24-Hour Room Service: Cameron House, Loch Lomond, Scotland
Saturday 10 May 2008
Cameron House is coming to the end of a full-flung facelift: no surreptitious botox injection for this one-time 18th-century mansion on the banks of Loch Lomond, it's the entire skin-stretching, eye-watering, knock-20-years-off operation. Through a door off the grand hallway you can just make out a swirly carpet gambolling gamely up a staircase. Its days are numbered.
The hotel is part of the De Vere portfolio which includes a number of landmark properties, such as Slaley Hall in Northumberland – and which was recently bought by AHG. AHG also owns the mini-chains Malmaison and Hotel du Vin. The revamp of the luxury division of De Vere seems set to slot the brand into this market in terms of style – although both Malmaison and Hotel du Vin are essentially city-based boutique hotels while the De Vere Deluxe properties class themselves as "resorts" and have a tendency to be set in rolling parkland.
So, the magnificent, dark hallway, as befits a baronial pad, has huge stone slabs and a roaring fire, but the over-sized chairs and a long, tealight-lit table give it a contemporary edge. In the whisky bar there are antler chandeliers and on the walls of the corridors you'll find David Farrer's funky animal head sculptures: a badger with a pipe in its mouth, a giant hare with long whiskers and a fox smoking a cigarette.
Cameron House dates back to the beginning of the 15th century when a keep was first built on the site. By the mid-18th century, however, things were altogether grander. At this time, the family in residence was Smollet. Originally shipbuilders and merchants who had moved up in the world, they now had time for more arty pursuits: the novelist Tobias Smollet was supposedly born under a tree here. Later the Smollets set up a safari park in the grounds and introduced bison and bears to the Scottish landscape.
Today, the most exotic thing you'll spot from your window is a Pringle-clad golfer heading towards the 1930s Belle Epoque launch from where a short ride along the loch brings guests to the new Carrick golf club and state-of-the-art spa. Think rooftop whirlpool and "thermal experience" with hydro pool, tepidarium, caldarium, sauna, infrared sauna, tropical rain showers and steam rooms as well as a mouth-watering 28-page treatment menu.
Cameron House, Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, Scotland (01389 755 565; www.devere-hotels.com). The hotel is on the south-western corner of Loch Lomond; the west coast of Scotland is also within easy reach.
Time from international airport: It's a 20-minute drive from Glasgow airport.
There are 96 rooms, including five suites, and most have now been done up. The new wing, Colquhoun House, opened on 1 May housing six suites and 30 bedrooms.
Our room, recently redesigned, was all pale beige tartan carpet and soft grey paintwork. A gold chair added a bit of flamboyance. One wall was clad in dark wood and housed a huge flat-screen television – but it didn't work. As with many renovations, the hotel was experiencing a few teething problems.
The beds were marshmallow soft with down duvet, feather pillows and topper. There was a putter to practise your golf in the room and little notes scattered around: "The milk's chilling out in the fridge"; "Plug in and don't pay: free internet access".
Freebies: Tray of teas, fresh milk, bathroom toiletries.
Keeping in touch: Direct-dial telephones and free internet access.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms start at £179, including breakfast.
I'm not paying that: Equally grand, on the other side of the road, is the Loch Lomond youth hostel (01389 850226; www.syha.org.uk), which was built in the mid-19th century by a tobacco baron. Open from March-October, it has private doubles starting at £40, room only.
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