Last year I swapped the usual mayhem that takes hold of us all on Christmas Eve for hopping on a plane to Scotland. Happily leaving behind the crazed last-minute present shopping, hunting down the best nut roast and samosas this side of North London and the fear of not having enough crackers or food in the house. What a decision that was – a total game changer where Christmas is concerned.
After 55 minutes in the air aboard a cramped non-luxe Ryanair flight from Stansted. We landed in Glasgow. A half hour taxi ride later we were surrounded by peaceful Scottish countryside and the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond where Cameron House majestically stands.
Naturally cold for the time of year. Breathing in the clean and clear air was a joyous boost to my smog filled lungs. I can’t deny the lack of snow was a slight disappointment. Instead we were greeted with a very swollen loch. A few days before our arrival the loch flooded the grounds and cut off all the roads around the hotel! Good job it subsided in time for our little trip.
The imposing entrance, sound of the quintessential Scottish bagpipes and extremely courteous doormen banished all my initial fears of spending Christmas in Noah’s ark.
Relieved of luggage (three large suitcases, one and a half dedicated purely to Christmas presents) by the dapper doormen dressed in mustard tartan trousers and tweed jackets, we experienced one of the best hotel check-ins ever!
The girls were taken to an enormous and perfectly decorated Christmas tree to hunt down their named gingerbread cookies hanging from the branches. Mr S and I were seated in front of a roaring fire with mince pies and mulled ginger wine. I was in heaven – pure magic.
We stayed on a four night Christmas package in a loch view family room. It was elegantly furnished with wingback chairs and lots of tartan. It had a very dark, moody and masculine feel – I liked it! The girls had their own little capsule room with brown velvet padded walls, bunk beds and TV. The room overlooked the loch and the hotels cute yellow seaplane docked on the jetty. Opening the curtains every morning to the stunning view was a joy.
The hotel also kindly arranged christmas gifts for the girls which were spot on. The Resort Manager emailed me for suggestions a couple of weeks prior to our stay. The attention to detail was impressive, Radha received a jewellery making kit and Asha a splendid Frozen tiara, wand and storybook. The big kids didn’t miss out either. I received a huge tin of Scottish Arran Aromatics candles and the Mr S was pleased with his half bottle of single malt.
The Christmas spirit truly took hold when the girls were invited to a storytelling in the evening with the one and only Mrs Claus. It was magical and almost had me wishing I was four again. When she walked into the tinkle of sleigh bells their little faces were a picture. They filled their bellies with milk and cookies whilst she read stories and told tales about the naughty elves.
It ended with all the children sprinkling their own magic dust outside the hotel to make sure Rudolph would know exactly where to bring Santa and his presents. What a great idea! As ‘How will Santa know where to bring my presents?’ and ‘Does this mean I won’t get any presents this year because he won’t know where to go?’ were the questions on constant re-wind prior to the trip from my little ladies. It nicely put to bed any anxious feelings of being ‘presentless’ on the big day.
Christmas morning was the usual happy frenzy of present opening. Carefully arranged by moi the night before. Tippy-toeing around opening suitcases trying not to wake the kids was a comedy sketch in its own right.
The day continued in a blissfully laid back manner with a leisurely breakfast and bucks fizz in the Cameron Grill. We were then invited to watch a very James Bond-esque entrance by Santa Claus on his speedboat across the loch to the hotel jetty. It meant another round of presents for the girls. Cue squeals of delight.
Our three course Christmas lunch was delicious. It tasted even better as I didn’t have to lift a finger to make it. Not to be served the customary festive veggie delight of butternut squash risotto or any other type risotto for that matter made my day! Instead I delved into a filo parcel filled with a medley of ceps, artichokes and spinach along with the classic Christmas trimmings. The fabulous entertainers were also very impressive. Magicians and caricature artists amused the kids whilst we were able to enjoy a very relaxing lunch – Bonus!
After over indulging in classic Christmas style we had the option of watching the Queen’s speech at 3pm in the cinema room, followed by a festive movie and popcorn. We chose not to fight off the post-lunch snooze and headed back to the room. The rest of the day resembled the same comatose nature of Christmases at home, including the obligatory chomping on chocolates, but this time whilst watching a lovely Christmas documentary I worked on ‘The Grand Night Out: The Story of Aardman’. It’s true, you never get tired of watching your own name on the credits rolling up the telly box – especially when you share the screen with MORPH!
At last it was time for me to delight the senses of my mind and body so I hot-footed it down to the Carrick Spa, which is a short (complimentary) car ride from the main hotel next to The Carrick Country Club and Golf Course. I mean who has a hot stone massage on Boxing Day – I do. That’s who! Whilst mummy was rejuvenating and relaxing in her tranquil place, the girls took part in some kids activities with daddy making dreamcatchers.
Falconry display was the order of play for the afternoon. It was amazing watching the majestic birds of prey flying overhead like the Steppe Eagle, Harris Hawk and European Eagle Owl. I also excitedly (maybe a little too excitedly) volunteered to hold and fly one of the owls.
After braving the cold and rain with the big birds, we retreated to the Great Scots Bar for some hot chocolates and stiff drinks. And sunk into the large sofas to admire the magnificent panorama from the inside.
My only quibble of the whole holiday would be about the bar. The service at times was slow due to being understaffed. Strange being one of their busiest times of the year. It just felt less polished compared to the rest of the hotel.
Radha’s Birthday – 27th Dec
My not so little girl turned seven!! Even after all these years it’s still quite a mind bender that I’m a mother to a seven year old.
After a scrummy birthday breakfast of blueberry pancakes with lashings of maple syrup the girls enjoyed a morning in the state of the art leisure centre complete with water slide. The girls were in their element and I was exactly where I needed to be – poolside on a lounger engrossed in the latest copy of Glamour.
Back in the room Radha was greeted with a very generous birthday present from the hotel. Her very own Winx Club doll. For those who don’t know ‘Winx Club’ is an Italian animated TV Series on Nickelodeon, where five teenage fairies use their magic to save the universe – every bloody week. Radha is obsessed with it. Just another example of the Resort Manager going the extra mile to make this a very special trip for us.
We indulged in a festive birthday afternoon tea, where my very own Cinderella was treated to a delicious birthday cake from the hotel. The fact that they spelt her name wrong didn’t spoil her fun as she began to call herself ‘Darth Rayda.
The holiday ended with some Mr and Mrs S time. Babysitters booked. We wined and dined at the Michelin starred Martin Wishart restaurant, part of Cameron House. Having sampled his traditional and modern French cuisine on a previous trip to Edinburgh, I already knew what a heavenly feast I was in for. The exquisite six course vegetarian tasting menu did not disappoint. They were also very accommodating with swapping some of the courses for fishy ones for my pescatarian other half. Fine dining in a relaxed and elegant setting was absolutely the best way to end our fabulous Christmas break.
We were lucky enough to sample the five restaurants spread across the resort on our stay:
The Cameron Grill – within the hotel
The Great Scots Bar – within the hotel serving a bar menu
The Boathouse – adjacent to the Marina with casual dining
The Claret Jug at The Carrick offering pub style dining,
Martin Wishart – within the hotel, fine dining
Our break wasn’t long enough to discover all the activities the hotel had to offer like the Celtic Warrior loch cruises, the 27 hole championship golf course, seaplane trips, clay pigeon shooting, archery and pony trekking to name a few. We’ve left without a doubt wanting more of the beautiful Scottish countryside.
It was an incredible four-day break, surrounded by the warmest of Scottish hospitality. A special mention has to go to the attentive and nothing-is-too-much service we experienced at every turn too.
Cameron House certainly melted away the dizzying whirl of December and we left with unforgettable memories. I can’t lie – there were moments when I missed some of the family traditions you have at home. But something also has to be said about not having to lift a finger during one of the most stressful times of the year. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to resist the lure of a relaxing Christmas Cameron House style ever again.
Cameron House Hotel & Spa | Loch Lomond | Alexandria | G83 8QZ
Have you ever given up the traditional family Christmas at home to jet off somewhere? Let me know in the comments box below.