A history of Cameron House hotel

Firefighters at the scene following a fire at the Cameron House Hotel. Picture: PA
Firefighters at the scene following a fire at the Cameron House Hotel. Picture: PA
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In its 300-year history, Cameron House has hosted towering figures from the political and literary landscapes, played an infamous part in shaping Scotland’s national sporting fortunes and had over 30 rampant carnivores living in its sprawling grounds.

Today, guests can shell out as much as £800 per night for one of the 136 rooms in its opulent setting and hundreds more sampling some of Scotland’s finest fare at its Michelin-starred restaurant, but there was a time when this lavish lifestyle was off limits to all but the owners of the baronial mansion.

For three centuries, the property rested in the hands of the Smollett family, later becoming home to 18th century writer Tobias Smollett, once described by George Orwell as “Scotland’s best novelist”.

Smollett would spend much of his later life travelling through France and Italy, but consistently named the bonnie banks as his favourite destination, once being quoted as saying: “I have seen Lake Garda, Albana, de Visco, Bolsetta and Geneva. Upon my honour I prefer Loch Lomond to them all.”

The property remained under the family’s ownership until 1986, when it was sold off to developers who turned into the current hotel, but during the intervening years, Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden and well as Princess Margaret and Empress Eugenie of France spent time as guests of the property.

However, in 1972, the owners decided to diversify their offering by opening the grounds to some truly grizzly guests.

For almost 20 years, the Cameron Bear Park was a popular tourist attraction for families in the West Dunbartonshire area - with its 32 varieties of Himalayan, Black and European bear and other animals including the American Bison, Tibetan Yak and Highland Cattle, before closing in 1990 to make way for the current hotel.

Its location around 25 miles from Glasgow also made the hotel a popular haunt for stars including U2, Cher and Take That; all of whom based themselves at Loch Lomond before sell out Hampden shows.

However its relationship with the Scottish national football team - who until 2011 used the mansion as a training base before matches at Hampden - came under scrutiny in 2009 when former Rangers stars Barry Ferguson and Alan McGregor were caught in the middle of a boozy night after a crucial World Cup qualification defeat to Holland.

The incident followed by the pair’s ensuing behaviour in the next match with Iceland spelled the end for Ferguson’s Scotland career, while temporarily halting McGregor’s before the SFA abandoned it as a base two years later.

It is also a popular wedding venue with dates often booked more than a year in advance of the big day.

The award-winning hotel was bought for around £80 million in 2015 by US firm KSL Capital Partners and recently underwent a revamp.

In August, management announced the completion of a £4 million refurbishment with newly-decorated rooms said to be inspired by the hotel’s “stunning surroundings”.

The year-long project also included a revamp of public spaces and an outdoor terrace at the hotel.

READ MORE: Cameron House hotel fire: two hotel guests confirmed dead