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Strathyre & The Trossachs - The Sunday Times

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The Trossachs encompasses all
that’s great about Scotland in
one small, compact space.
Located on the doorstep of our
central cities, the area is often
described as the Highlands in miniature.
It does straddle the boundary between
the Highlands and the Lowlands, and it is
a beautiful patchwork of lochs, mountains
and charming villages such as

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Strathyre & The Trossachs - The Sunday Times

  1. 1. 2 May 14, 2017 The Sunday Times Travel SCOTTISH NEWS lCombine a visit to Port Appin on Scotland’s glorious west coast with Airds hotel and restaurant’s Come Cook with Me masterclass by chef Chris Stanley (£275 pp for up to two couples, novice or expert). The price includes fresh ingredients, a morning of tuition, tasting and discussion, and, in the evening, Chris’s presentation of your personal menu. The masterclass combines with any package of two nights or more. Currently Airds’s three- night midweek summer break starts from £449 pp (half-board sharing), and runs July-September. 01631 730 236, airds-hotel.com lTropical Sky is offering four nights at the Cove Rotana resort based on two sharing on an all-inclusive basis from £699 for Glasgow departures. Price includes return flights to Ras Al Khaimah in United Arab Emirates and airport transfers. Valid throughout May. 01342 886941, tropicalsky.co.uk lThe five-star G&V Royal Mile Hotel Edinburgh has introduced a new pet package to let dogs enjoy a break with their owners in the heart of the capital. A dog bowl, bed, snacks and toy mean owners can leave their kit at home. Nightly rates at the G&V, formerly Hotel Missoni, start from £209 per night with breakfast. The pet package is £50 per pet, per stay. 0131 220 6666, info@gandvhotel.com, quorvuscollection.com/gandv-hotel- edinburgh lCanada’s Air Transat is extending its summer season with extra flights to Toronto from Glasgow. Departures will be on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday between May and October. Monday and Thursday departures will be extended, meaning a second direct service will fly between Toronto each week until November 30. Return economy fares from £385 per person. airtransat.co.uk Forest Holidays’ log cabins on Loch Lubnaig population live within one hour’s drive of this beautiful national park. I lived in this area 30-blah years ago, before and during the arrival of my babies, so it’s always held a special part of my heart — and that was a big part of why I decided to go down memory lane and pitch up with a group of friends. One of the group brought Buffy, pictured, a wonderfully eccentric Yorkshire/Lhasa apso, who thought she’d died and gone to heaven. We spent a few days in one of the four-bedroom Golden Oak cabins, which have lochside positions, an outdoor hot tub and a log burning stove in the living area — very cosy. With the car groaning with wellies, musical instruments, a variety of bottles and food, we piled in and toasted our luck as the lodge exceeded expectations. Among the activities we chose the guided forest ranger walk — well worth doing — some brilliant archery, and also fitted in some serious walking. Also on offer are forest survival courses, bike hire, air rifle shooting, canoeing and a Land Rover Highland safari. There’s plenty of wildlife, including roe and red deer, red squirrels, pine martens and buzzards. A disused railway line has been turned into a cycle path and it makes for a great walk to the local metropolis of Callander. This little Scottish market town, famous for Rob Roy and for those of a certain age Doctor Finlay’s Casebook, sadly shares the fate of so many high streets these days, with many closed shops — leaving mainly chippies and charity shops — but it’s good to go into the Trossachs visitor centre to pick up info on the area. Seeing as this is Rob Roy country, it seemed only right to visit the old rogue’s grave in Balquhidder, a few miles north of Strathyre. It’s a stunning location, which I recommend. Actually, I recommend the whole shebang — just don’t listen to the super-cheesy Kenneth McKellar song Bonnie Strathyre before you go. A cabin with hot tub sleeping four costs from £485 for a three-night weekend. A cabin without, sleeping four, costs from £355. A cabin with hot tub, sleeping eight, costs from £865. 03330 110495, forestholidays.co.uk; lochlomond- trossachs.org ROB ROY COUNTRY IN CABIN COMFORT Luxury forest lodges on the shores of Strathyre’s Loch Lubnaig make an ideal base to explore the wild scenery in the ‘miniature Highlands’ of the Trossachs, writes Scottish travel editor Katie Wood T he Trossachs encompasses all that’s great about Scotland in one small, compact space. Located on the doorstep of our central cities, the area is often described as the Highlands in miniature. It does straddle the boundary between the Highlands and the Lowlands, and it is a beautiful patchwork of lochs, mountains and charming villages such as Aberfoyle, Strathyre and Balquhidder. It’s fair to say that its shortbread-tin scenery is every bit as popular today as it was more than a century ago, when Queen Victoria and Sir Walter Scott first brought it to public attention. Located in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, my recommendation as a base from which to explore this neck of the woods is Strathyre, specifically the forest lodges on the shores of Loch Lubnaig, crouching under the majestic Ben Ledi. They’re run by Forest Holidays — a joint venture in public/private partnership with the Forestry Commission — and their annual occupancy rate is a whopping 90%, helped by the fact that 50% of Scotland’s
  2. 2. The Sunday Times May 14, 2017 3 T he knotted spine of Mallorca’s highest mountain range, the Serra de Tramuntana, has weathered plagues, pirates and pretenders to the thrones of kingdoms and caliphates. It has lured travellers for more than 4,000 years, and of the dozen municipalities nestled in its ragged embrace, none have had so powerful a draw as Deià. The village is found above the coves, where the mountain road is most tightly coiled: a jenga pile of sand-coloured villas, pines and trees sagging with olives and lemons. Its siren call has been answered by countless poets, novelists, musicians and painters. It is still most famous for the English poet and novelist Robert Graves, who fled to Deià with the poet Laura Riding, set up a printing press — and never moved back. It is the antithesis of holiday catalogue Mallorca, and the sangria- stained pavements and rusting pedalos for which the island is, unfairly, notorious. Deià has a population of just 800, but swells to at least triple that in summer. About 40% of its properties are foreign- owned, while its main hotel, Belmond La Residencia, formerly owned by Richard Branson, has hosted guests such as Kate Moss, Bob Geldof and Princess Diana. While its summer party scene may be famous, smarter travellers will trade the heave of high season for the cooler spring months. The sun is strong but the air is crisp — the perfect climate to explore the breathtaking hiking and cycling routes through the surrounding puigs (hills). You’re also in with a far better chance of a table at the sought-after restaurants, including Ca’s Patro March, of Night Mallorcan gem is a magnet for the rich, famous and artistic, says Rebecca Myers Manager fame, which sits above the waves on a rocky outcrop (mains from £8.50, 00 34 971 639137), and the village’s Michelin-starred Es Raco d’es Teix (lunch from £31, esracodesteix.es). For those who like an uphill walk, the Ca l’Abat road is the most exclusive postcode in the village — primarily because it is so hard to access. This far up the mountain, the only neighbours are sheep and mountain goats. Holiday lets in Ca l’Abat are rare, but local estate agent Charles Marlow, owned by two English brothers, rents out S’Era, a luxury villa facing the Mediterranean. The six-bedroom house is framed by a terrace that teeters on the edge of the mountain. There are ornate statues and paintings, but the villa is typically Mallorcan, rustic and homely. A vast living room, with squishy sofas and shutters thrown wide open onto sea views, sits above the olive grove and pool. Life at S’Era is designed to make guests never want to leave. Eventually, though, anyone who stays in Deià will feel the pull of the village below. Once the sun goes down, the village’s gravitational centre is Sa Fonda, a bar so buzzy you can feel the vibrations as you walk past. You can hear the jazz from its open mic nights (from £3, 00 34 971 639306). This is where the locals, artists, and various descendants of Robert Graves come to unwind; everyone you meet seems to be writing a novel, playing a dozen instruments or painting their next masterpiece. If you are feeling inspired, there is no better place to try your hand at ceramics, even if your pot does come out looking a little ... rustic. Maria de Haan, who moved to Deià two years ago after a lifetime in London, keeps her pottery wheels in an open-air studio which overlooks the valley between two puigs. De Haan has won global acclaim for her unique smoke-fired ceramics, but will lend finesse to your more dubious creations at her workshops (from £64, mariadehaan.com). Local myths run deep — there are tales of Deià wreaking karmic revenge on those who speak ill of it, of goddesses who once blessed the village water supply. Few people know the local folklore better than Arturo Rhodes and David Templeton, who have lived in Deià for decades. Templeton also plays in the local band Pa Amb Oli. “Ever since the 17th century, Deià has attracted these goofy misfits,” says Rhodes, who settled here after living in Tokyo, Sydney and the US, where he was a cartoonist for The New York Times. “There’s just something about it.” The strength of the local creativity and inherent hippie culture is enough to make even the most beige bankers remark on the area’s “energy”, but it is also the tumultuous, wild weather fronts and unforgiving cliff edges that remind you of the Tramuntana’s power. With the brisk spring mountain air and the winding streets still a little freer, now is the perfect time to answer Deià’s siren call. Flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow Prestwick to Palma de Mallorca start from £59 return at momondo.co.uk. Villa rental for S’Era is available with Charles Marlow from £12,800 a week, charlesmarlow.com. In-villa spa and yoga services are available with Spa at Home Mallorca and Mountain Yoga, from £26, spaathomemallorca.com. In-villa dinner party services are available with Deli Delicioso, from £80 per person, deli-delicioso.com DEIÀVIEWISOH SOMEMORABLE The beach at Deià, an exclusive, arty village in Mallorca’s Serra de Tramuntana; below, ceramicist Maria de Haan’s studio ADVERTISEMENTFEATURE The plentiful fresh produce found on Scotland’s Western Isles provides the basis for many award-winning restaurants found in this beautiful part of the world. We’ve all heard about the legendary Three Chimneys on Skye — reason enough to visit the island — but there are many other marvellous eateries, too. Mull has Highland Cottage which is also a celebration of Scotland’s natural larder, as are the Tiroran House hotel and Ninth Wave seafood restaurant, the latter serving produce that’s been grown and raised on their croft, or seafood caught by local fisherman that very day. Back on Skye, the Loch Bay seafood restaurant sits on the edge of a picturesque sea loch in the village of Stein and has a reputation for amazing fresh fish and crustaceans. One dominant characteristic of island food is smoked delicacies. Local smokehouses are a part of Hebridean life. In Lewis alone there is Uig Lodge and the Stornoway smokehouse which is one of the oldest in Scotland, whose traditional buildings continue to produce a range of smoked fish and venison. On the beautiful island of Gigha, The Boathouse restaurant has already won recognition from the Michelin Guide and is a great venue to enjoy fresh lobster and fish, including the infamous Gigha halibut. The small island of Coll has its own gem in the shape of the Gannet restaurant, which specialises in shellfish, white fish and island-grown vegetables, salad, herbs and meats. The views match the cuisine — simply wonderful. Of course it’s not all about restaurants. Scotland also has a variety of food and drink festivals throughout the year and there are also food trails to enjoy. The self-guided Eat Drink Hebrides trail will take you to some of the best food and drink experiences in the Outer Hebrides. See www.visitouterhebrides.co.uk/food-and- drink/eat-drink-hebrides-trail Arran, known for Viking raiders, Brodick Castle and its connections with Robert the Bruce, is also noted for its fine Scottish gourmet food. It has emerged lately as something of a foodie destination, with a string of local producers making the most of its rich natural larder. The Taste of Arran co-operative was instrumental in setting this up. Why not visit this summer, hire a bike and cycle around, taking in a whisky distillery, a brewery, a creamery, a chocolatier, a smokehouse and no fewer than three cheese producers? Arran also boasts Wooleys, the island baker, which exports its oatcakes and oaties (wee oatcakes) all over the world. The Arran Taste Trail allows you to visit local producers and restaurants serving the very best local food. All these islands, and many more, can be reached by CalMac Ferries — where everyone gets mates rates. AGOURMETGUIDE TOTHEHEBRIDES The Western Isles can now add fine dining to its natural beauty and malt whiskies EVERYONE GETSMATES RATES WWW.CALMAC.CO.UK

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