Great Places to Stay
- Loch Lomond Waterfront Lodges, Balmaha, Stirling
"Oh, ye'll tak the high road and I'll tak the low road,
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye, But me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond" Traditional Jacobite song
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs is a place of wild and rugged natural beauty and beloved as a national treasure by both tourists and the Scots ourselves. Often called the Highlands in miniature, this area was eulogised by Sir Walter Scott in his epic poem, The Lady of the Lake and also in his romantic novel, Rob Roy. Loch Lomond has for generations been a weekend playground for day trippers and steam boat cruisers from Glasgow. More recently a new leisure attraction has been developed - with care and conservation - Loch Lomond Shores visitor centre and the creation of Scotland's first national park for nature walks, hill climbing and cycling. Most visitors arrive at Balloch at the south end and drive north up the A82 along the west bank of the loch to Tarbet and Ardlui.
But the less travelled road is from Drymen up the east bank of the loch to Balmaha, and then the single track road on to the remote villages of Rowardennan and Inversnaid. This is the tranquil, sunny side of the loch, and very popular with hill climbers and walkers heading for the West Highland Way, Conic Hill and Ben Lomond. Whether you fancy an active and sporting holiday or a relaxing break, Balmaha is the perfect, off the-beaten-track destination.
Loch Lomond Waterfront Lodges
This new development of 5 star luxury weekend and holiday lodges (completed 2007), has been a painstaking labour of love project for owners Charles and Suzanne Cottam, who have lived in Balmaha for over 20 years, originally managing the village Garden Centre and Coffee shop. Observing the popularity of upmarket, self catering timeshare lodges at Cameron House, on the other side of the Loch, they conceived the idea for high quality, value for money, lochside lodges at Balmaha. Having received planning consent in 2001, development was unfortunately held up while the National Park took priority. But then they got the go ahead to create their resort.
Eleven luxury Swiss chalet-style Lodges are located in two well spaced out rows around landscaped parkland, just a short stroll from a private beach. There's a choice of two storey houses as well as bungalows. Each lodge features two en suite bathrooms, sleeping four guests, and also a sofa bed in the lounge, so that six people can share the accommodation. For an extended family or group of friends, two adjoining lodges can be booked to provide fabulous holiday home for up to 12 guests.
The resort was developed with an ecological, save the planet ethos. Designed by Young and Gault architects of Glasgow, the lodges are built from Scottish wood supplied by Deeside Timber, Stonehaven. The three bungalows have living grass Sedum roofs which change in colour and texture season by season - perfect for insulation and very environmentally friendly. The Waterfront Lodges are therefore (possibly) the greenest holiday location in Scotland.
My partner Ken and I were allocated a single storey lodge in the front row, with uninterrupted views across the lawn and field down to the Loch. Our temporary home has two en suite double bedrooms (beds can be twin or double), spacious, homely, living room with dining table and a small kitchen. It is all beautifully designed with high end, immaculate quality furnishings such as two burgundy brown leather sofas (one is a double sofa bed), two oatmeal and purple checked tweed armchairs, lush curtains, flat screen TV (11 digital/ sky channels) and DVD/ CD player. The walls have an attractive selection of landscape prints by Pam Carter. Lighting from spot lights can be dimmed and there's even a remote to turn on the standard lamp.
The kitchen is carefully stocked with absolutely everything you might possibly need for self catering including dishwasher, microwave, washer dryer and ironing board. In the cupboards you'll find all crockery and cutlery and utensils for a lavish dinner party - from garlic press and salad bowl to wine glasses and large cafetière. Fresh coffee, tea bags, salt and pepper are supplied. The Resort shop sells milk, eggs, bread, pasta, wine, beer and selection of gourmet produce for essential supplies. You will dine in style sitting on burgundy leather chairs around the polished wood table.
On the topic of eating and drinking, the resort wants to allow guests to relax and sometime during your stay, take the "self" out of the concept of self catering and there's a brand new Osprey Restaurant open (most days) for breakfast, bar drinks, coffee, snacks, lunch and dinner. See details below.
In our lodge, the bedrooms were decorated in a gorgeous fashionable crimson - and with soft duvet, fluffy pillows, crisp white sheets and wool throw, the whole look is comparable to the best stylishly smart city hotels opening in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The bathroom has both a bath tub and shower cubicle, with towels and soap supplied. There is another shower room in the lodge - this time a super duper, Steam room with seat and radio. Your own private Spa. And although it's a bit of a tight squeeze for one, it's perfect hot steamy relaxing alternative to your morning ablutions.
On the dressing table, a proper make up mirror and in the drawer - a hairdryer. Everything has been thought about with meticulous detail to ensure this is a 5 star luxury resort. Most lodges have free wi-fi internet access if you really must check your emails while on holiday. It is absolutely true to say that within half an hour of arriving, Ken and I had settled in to our cosy, Show House-style, home-from-home, like putting on a pair of comfy slippers.
Sports and leisure
As the sun went down at around 6pm, I donned my bathing suit and ventured out to test our own private Jacuzzi. The bungalow lodges all have a hot tub on the patio. (All lodges will have hot tubs soon). Just pull off the cover, step into the hot, hot water then switch on the power. Relax in your own hydrotherapy "pool" with hard hitting jets of water to soothe the muscles, aches and pains. A hot tub gives therapeutic treatment for metabolism, blood pressure and mental fatigue. (Hint: What would be appreciated are bathrobes to wrap up in, before and after hot tub.) Another Spa treat is the option of arranging a facial or aromatherapy massage in the privacy of your lodge. A local, professional beauty therapist can be booked in advance with a range of treatments including reiki and Swedish massages. Perfect after a long hike up Ben Lomond or day out on the loch.
Around the lochside and local area, this is a natural playground for outdoor sports and adventure for all ages. Watersports such as motor boating, sailing, kayaking and windsurfing can be arranged directly from the Waterfront resort's own private beach. You can take a lovely stroll along the sandy shore to the Boatyard at Balmaha. The shallow waters of the loch are perfect for fishing for perch, trout and salmon on payment of a rod licence.
Enjoy some exhilarating walks, nature rambles or cycle rides (rent a mountain bike from the Resort) along this quiet east bank of the loch. From Balmaha you can join the West Highland Way, or for the more energetic, tackle the slopes of the local Conic Hill and Ben Lomond (7 miles away). There are several golf courses in the area, such as Buchanan Castle and temporary membership can also be arranged at Loch Lomond championship Golf Course - travel across the loch by speed boat.
Osprey Café Restaurant
While the lodge kitchens are extremely well kitted out to cook all your meals, a holiday means a rest from domesticity and not moving from one kitchen sink to another. So it's a treat to find that there is a Resort bar and restaurant, serving breakfast, snacks, drinks, lunch and dinner. It's a smart café/ brasserie and bar with dining tables as well as sofas for coffee or cocktails. Expect good Home Cooking with a range of popular gourmet pub dishes - nachos, salads, mussels, fish and chips, steak, burgers (and tasty veggie burgers), and Asian-style chicken and sword fish dishes with rice. If you would prefer to eat in your lodge, then book your dinner before you go out and the chef will put your meal in the oven to heat up on your return.
On Sundays there is a special buffet Carvery lunch - note that the restaurant is closed on Sunday evening. As we were there on a Sunday night, we had to order dinner to eat in the lodge, and unfortunately we could not experience breakfast at the Osprey the next morning as the restaurant is closed all day Monday. The breakfast menu looks pretty good too!
With your own private patio, you can also buy a disposable BBQ and cook your own sausages. Alternatively the Chef can prepare food for you or arrange a party style Barbecue outside the Osprey restaurant.
The Lodge guest information pack is very comprehensive, covering everything from grocery shops, local doctor, golf courses and pubs and restaurants. There's a good list of recommended places to eat and drink around the local towns and villages from Drymen to Helensburgh.
Special Offers - Special Guests
- As you might infer from the description of golfing breaks, hot tubs and massage treatments, the Loch Lomond Luxury lodges cater specifically for adult guests and do not offer special entertainment or games for children. A family with teenagers might love it for cycling and kayaking, but this is not suitable for young children. Many guests come for a peaceful lochside break and may not appreciate kids playing football around the lodges!
- Although only open less than a year (as at autumn 2007), the lodges have been very popular wit honeymoon couples and I can see why - these are perfect, secluded, private and romantic hideaways. Honeymooners are offered an attractive discount with champagne on ice on arrival.
- The Resort has been granted a Wedding licence - the newest, alternative venue in Scotland! There are special Exclusive packages for up to 40 guests. The ceremony can take place either in the Osprey Restaurant, or perhaps on the beach.
- The Resort is perfect for corporate away days and team building short breaks, groups of friends and exclusive-use parties. (Family gatherings, birthdays, anniversaries).
- Check the website for special offers and seasonal discounts
- Guests may book a 3, 4, 5 or 6 night break with a Friday or Saturday changeover. The reasonable tariff for each lodge (from £ 380 for 3 nights sleeping up to 6 people), includes electricity, bed linen, towels and VAT.
Loch Lomond Waterfront Lodges is located at Main Road, Balmaha, Stirling (Telephone 01360 870144). For more information or to make a reservation see the Loch Lomond Waterfront Web site or e-mail email@example.com
Suzanne and Charles Cottam have certainly planned this luxury Leisure Resort with great care and understanding of what facilities guests might love to experience. Such a sophisticated adult holiday environment is a welcome idea - many other family-oriented hotels cater for children. With an environmentally friendly policy, hot tubs, in house massages, excellent TV and DVD system, fabulous kitchens, designer furnishings - the entire concept is a magnificent achievement. It has been created with great vision which deserves to succeed with flying colours. Ken and I spent one night here arriving 4pm and leaving at noon the next day. It felt like 3 days, it was so relaxing and we so wished we could have stayed on for a week. Another time - very soon we hope!
© Vivien Devlin, British Guild of Travel Writers
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