Fonab Castle Hotel in Perthshire provides the escapism we could all use. In November 2020, my husband and I booked a three-night stay at the hotel on the shores of Loch Faskally, Pitlochry.
This was to be a few days of relaxation, no alarms or wake up calls, other than the Perthshire dawn chorus, would be required and it is the exact kind of break I cannot wait to repeat when Scotland’s latest lockdown rules are relaxed.
Whilst travel (even locally) in a pandemic can be a little nerve-racking, the hotel managed to strike the perfect balance of safety and escapism. In Fonab’s Brasserie restaurant tables were placed to allow for social distancing between parties but unobtrusively so, meant that you could relax into a utopian pretence at normalcy. The noise of clinking glasses, cutlery and happy conversations provided a soothing balm against Covid and its constraints. Over three evenings we enjoyed a range of locally-sourced dishes, from salmon smoked on site, to hand-dived scallops and, Chateaubriand reared in the Highlands.
On our arrival, a late afternoon check-in allowed us time to unpack, wind down and take in the spectacular autumnal colours on display from our balcony. Fonab is perched right above the Pitlochry Dam on Loch Faskally with a backdrop of towering hills that reach all the way down to the shore.
Arriving in Scotland’s “golden hour” meant the entire area was bathed in a calming light, accompanied with a chorus of chirrups and tweets as the birds prepared to tuck heads under wings for the night. No need for long flights to tropical beaches, relaxation was right on our doorstep.
Our days were easily filled with Perthshire’s own brand of adventure, walking and plenty of it. We explored woods, loch sides and places of historical interest, debating how far the Soldier’s Leap at Killiecrankie really is
The next day saw us tackle Ben Vrackie, Pitlochry’s towering (841m) Corbett. We were blessed with a perfect autumnal day. Hills, the rivers Garry and Tummel, lochs and trees stretched as far as the eye could see and as we gained height, any built up areas disappeared leaving us surrounded by nature. On the mountain’s north side we could see over ten miles up to Blair Athol and beyond.
Our adventures were perfectly bookended by a little Fonab luxury. Breakfasts at the hotel are not to be rushed. A two-course extravaganza with your choice of various continental options (the decadent lemon curd with thick Greek yoghurt and homemade granola is a must) followed by your choice of cooked breakfast main course. All enjoyed whilst watching the mist rise from Loch Faskally as mini armadas of mallards set sail.
At the other end of the day, we enjoyed the hotel’s room-service drinks offering.
Wrapped up in a blanket, with a good book, we were able to unwind and watch the sun sink behind the hills, whilst also enjoying a glass of wine. A perfect post-hike way to pass time.
Under 2020’s Scottish, Covid-licensing rules alcohol could be enjoyed inside but only in your room or with a main meal. Whilst future restrictions remain unknown, it is possible that these kinds of rules will reappear to allow the hospitality sector to reopen.
If hills and hikes sound too much like hard work, there is also the opportunity to do very little indeed. Fonab’s pool area and treatment rooms were also open for guest use, at the time, and numbers were restricted to allow for social distancing.
For us, after a day of walking, the Jacuzzi and opportunity to lie by a pool and read was more than welcome.
2020 and its hangover into 2021 may be periods of life that many of us, for a multitude of reasons, will wish to quickly forget. However, Covid and its constraints are likely to have also encouraged us to appreciate what ‘local travel’ opportunities we have and in Scotland that is a lot.
Our luxury staycation may have been a replacement for the beaches of Miami but this was no second best and (bonus!) a short trip back down the A9 resulted in no jet lag or lost luggage (although we did accidentally take our room key).
The past twelve months may not have delivered the travel experiences any of us had planned or hoped for but we live in a country which can deliver luxury and mini-adventures, on your doorstep.
Thank you, Scotland!
Fonab Castle Hotel overlooks Pitlochry dam and salmon ladder. The salmon ladder consists of 34 artificial pools which allow around 5,000 salmon to pass into Loch Faskally each year.
The hotel is a 40-minute drive from Perth and 90 minutes from Glasgow and Edinburgh.See fonabcastlehotel.com
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