On a wet October night in 1964, four weary travellers checked into a country hotel on the banks of Loch Earn.
But these mop-headed young men were not your average Scottish tourists and it’s fair to say the Four Seasons Hotel had never hosted such famous guests before – or since. Beatlemania was in full swing when John, Paul, George and Ringo sought refuge in the tiny village of St Fillans, in Perthshire.
Earlier that night they had played to hundreds of screaming fans at Edinburgh’s ABC Cinema and one of their Scots crew had recommended the bolt-hole as the perfect place to recharge before their next show at Caird Hall in Dundee the following day. It was reported in the local paper at the time that McCartney was so taken with St Fillans that he talked about buying a cottage there.
Standing in front of the Four Seasons decades later, taking in the breathtaking views across Loch Earn’s still waters, I can see why he fell in love with the place.
We are in St Fillans for a much-needed family break and my musician husband is especially excited to be staying in the very chalet (or tree house as our five-year-old likes to call it) that Lennon and McCartney bunked in together.
There are six cabins nestling in the woods at the back of the hotel. All come with TV, CD player, direct-dial telephone (there’s no mobile reception here!) and have en suite bath/shower rooms.
After checking into our room we amble down the winding path to get to the main reception area where friendly staff are happy to fill us in on nearby things to see and do.
The boutique hotel was taken over by businesswoman Susan Stuart in 2017. She returned to Scotland after many years in London where she worked in the hospitality sector with hotel chains such as Sheraton and InterContinental.
The hotel is dog friendly, with Susan’s two-year-old Labrador Finn acting as “pet receptionist”.
From the bedrooms to the bar and two restaurants, almost every room commands spectacular views across Loch Earn and the soaring mountains beyond. It is one of the hotel’s major selling points.
Another is the stunning countryside, which makes it a popular base for families and Munro-baggers alike. There are numerous mountains within a half-hour drive of the hotel plus many gentle woodland walks right on your doorstep. It’s February when we visit but thankfully we are blessed with two unseasonably sunny days.
We while away our first day exploring St Fillans, walking along the disused train track which runs behind our cabin, collecting sticks and paddling in the babbling burns along the way.
When the Beatles were here John and Paul took a small boat out on Loch Earn, much to the delight of the gathering fans and local press. You can hire a boat in the warmer months but we contented ourselves with feeding the ducks from one of the jetties.
After hours out in the fresh air we are ready to head back to the cosy confines of the Four Seasons where the log fires are burning. We enjoy a drink in the bar as the sun dips behind the mountains before heading to one of the hotel’s Tarken restaurant where, just like the Beatles did on that night 55 years ago, we tuck into a superb steak dinner.
Waking up the next morning it’s a real treat to open our curtains to those spectacular views again (you never tire of it!).
After a hearty breakfast – I highly recommend the porridge with a cheeky dram of Drambuie and the smoked haddock – we head to Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre (auchingarrich.co.uk) a 15-minute drive away. On arrival we are given food to feed to the animals and spend time in the hatchery holding fluffy chicks and petting the rabbits and guinea pigs.
From here it’s 20 minutes to the smart town of Crieff which is filled with lovely coffee shops and upmarket places to eat and drink. We spend a pleasant few hours checking out the charity shops – no rare Beatles finds sadly, but we did bag Wet Wet Wet’s Greatest Hits for 50p.
And we reward our son’s patience with a trip to the famous Gordon and Dunnard sweetie shop which lays claim to being the producer of Scotland’s first sugar mice. They also sell excellent fudge that you can watch being made on the premises.
Other attractions within easy reach of St Fillans include the Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret Distillery (experience.thefamousgrouse.com) where you can book a tour of Scotland’s oldest working distillery and watch master blenders at work. And Comrie Croft, just outside the village, is also worth a visit. As well as scenic woodland walks, you can also hire bikes here.
After a packed day, we can’t wait to get back to the sanctuary of the Four Seasons where we enjoy another evening of food, wine and whisky by the fire.
After a Hard Day’s Night, surely there’s no better way to unwind?
Prices for an overnight stay in a chalet at The Four Seasons Hotel start at £100 per night B&B. Contact Four Seasons Hotel, St Fillans, Perthshire, PH6 2NF. Tel 01764 685 333 or visit www.thefourseasonshotel.co.uk for more info.