Three days after returning from holiday to my job in the ‘real World’ I switched my out of office notification back on and escaped for a long weekend.
We were Loch Earn bound for an overnight stay at a favourite lunch spot of ours, The Four Seasons Hotel in St Fillans – woo hoo. We set off early to make the most of the day.
Near Lochearnhead we encountered not one, not two, but three Fiat 500s travelling at a snail-like pace. Mr G was fizzing as he’s a stickler for the speed limit. The dawdling trio with 20 mph to spare were on a road too narrow to overtake on safely! By the time we’d crawled through Glen Ogle even I was screaming ‘GO TO KILLIN’ – thankfully they did take the turn off for Killin, and we were free to travel to the pretty Falls of Falloch faster than we could walk.
The falls are only 30-feet high but they’re located in a scenic glen, so are well visiting if you’re in the area.
Killin’s crowd puller, the Falls of Dochart were surprisingly calm considering July had been monsoon month so far. I love them when they’re a raging torrent.
We lunched at The Courie Inn, enjoying our old faithful soup and sandwich combo. The boy was delighted to receive water, biscuits and lots of attention. We left, hunger abated and ready for an afternoon outdoors.
Passing back through a Fiat 500 free Glen Ogle, we stopped to enjoy the view and watch the light shift dramatically on the hillside around the old railway viaduct. I love Scottish light – even on a grey day, it’s constantly shifting and changing.
Arriving in St Fillans, we parked at our hotel and headed out of the village on foot. I’d chosen us a local walk from the Walkhighlands website. A modest hike along minor road, track and field, culminating in a short climb up a rocky knoll known as Dundurn. The walk caught my eye as Dundurn was once the site of an ancient hillfort.
It was a leafy and pretty walk. Before too long we reached the ruins of Saint Fillan’s Chapel which dates to the 16th century. The chapel was built on the site of a much earlier chapel believed to have been founded by Saint Fillan.
Directly in front of Durndun was an overgrown field. I’d been dreading this part of the walk as it was reported to be boggy. A few tentative steps in and it was dry under foot – yippee. We crossed no bother, although the Wee White Dug disappeared in the long grass. Being the little trooper that he is, he was undeterred.
A handful of metres uphill we were met by a fallen tree blocking our path. We stopped to assess our route, looking for a way through the branches. It was then that I felt the dreaded, and all too familiar seep of bog water through my trail shoes. Arghhhhhh, I felt cheated having easily navigated the bog free, boggy field. I turned and bog hating Mr G had bolted off the hill with the wee dug, and was quickly heading in the direction of the hotel bar. I followed hot on their heels, beaten, but buoyed as wine o’clock was looming.
At The Four Seasons we were welcomed like old friends and shown to our room. It was large and comfortable, with a gorgeous view of the loch. It also had a view of Loch Earn’s most famous resident – but more of him later!
Inside our room a plate of home-made shortbread was waiting. We devoured the sugary treat in record time – it was very good. The boy received a Bonio biscuit and a welcome pack from hotel hound Finn, aka Canine Reservation Manager. In his pack we found information on local dog walks – a really nice touch. The Four Seasons go out of their way to make dogs welcome, even offering a pet concierge service.
I discovered my favourite Arran Aromatics toiletries in the bathroom and the Four Seasons earned themselves another big tick from me.
We freshened up, before heading downstairs for a well-earned liquid refreshment in the bar.
Exploring the public rooms downstairs they all had that same welcoming, chilled feel.
It’s easy to see why in October 1964 while on tour, and looking for privacy The Beatles stayed at the hotel. It’s hard to imagine what sleepy, 1960s St Fillans must have made of Beatlemania.
We enjoyed our drinks in the hotel’s small public bar, admiring the view of the loch outside and basking in the sunlight that was flooding into the room. The boy found a sunny spot on the carpet and was soon snoring.
Later, showered and changed for dinner we left the boy snoozing and headed downstairs to the hotel’s more formal Meall Reamhar Restaurant for dinner.
We were seated on a comfy sofa in the lounge and given herb, marinaded olives and mixed nuts to snack on as we purused the wine list and mouth-watering menu.
The wine list was easy, as a quote on it from Lily Bollinger quickly convincing us that we needed champagne. I certainly needed something to quench my thirst after wolfing down the entire bowl of nuts – moreish!!
I drink Champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it — unless I’m thirsty.
Inside the restaurant we were seated by the window at a table with an amazing view. Our chilled champagne arrived, and the four course meal that followed it was one of the best we’ve ever eaten in Scotland. This was 5 star food from a 3 star hotel – phenomenally good.
We’d both chosen dinner from the four course Rosette Menu.
We kicked-off our delicious, gastronomic feast with canapés. Brie and tomato crostini with a homemade chutney and light carrot and mango mousse.
Our starter was poached free range hen’s egg, new season asparagus, parmesan, and truffle butter sauce. It was cooked perfectly and a big hit with us both.
Next, I enjoyed a palate cleansing fruit sorbet while Mr G had the demi tasse of Chef’s soup. It was mushroom, a favourite of his and he went into raptures over it.
For our main course we both had roasted corn fed chicken, potato fondant, leek fondue and braised salsify in a tarragon jus. It was perfect, and even the sight of bone in the chicken didn’t put me off. Normally this would result in me eating the veg and leaving the chicken.
As we ate I’d been keeping an eye on the sky outside for any hints of the pink glow which often precedes a dramatic sunset. I’d been hoping to catch the sun setting behind Loch Earn’s most famous resident ‘Still’ or Mirror Man as he’s more commonly known. He’s an eye catching art installation by artist Rob Mullholland. He stands shin-deep in the loch outside the hotel.
Back inside our desserts arrived, Mr G had a date sponge with rice pudding ice cream, salted caramel sauce and orange tuille. The three seconds he took to devour it told me it must have been very good.
I’d thown caution to the wind and chosen a chilled Perthshire strawberry soup, with vanilla panna cotta, strawberry compote and pink peppercorn tuille. I never eat strawberries, and don’t get what all the fuss is about but I LOVED my dessert.
We had a quick nightcap in the bar after our walk, but all three of us were puggled (Scots for very tired) after our day, so we retired to bed and slept like logs.
Next morning, we woke early feeling refreshed. Mr G went for a walk, while the boy and I slumbered until 7:15am!
When Mr G returned he was hyper, it was a beautiful day outside and the loch was reflecting. Reflecting you say? I was out of our room at break neck speed, camera poised.
I stood in front of ‘Still’ enjoying the tranquility of the morning, and the gorgeous scene before me. The loch was almost as calm as a millpond, the only ripples being created by two ducks out for a morning swim. The bright morning light had turned the mirror man into a magical, shimmering delight.
It’s not every day you catch one of Scotland’s lochs reflecting, so when it happens I get really excited. It often doesn’t last either, so you really need to sieze the moment and enjoy the beauty.
My cooked Scottish breakfast was perfect. The haggis was spicy, the bacon flavoursome and the egg yolk just right for dipping toast in.
Mr G’s smoked salmon and scrambled eggs earned a top three ranking amongst his favourite ever eaten. He’s obsessed with the dish and seems to travel round Scotland doling out imaginary awards whenever he finds perfection!
We’d had a wonderful stay and didn’t want to leave, but all good things come to an end so we said our goodbyes and packed up the car, vowing to return soon.
Outside, the reflection on the loch was gone and I was grateful that I’d ran outside like a lunatic earlier to enjoy it.
I’d like to offer a huge thank you to Susan and her brilliant team at The Four Seasons Hotel for making our stay a memorable one. Although we stayed on a complimentary dinner, B&B basis all information, musings and comments within this blog are accurate and entirely my own.
It was time to head home to Edinburgh – or was it? We had overpacked bags, were surrounded by spectacular scenery and there was a winding road ahead of us. This year alone we’ve covered more miles than the Incredible Hulk and the Littlest Hobo combined. So, did we return to Edinburgh? Of course not, we pointed the car in a westerly direction and followed in the footsteps of the ancient Gaelic speaking kings of Dàl Riata – but that’s another story!
Until next time ……….