I’m not really one for bucket lists, but, given that we have been locked down for almost four months, I must admit I have been making plans for where I am going to visit as soon as travel restrictions are fully lifted.
Seeing family is naturally top of that list, and going for a bit of wild camping is up there, too. But very high in my plans is returning to the beautiful village of Kenmore in Highland Perthshire.
I was fortunate enough to visit the village right before our world tilted on its axis with the coronavirus pandemic. It is strange to think that when my wife and I visited in early March it would be the last time we would travel further than five miles from home. Now, mercifully, the tourism industry is slowly beginning to open its doors.
Our trip took us to Taymouth Marina, a gorgeous luxury self-catering apartment destination on the banks of beautiful Loch Tay. The resort, which reopened last week, boasts a stunning spa complex, Hot Box, that looks like it was purpose-built to be a viral Instagram hit.
The spa is constructed out of a series of shipping containers and clad in natural wood with huge glass windows that frame the view towards the mountains.
Sitting snug in the sauna or hot tub looking at the impressive snow-capped Munro Ben Lawers as the continually changing weather sweeps across it is truly awe-inspiring. Even better, you can enjoy a glass of wine, beer or fizz as you relax in the tub.
Right across from the Hot Box is the Marina’s restaurant, which instantly transports you to the mountains of France and Switzerland, with its Alpine lodge feel, all wooden logs and stone. Inside, the long bar is backed by panoramic windows offering more glorious views of the loch.
At the end of the counter sits a huge pizza oven ready to fire up and deliver an amazing fresh slice. The place is a reflection of owners Naomi and Eric Strickland’s impeccable style. With the Alpine vibe, it would have been remiss of us not to go for the chef’s special, raclette.
Raclette is a dish that is served throughout many parts of the Alps and is named after the hard Swiss cheese of the same name.
At Taymouth, the dish consists of your choice of fresh locally sourced produce. We had local beef and veal alongside a truly ridiculous number of sides and accompaniments, like cheeses, potato salad and pickles. The meat comes with a super-hot individual grill that allows you to cook it to your own preference. Safe to say, when we left we were stuffed.
All of this is enjoyed before we see probably the best part of our holiday – the luxury apartment. As soon as we set foot inside we are blown away by its beauty. Every detail exudes luxury, from the hardwood flooring to the beautiful contemporary furniture.
There’s nothing else for it, so we pop open a bottle of wine and sit back and relax.
Early next morning, we decide to do a bit of exploring – and we don’t have to go far. Literally across the road is the The Scottish Crannog Centre, an Iron Age village that offers a fascinating walk back in time, from traditional crafts like clothes and butter-making to the eponymous crannog, which juts out over the loch.
The foundations of the crannog are huge trees taken from the surrounding forests and piled into the soft mud at the bottom of the loch.
It seems odd to us but raised above the chilly loch gives the dwelling natural insulation and with a roaring fire burning inside, the crannog is genuinely warm inside.
Afterwards, we took the five-minute walk into Kenmore itself. The village oozes history, from the 19th Century Taymouth Castle to the quaint shop and picture-postcard bridge – built in 1774 – which spans the stretch where the loch flows into the River Tay.
But we are getting hungry so first stop is the Kenmore Hotel, now reopened after Covid-19 and which lays claim to the title of Scotland’s oldest inn. Places with such history can often come up short when it comes to service and quality – but not here.
The food (I order a succulent shin of beef with creamy mash and sauted red cabbage) was fantastic and we were treated to the sight of hundreds of starlings continually darting under the Kenmore Bridge in the late evening light.
A brilliant end to a perfect break and, with things starting to slowly get back to some form of normality, I for one am ready to book my next visit.
Kenmore Hotel opened its doors in 1572 and famous visitors to the 16th Century hotel include the Scottish Bard Robert Burns and Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army as it hunted for the first Marquess of Montrose.
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