Great Places to Stay
- Black Bull Hotel, Killearn, Stirlingshire
In the heart of Stirlingshire, about 30 minutes west of Stirling, surrounding the delightful villages of Kippen, Fintry, Balfron, Drymen (seen here) and Killearn, is the gentle rolling countryside known as the Campsie Fells. This is great motoring country, within easy reach of Glasgow, the Trossachs and Loch Lomond as well as ideal for walkers with the West Highland Way crossing by nearby Drymen. The village of Killearn is popular with commuters who work in Glasgow by day but prefer the rural setting by night. A thirty minute drive, on a good day, will get you to the centre of the city.
There has been the Black Bull Hotel - or Inn - in the village square in Killearn for as long as anyone can remember and centuries further back from then. Original features of the old 19th century coaching inn are still retained in the hallway and residents lounge while a good deal of refurbishment has been carried out over the generations. Today the hotel offers the widest choice of hospitality to locals, passing tourists, day visitors from Glasgow, leisure and business overnight guests. The new owners Daniel and Gillian Stewart are welcoming hosts and whether you wish to call by for Sunday lunch, tea and scones, dinner with friends, a drink in the bar, or reserve a bedroom for a few nights stay, the door is open.
The ex-pat Stewart family took over the hotel in May 2004. In a surprisingly short time they have renovated the Conservatory restaurant and several of the bedrooms installing brand new modern en suite bathrooms. To be fair, the overall decoration throughout the hotel is pretty up to date so it will be a modest stage-by-stage process through the year to freshen the place up with new curtains, carpets, beds and furnishings where necessary. Once complete, there will be ten bedrooms, including one large suite, open for guests. Room one is a typical double bedroom, with a lovely view over the garden. It's attractively dressed in a dash of warm tartan, which doesn't take away from the cool, sleek mood of the modern design. There is a very swish cream/ brown suede and leather headboard and the overall colour scheme is in soft neutral tones, with pale pine wardrobe and neat desks/ dressing table. The new marble bathroom is compact but practical with bath, power-shower, hot towel rail and excellent fine soap and toiletries by Gilchrist and Soames Spa Therapy.
A great deal of thought has gone into homely touches in the bedrooms such as a litre bottle of mineral water rather than the usual one tiny bottle to share between two people. Also homemade shortbread wrapped in cellophane. And on the bed is a soft cuddly toy dog. And during your stay you may come across a couple of real live dogs around the hotel, namely Archie, a gorgeous black Scottie and his younger companion, Penny, a white terrier puppy.
When it comes to eating and drinking, you have a great choice at the Black Bull depending on the occasion, time of day, appetite and budget. A different menu and atmosphere to suit everyone from children to granny. Let's start our tour in the attractive Conservatory where Poachers Restaurant is open for dinner every night of the week, presenting an exceptionally high standard of contemporary Scottish cuisine. Head Chef Campbell Cameron joined the Black Bull in the summer of 2004, with a very impressive C.V, having worked at Inverlochy Castle, Four Seasons and at Cameron House with Michelin star chef Jeff Bland. This is seriously good, sophisticated cooking, created with imagination but without pretentiousness. Start perhaps with a light, pink mound of Tartare of Wild and cultivated Salmon smothered in crème fraîche with a zest of lime. Or for something rather different, baked field mushrooms topped with haggis and a poached egg, glazed with malt whisky butter sauce. Main courses might include Beef Fillet - spiced up with a rich Dunsyre blue cheese mousse and port wine jus. Tried and tested is Baked Fillet of Turbot with a Parmesan red pesto crust served with saffron potatoes in a pool of pepper coulis. This description does no justice to the masterpiece on the plate. Around the fish was a selection of baby vegetables, carrots, turnip, fennel as well as an amazing mashed potato "pear". It was utterly exquisite in taste, texture and presentation. Portions are not over the top so after a wee pause, you might be tempted by the dessert menu. Push the boat out with Hot Chocolate Soufflé dotted with cherries and cream or perhaps Banana Tarte with rum and raisin ice cream. The large selection of Celtic cheese board is excellent served with handmade oatcakes.
For lunch and dinner every day you may also eat in the stylish Bistro -(comfortable purple chairs and booths) and the equally comfortable Bar. Bistro menu might include a chunky Smoked Haddock broth, Salmon with chive mash, and the very popular, Corned Chicken filled with Stornoway Black pudding. Down in the cosy bar you'll find a fine selection of sandwiches, haggis and neeps, fish and chips, burger and good grilled steaks.
The Stewarts are very aware of the importance of a good healthy breakfast served in the sunny Conservatory overlooking the garden. A groaning buffet table offers fresh and dried fruits, cereal, juices, bagels, croissants and "good bacteria" yoghurt drinks. Porridge and hot dishes are made to order including eggs as you like them, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, kippers and smoked haddock with poached eggs. Decent sized cafetières and teapots are brought to the table with toast, good unwrapped butter and preserves.
The Black Bull bar is a fun and friendly place, popular with the locals as well as passing visitors and hotel guests. A snooker table, large screen TV for football matches and a roaring fire in winter draws a mixed crowd. Resident guests also have a private lounge bar beside the Conservatory restaurant featuring a lovely real coal fire, leather sofas and armchairs. Afternoon tea - scones and jam, sandwiches and cakes - is served here. The garden has tables and benches for summer time drinks.
Killearn is a great centre for motoring around the Trossachs, Loch Katrine (illustrated here) and particularly handy for Loch Lomond. This features Loch Lomond Shores visitor centre, the National Park for nature walks and cycling as well as boat trips and fishing on the loch. If romantic Scottish castles are what you are looking for, then Buchanan Castle, Culcreuch Castle, Doune Castle and Balloch Castle are all close at hand. And the city of Glasgow and Stirling are both less than half an hour away.
From the outside this looks like a typical whitewashed Scottish village pub with rooms. But come inside and the cool, stylish decor, leather sofas and coal fires offers a modern take on a country inn. Genuinely friendly welcome, (especially from dogs Archie and Penny), superior cooking and homely bedrooms. No wonder people travel quite a distance to come here for lunch or dinner.
For more information or to make a reservation see the Black Bull Hotel, Killearn Web site or e-mail Sales@blackbullhotel.com.
For places to visit not far from Killearn, see:
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