The Truly Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond
by Susan Campbell
This was my first trip to Scotland, and though I am of Scottish heritage (Campbell and Fairbairn clans are my ancestors six generations ago,) for some reason retracing my roots there was never big on my bucket list. But when the opportunity to try out WestJet’s new direct (same aircraft) flight from Toronto via Halifax to Glasgow came up, I decided it was high time to visit the “auld sod”. A few days in Glasgow, Edinburgh and at the famous Gleneagles Resort was the plan, but the first stop I wanted to make was to visit the famous “Loch Lomond”.
The Cameron House – A Cozy Manor
I’m not sure if we took the “high road” or the “low road” to get there, but one thing was certain as we arrived at the grand estate mansion of the five-star Cameron House Hotel, the banks of Loch Lomond are indeed very “bonnie”. Once out of the car, the first thing I spotted was a cute little lemon yellow biplane docked in the water just off the entrance of the hotel. It was surrounded by rich greens of the rolling hills and the scarlet leaves of the changing trees -it was November- and it made for a stunning natural scene. But what really struck me was how much the nature resembled our own cottage country up in Northern Quebec or in the Eastern Townships. It made me feel very much at home. Yet once I entered the posh lobby, it was clear I wasn’t home anymore. Overstuffed century-old chairs and stuffed heads of large game- deer and boar- poking out of the walls in the burnished wood anteroom manned by kilt-clad doormen quickly reminded me that now I really was in Scotland!
An Eclectic Range of Vibes
But as old world gentleman’s club the lobby came across as, the rest of the resort was surprising in its airiness, natural light enclaves and modern upscale allure. Not stuffy or dreary at all. And I adored my room. The thick, dark tartan wool blankets and heavy curtains were offset by bright, thoughtful accents and a lovely bay window looking onto the lake. And there were many high tech amenities, too. But as welcoming as my new abode was, I had lots of property to explore and first up of course was the “loch”.
Sadly, there was a very large wedding party on site that weekend and the adorable little yellow biplane that offers aerial tours of the lake was booked solid. But we did get out on the water anyway as they have a private little luxury yacht that also takes you exploring. As we cruised along, tiny castles and sprawling estates poked through the woods here and there, and our guide was extremely well informed on their history. Afterward, we went to the marina/boathouse for lunch.
On its own private little beach The Boathouse exterior was heavily populated by big flocks of geese and ducks enjoying the water as well as the handouts from the guests. Sailing, fishing, even jet skis rentals are also offered there. But the surprise was the restaurant theme itself. The Boathouse is a large cottage style dining room with big verandahs that’s far more New England than old Scotland. Nary a haggis or blood pudding on the menu! Instead, there were fish and chips and fresh seafood, gourmet burgers and even a brick oven for artisanal pizzas. Not at all what I expected. But we did manage to go local on the drinks’ front with hearty stout beer and the excellent Glengoyne Scotch from the local distillery.
There are two other dining spots in the hotel -one a fancy Michelin star gourmet affair which we didn’t get a chance to try, and the causal Cameron Grill that specializes in steaks and even has a salmon bar. But we were quite happy with the grill- the fare is hearty but high quality, and the ambience very cozy enhanced by roaring fires and a super friendly staff.
Activities & Escapes
Though I’m no golfer, we decided to take a tour of the 27-hole course by golf cart anyway to view the scenery and the vistas of the lake below were worth it. There’s also a point on the highest hill where you can stand with one foot officially in the lowlands and the other foot in the highlands! Also cool is an entire boat buried up to its bow on dry land that serves as a fun snack spot for hungry and thirsty golfers. But it was the complex at the final hole that proved to be my favorite- The Carrick Spa. Our guide told us it’s also a favorite escape for non-golfing partners where they can get pampered while they wait for their mates to finish play, and they can spot them coming in from the gorgeous outdoor infinity pool. But you need not cart out the golf area for some liquid luxury and relaxation. The Cameron Club right in the hotel is also a massive complex of pools, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms, and also a fitness center. And the entire club is all wrapped up in to ceiling-to-floor glass so you can enjoy views of the lake while you partake.
A Short But Sweet Stay
Throughout our visit, we found the staff warm, welcoming and always good-humoured, no matter what our request. And though we ran out of time before we ran out of pleasurable pastimes, it was an ideal introduction to Scottish hospitality at its best. And I was very happy to finally see the region made so famous by the song “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond.” It was an enchanting experience.
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