24-Hour Room Service: Monachyle Mhor, Trossachs, Scotland

By Lucy Gillmore

Saturday 05 November 2005 01:00
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Lewis uses organic vegetables from the farm, local beef, venison and lamb, and fish fresh from the West Coast. The result is some of the best modern Scottish cooking in the Trossachs, an area fast becoming a foodie destination.

The hotel also has an international flavour. The staff are all young, friendly antipodeans, South Africans and Canadians, while Melanie, Tom's sister, has recently moved back from London with her family and her partner, a Finnish sous-chef.

Before heading for Monachyle Mhor's crackling log fires, we planned to squeeze in a tramp around mist-soaked Loch Katrine. We needed lunch to go. We pulled up at the Ben Ledi Café - brother Dick's fish-and-chip shop in Callande. We found Nick Nairn and family (of local cookery-school fame) tucking into a traditional "fish supper". With black-and-white tiled floor, retro counter and old New Zealand prints on the wall, it's a stylish little place - and the fish and chips live up to their reputation. (The secret, apparently, is that the fish is fresh rather than frozen.)

Monachyle Mhor is a further half-hour or so down a loch-skimming track. The 200-year-old farmhouse on a 2,000-acre estate is now a cosy little hotel set on lawns sweeping down to the water's edge. To work up an appetite, you can take Midnight, Tom's loopy Labrador, for an invigorating walk. This is also a good way to work off that Muffin-top spread.

We took our aperitifs in the snug bar beside a roaring fire. Dinner in the conservatory, overlooking the mountains, began with a tart gin-and-tonic sorbet. It was followed by salmon marinated in liquorice with pink grapefruit, and then venison, washed down with a smoky New Zealand pinot noir. Retiring to the lounge - walls covered in country prints, wooden floor with seagrass rug, and another well-stoked fire - we sank into the leather sofa for a game of Trivial Pursuits.

LOCATION

Monachyle Mhor, Balquhidder, Perthshire (01877 384622; www.monachylemhor.com), is four miles down a single-track road from Balquhidder, in the lee of Ben More, along Loch Voil.

Time from international airport: Edinburgh is 90 minutes away.

COMFORTABLE?

There are just 11 rooms, where the contemporary is stylishly blended with the traditional, and local stone and timber are incorporated into the decor. Room 4 features a bed on a raised platform overlooking the loch, with shuttered windows, and Persian rugs scattered across the wooden floors. Room 11 doesn't have a view but does have twin claw-footed baths, and the courtyard suites also have log fires.

Freebies: L'Occitane toiletries

Keeping in touch: Flatscreen TV, wireless internet connection

THE BOTTOM LINE

Doubles from £95 to £220, including breakfast. Dinner £39.

I'm not paying that: Monachyle Mhor's self-catering cottages start at £250 for a week, with shorter stays outside peak times.

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