A Scottish family getaway: Loch Lomond
For us, the sign of a great getaway no longer hinges on a hotel's smart décor and spot-on service, but its family-friendliness too. Let's face it, as much as we love an indulgent mini break sans children, they're like gold dust. At the tot-welcoming Cameron House Hotel, Scotland, there's plenty to make sure a break with the tribe is both special and effortless, says Ali Horsfall.
On the banks of the Loch Lomond and flanked by 100 acres of woodland, this dreamy baronial bolthole is only 15 minutes from Glasgow airport and offers a welcome dose of fresh air, family down-time and hearty Scottish hospitality. We loved the cosy comfort from the get-go. Inside the imposing stone mansion, the décor is warm and inviting - there's mellow lighting, roaring fires, and oversized velvet sofas to snuggle up on after a day of outdoor play. And did we mention the view?
WHAT TO DO
With the Loch's shores and the Trossachs National Park as your playground, it's all about enjoying the outdoors at Loch Lomond. Don your anoraks and wellies (it's Scotland after all, so do prepare for a downpour) and head out on a woodland trail. At the nearby Loch Lomond Shores at Balloch you can hire a quadricycle (they have tiny seats upfront for tots) and take in the scenery on a 30-minute route around the Loch. A failsafe in particularly bad weather is the Sea Life Aquarium and the Birds of Prey Centre - home to eagles, owls and buzzards. Little boat lovers will enjoy a mooch around the historic Maid of the Loch, a restored paddle steamer that sits on at the pier of Balloch. If the weather's good, picnic and play in the gardens of the Balloch Castle overlooking the Loch.
The bedrooms at Cameron House are elegant with a Highland vibe - think lovely dark woods, Scottish tartans and crisp white sheets. Cots are available on request, and if you book a family room there's a separate mini space with bunk beds and a plasma TV for the children. If you are lucky enough to be sneaking off for an adults-only romantic weekend, you can't beat the hotel's cinema suite (yes, complete with a mini padded cinema room) for the wow factor. Shower side-by-side in the walk-in double wet room (we want one at home), slide into a fluffy robe, order room service and enjoy an uninterrupted night's sleep in the ridiculously large bed.
At the hotel, there's everything from upscale fine-dining at the Michelin-starred Martin Wishart restaurant, to pizza room service. With children in tow, choose the New England-style eatery The Boathouse, which overlooks the little marina and serves great haddock chowder and burgers, or the cosy Cameron Grill, where you can tuck into huge Angus steaks seared over hot coals in the open kitchen. High chairs and mini menus are on offer for the little ones and staff don't bat an eyelid at warming bottles and baby food. Breakfast is a laid back but lavish all-you-can-eat buffet with piles of fruit and pastries, a cured smoked salmon bar and locally farmed eggs, sausages, haggis and black pudding.
The swimming pool – it's bath-water warm and has a fun slide for the older children and a jacuzzi tub for you. The hotel's crèche offers arts, crafts and toys for the little ones and treasure hunts and garden games are held in the hotel's grounds. They'll love watching the sea-plane taking off and landing from the Loch's little jetty.
If you can steal an hour or two for yourself, the hotel's Carrick Spa is a blissful retreat a five minute drive away - they run a shuttle. Recharge in the hydro and thermal spa areas and rooftop infinity pool, or enjoy an ESPA treatment. We loved the resort's signature rainshower massage. If Dad's a golf fan there's both a mini nine hole course, or 18 hole championship course (with a beautiful highland backdrop), to be played.