Great Places to Stay
- Roman Camp Country House
"The wanderer's eye could barely view
The summer heaven's delicious blue;
So wondrous wild, the whole might seem
The scenery of a fairy dream."
It was Sir Walter Scott's poem "The Lady of the Lake" which did so much to draw the first intrepid tourists - and Queen Victoria - to Loch Katrine in the Trossachs. Roman Camp is an enchanting pink-washed mansion on the banks of the River Teith in this tranquil Perthshire countryside. It's the perfect base for touring around the Trossachs and Loch Lomond National Park, Stirling castle and battlefields, lochs, forested hills and glens.
From the moment you motor up the tree lined drive to the front door, you can sense the character and historic charm of this place. Inside the ancient oak door, there's a welcoming log fire in the stone flagged hallway. The name comes from the remains of a Roman Camp in the hotel grounds and the site of a Roman Fort nearby at Bochastle Farm. Originally a 17th century shooting lodge, the house was purchased in 1897 by Reginald Brett, Viscount Esher. Over the years, the family's celebrated guests included several prime ministers, artists and writers including J M Barrie (who is believed to have written part of Peter Pan here) to more recent hotel residents including the Beatles, Peter O'Toole and Bette Midler.
Many of the period Victorian and Edwardian architectural features and furnishings have been preserved. The library, with its hidden stone chapel, has a Jacobean ceiling, oak panelling and floor to ceiling bookcases. This is a warm and inspiring place to relax and read, or sip a post prandial dram - If the Library is masculine in mood and attitude, the drawing room is feminine, with soft sofas, lavish silk wallpaper, ornate cornicing, white marble fireplace and garlands of dried flowers. This is a place for afternoon tea, scones and jam.
The Esher's classically designed 20 acre parkland features a walled garden, herbaceous border, rhododendron bushes, Italian statues, and a sundial with a riverside walkway to spot ducks and herons. Peacocks strut around the herb garden.
Fourteen bedrooms and suites come in all shapes and sizes, from ground floor to attic turret, all stuffed with an eclectic selection of antiques and 'arts and crafts' decorative furniture, classic wallpaper, a touch of chintz and plaid, comfy armchairs and pretty drapes. Bathrooms are modern, some with luxury Jacuzzi baths. Homely comforts include a decanter of sherry, fresh fruit and flat screen TV. On going refurbishment keeps standards refreshed each year. Families with children will love the Barrie Suite with a double bedroom, as well as two sofa beds in the sitting room.
Wining and Dining
Drummond Hall is the name of the ornate oval dining room surrounded by windows, which is sunny by day, candlelit at night, with tables set formally with flowing skirts of white linen, shining silver, and tall vases of flowers. It's all rather frou frou. The Independent newspaper named Roman Camp as one of the top 50 best places for a romantic meal. Head Chef Ian McNaught, previously at leading fine dining restaurants, Peat Inn and Ostler's Close, he was one of the youngest chefs in Scotland to receive 3 AA Rosettes and in 2007 he won Scottish Hotel Chef of the Year. This is a serious foodie kind of place featuring modern Scottish cuisine with a daily four course set menu and an a la carte selection. (Note that there is a separate vegetarian menu but this was not offered to us, even though I gave advance notice of dietary preferences.)
The evening begins with champagne or G&T and canapés in the elegant Drawing room. The set menu is typically Fish, (Seared scallops with celeriac purée,), Soup (Haricot Blanc or Puy Lentil) Main course (fillet of Scotch Beef, mushroom and broad bean sauté, foie gras rarebit), and Dessert (Lemon Mousse, rhubarb, basil sorbet). Alternatively, the A La Carte menu is a classy affair: Lobster Pannacotta with Sevruga Caviar, then Rose Veal or Poached Breast of Pheasant, choice of puddings and cheese. The illustration here is an attractively presented Sea Bass. Retire to the Library for coffee, chocolates and a nightcap - the bar has a fine malt whisky collection.
Breakfast is also served in this dining room. From a traditional menu of fruit, porridge, eggs and bacon, kippers and scrambled eggs, et al, with no buffet, your choice of freshly prepared dishes is served by the waiting staff at your table.
Leisure and sports
This is a land of mountain peaks and tranquil glens to enjoy the best sports and outdoor adventures from forest walks and hill climbing to game shooting and fishing. A private beat on the River Teith through the gardens offer two good pools "The Black Whole" and "Green Isle" for Salmon, Sea Trout, and wild Brown Trout. Springtime, September and October are the best seasons. Rods, equipment and the services of a Ghillie can all be arranged.
The National Park around Loch Katrine, Aberfoyle and over to Loch Lomond, features fabulous scenery for walking, cycling, horse-riding and golf. After a day out in the fresh Highland air, you will appreciate Roman Camp's classic Afternoon tea in front of the fire.
In a nutshell …
Roman Camp was transformed into a country house hotel in 1939. Eric and Marion Brown took it over 21 years ago. Their aim is to recreate the ambience of the original shooting lodge where the Eshers hosted private house parties for their friends. The ethos today is still very much Welcome to our home.
Roman Camp entices guests with attractive dinner, bed and breakfast packages through the seasons, for instance a new tariff starting from £99 per person, per night throughout Autumn/Winter/Spring 2010-2011.
During the Festive season two attractive fully inclusive programmes offer great value for such sumptuous traditional hospitality. The Christmas Escape is three days of treats. Arrive on Christmas Eve for afternoon tea with sherry, followed by carol singing. The evening begins with champagne reception followed by dinner with selected wines. Sip mulled wine on Christmas Day before a fine banquet, with time to relax (or collapse), and a brisk countryside walk before another feast on Boxing Day. Alternatively, celebrate the start of the New Year with a Hogmanay wintertime retreat, gourmet meals, vintage wines, an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery dinner, Scottish country dancing and fireworks.
This authentic, Edwardian Country House is ideal for small exclusive use weddings, as well as a range of private dinner parties and celebratory events.
For more information or to make a reservation see the Roman Camp Web site or email email@example.com. The Roman Camp postal address is Callander, Perthshire, FK17 8BG (telephone 01877 330003 )
Vivien Devlin, British Guild of Travel Writers
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