Great Places to Stay
- Forest Hills, Kinlochard, The Trossachs, Aberfoyle, Stirlingshire
"Like the dew on the mountains,
Like the foam on the river,
Like the bubble on the fountain,
Thou art gone, and forever".
Sir Walter Scott
The glens, lochs and forested mountains of the Trossachs have attracted visitors for generations and is one of Scotland's earliest tourist destinations. Sir Walter Scott eulogised about Loch Katrine in his poem, Lady of the Lake while the romantic legend of local hero Rob Roy adds to its enduring appeal. Stretching between Perthshire and Argyll, the Trossachs are often called the "Highlands in Miniature" due to its wild, unspoilt and spectacular scenery. Popular places to stay are in and around Callander and Aberfoyle from where you can tour the area by car or go walking and cycling in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.
Forest Hills Hotel and Resort is perfectly located in the heart of the Trossachs, four miles from Aberfoyle on the shores of Loch Ard. This is a small but beautiful loch with tiny islands and completely surrounded by forested hills - hence the hotel name. The original white washed Victorian country house has been expanded over the years with new accommodation wings and leisure centre creating an attractive resort, surrounded by 25 acres of lovely gardens, featuring lawns and duck ponds, sweeping down to the loch side. The illustration here shows Loch Ard in winter after a fall of snow.
And So To Bed
There are 54 bedrooms ranging from standard, family, and garden view, to superior balcony rooms and for a honeymoon or special occasions reserve a Four Poster suite. Forest Hills is popular with weddings. Room 103 is a delightfully attractive room with windows facing out to the front and side with French window out to a large cedar wood balcony where you could sit and relax with stunning views across the loch to Ben Lomond. This superior bedroom is full of light and offers exceptional comfort and space with king size bed, sofa, coffee table and two armchairs with soft lighting from standard and table lamps. The mattress was extremely firm but perhaps that is good for the back. The one pillow each was of the thin polyfibre type, but nice soft duvet and quality cotton sheets.
The Colour TV offers Channels 1-5 only, no cable or satellite and surprisingly no radio stations available. With music such a part of our daily lives I would have thought radios or CD players are expected in hotel rooms these days. Other in-room facilities include an iron, trouser press, tea, coffee, shortbread and mineral water but no mini bar. You can also enjoy an extensive 24-hour room service menu featuring comfort food, pizzas, chips, burgers and children's meals. The bathroom is larger than many hotels with a quality power shower over the bath. Extra points are given for the stylish vase of fresh flowers, very hot towel rail, fluffy bath robes and loud speakers in the bathroom so that you can listen to television in the bath. Pity there is no music system! Overall a very quiet and relaxing room offering homely comfort and a good night's sleep for all.
In addition to the hotel bedrooms there are 64 luxury Lodges located in separate blocks around the grounds. These are Time Share properties owned by guests with fixed week bookings, but accommodation may be available for three nights or more. You can also become a member of the new Options Holiday Ownership Club, which offers the opportunity to stay at Forest Hills and all Macdonald hotels as well as other resorts worldwide. Guests staying at the Lodges may use all the facilities of the Forest Hills resort, the leisure club and restaurants.
The Garden Room Restaurant
Catering for couples, families, business and leisure guests, there are two separate restaurants offering a choice of dining. The elegant Garden Restaurant - as you would expect - overlooks the lovely gardens with an outdoor patio with umbrella tables. This is a fine-dining restaurant with a Chef's dinner menu, which changes daily - excellent for those staying here three or four nights. Gregor Brown is the Head Chef and he should be congratulated on his superb, fresh contemporary Scottish cuisine. Simplicity is the best option rather than overly fussy, trying-to-be-too-clever dishes with long descriptions. Here starters might include Serrano Ham and Parmesan Salad, a simple but delicious Goat's Cheese and Red Onion Bruschetta with a green leaf salad, or a sensational Seared Tuna "Au Poivre" with soft savoury potatoes and porcini sauce - a small tender slab of tuna on smooth mash and a rich mushroom sauce - imaginative cooking at its best.
Then for mains a wide choice of fish, chicken, pork and vegetarian dishes as well as a full Grill Selection of Sirloin, Fillet and Rib eye steaks. The Baked Seabass fillet was delicately cooked, topped with whole olive tapenade and served with tiny sauté potatoes, baby carrots, sugar snap peas and broccoli. Again quite perfect. At an adjoining table a couple were also enjoying their meal with the word "scrummy" used to describe the Smoked Chicken and Hummous Gallette. Full points too for the portion size so that the dessert and cheese menu was most welcome. Highly recommended is the light as air Pear and Frangipani Tart. One quibble was that there was a loud and lively wedding reception taking place in the adjoining function suite, disturbing a quiet romantic dinner for many guests.
The Rafters Steak House in the Leisure centre offers an alterative good Pub Grub menu and casual environment for lunch or dinner especially suitable for families, children, sporting crowd and groups of friends.
A help yourself buffet breakfast is served in the Garden room. Start with ice-cold fruit juice, prunes, figs, fresh fruit, yoghurt, cereals, croissants and pastries, cheese and cold meats. From the hot plate - fried and scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, beans, tomatoes and mushrooms. Unfortunately arriving at 9.45 on a Sunday morning (breakfast is served until 10.30pm), the beans and mushrooms were finished and the fried eggs were cold. However pots of strong coffee, good (tea-bag) tea, toast and fresh butter were brought to the table. For a Scottish Highland resort it is a shame that there is no porridge, kippers or eggs cooked to order.
Just outside the Garden restaurant there is a lounge bar located in what would have been the original drawing room of the old house with its ornate ceiling cornicing and carved wood doors. Guests relax here for pre-dinner drinks or for coffee and a nightcap. Beside the Rafters Steak house is a traditional pub for a more casual pint or dram.
Sports and Leisure
Where to start! Forest Hills offers every kind of sport and activity you could wish for. The Leisure centre has a fitness gym, small kidney shaped swimming pool - more for a fun splash about rather than serious laps - jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. Indoor games include table tennis and snooker tables. From late summer to spring there is also a full size indoor Curling Rink which is very popular. Down by the lochside Go Forth is a superb outdoor sports and activity centre which was created over five years ago by partners Jamie and Mike. Loch Ard is a small, safe and sheltered loch, perfect to learn to sail, kayak or canoe. What is fascinating to learn is it was here that Shirley Robertson, the Olympic gold medal champion learned to sail as a young girl. All around Forest Hills are miles of National Park and mountain tracks for quad biking, mountain biking and walking. Highly recommended is the off road 4x4 Landrover safari drive high up into the mountains for spectacular views and then experience some hair-raising drives across the specially designed assault courses up and down steep hills and through rivers and streams. You can be instructed in 4x4 off road driving too. Otherwise Fly-fishing, Clay Pigeon shooting, hill climbing and pony trekking can all be arranged. It would be wise to book watersport and driving lessons and specific activities in advance. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01877 387775.
This is a true hidden gem and surprisingly remote. From Aberfoyle take the narrow B829 along the shores of Loch Ard. Just past the hotel at the village of Kinlochard the road goes no further except for mountain tracks. Forest Hills is unique in that it combines a quiet country house atmosphere with an excellent sporting and leisure resort. You will enjoy comfortable bedrooms, excellent food, friendly service and fabulous scenery all around.
For more information or to make a reservation see the Macdonald Hotels Web site or the specific Forest Hills Hotel and Resort Web site.
Useful website links to nearby attractions include:
Return to the Index of Great Places to Stay in Scotland>.
Where else would you like to go in Scotland?
News & Views>
All Features Index>
Search This Site>
Scottish Pictorial Calendar>
Places to Visit>