island, where an abandoned bothy can be explored, was a strenuous but fun way to spend a sunny afternoon. Luckily we were rewarded with a glass or two of champagne once we arrived (which made paddling back interesting).
The well-equipped leisure club is worth a visit, with facilities including an 18-metre pool, sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi and gym. After that, the Elemis treatments in the spa will soothe aching muscles and tired minds.
Treat yourself to a traditional afternoon tea in the hotel bar with its uninterrupted views of the loch (if you can bag yourself the sofas in the bay window, we suggest staying there for a lazy afternoon).
The piano bar is also worth visiting for an aperitif or digestif. During our stay, two guests took over once the pianist had left and gave a memorable performance. Whether it’s impromptu or not, the bar is a cosy place to relax before or after dinner.
In a gorgeous setting and only a short drive to the attractions of Stirling. A lovely room, comfy bed and beautiful hotel interior, just what you would expect from four-star accommodation.
Classic rooms are available from £99 per night for room only, with Executive rooms from £250 including breakfast. MacDonald Forest Hills Hotel and Spa, Kinlochard, The Trossachs, Aberfoyle, Stirlingshire FK8 3TL (0344 879 905)