Oh the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. Immortalised in song, it’s possible to be on the shores of the famous Highland loch in around 90 minutes from boarding a flight in London, at the southern end of the loch, in the grounds of Cameron House.
For almost 300 years, the baronial home of the Smollet family – host in its time to Samuel Johnson, Princess Margaret, Winston Churchill, and slightly more eccentrically, a bear park – Cameron House is now a five-star 208-bedroomed hotel, with two spas, four restaurants and a golf course to boot.
More small castle than stately home, grand steps at the entrance lead into a wood-panelled hallway that has both grandeur and a sense of welcome, thanks to a big fireplace and a proliferation of helpful staff.
It all looks original, but in fact, the Grade II-listed building has been entirely refurbished and in parts internally rebuilt before it reopened to the public at the end of 2021. For a hotel in such an iconic location – one that’s almost synonymous with Scottishness worldwide – the challenge was to give the right nods to that heritage without being twee, or even cartoonish.
Subtle checks, paisley prints, and nods to art nouveau styling help to pull it off, alongside partnerships with Scottish brands renowned for their quality such as the bold designs of Timorous Beasties on the cushions and headboards and fabrics from Johnstons of Elgin upholster chairs and stools.
But for all the tasteful decor inside, your eye can’t help but be constantly drawn out of the window to the loch. When you first spy it, you immediately understand why it’s been wistfully sung about for centuries.
The largest expanse of freshwater in the UK, Loch Lomond is 22.6 miles long and presiding over it all at its head is the first of Scotland’s Munros, Ben Lomond.
The hotel’s Auld House suites all have views of it, and those staying – as former US president Barack Obama did – in the penthouse Cameron Suite have access to two private rooftop terraces from which to sip a dram and stare out at the view.
In fact the whole complex is oriented towards the water; its four restaurants offer a variety of different dining styles to accompany the panorama.
Tamburrini and Wishart is the fine dining option, with Scottish chef powerhouses Paul Tamburrini and Martin Wishart at the helm. Far from being a venture in name only, both chefs can be found at the pass, curating and serving a five course tasting menu that uses the best of local produce and which changes fortnightly according to seasonality and availability.
As with the interiors, the provenance is undoubtedly Scottish, but modern, clean, well-balanced and not at all cliched – Orkney scallops came with Tosazu butter and Oscietra caviar, Scottish lobster was served with lemongrass and onion, and the nod to the cleanliness of Japanese flavours continued with a course of Wagyu short rib, served with winter truffle, spring onion and egg yolk. After dinner, the Great Scots’ Bar offers over 300 whiskies to end the night with a dram.
If looking at the water is not enough, the options to get out onto it are various, ranging from an hour long champagne cruise around the loch’s islands on the hotels’ vessel The Celtic Warrior to jet skiing and speed boat trips, or gentler exploits such as fishing, paddleboarding, kayaking and heading out in a katakanu.
Alternatively, take off from the water in a seaplane moored at the hotel’s pontoon and introduce yourself to the glens, lochs and bens of the Trossachs from a bird’s eye perspective.
For those who prefer their water warm before they dive in, the resort offers two spas: a steam room and sauna alongside the indoor pool (complete with a flume), or the more grown-up Cameron Spa, a chauffeur-driven shuttle ride two miles up the road, with hydrotherapy pool, spa treatments, and a rooftop infinity pool.
Add an intimate cinema, state of the art gym, and 400-acre estate into the mix and it’s no wonder they wrote songs about this place. In short, whether you take the high road, or the low road, Loch Lomond is calling.
Cameron House Hotel, Loch Lomond, West Dunbartonshire, G83 8QZ; cameronhouse.co.uk