The Four Seasons Hotel
St. Fillans, Perthshire, PH6 2NF
Passing Loch Earn in the car, it’s all too easy to find yourself lost in the grandeur of it all; towering mountains, six-and-a-half miles of crisp Scottish freshwater, and an abundance of foliage in all its seasonal glory. The rugged hills and blue waters that stretch from Lochearnhead to St. Fillans are, in a sense, the very epitome of Scotland and more than impressive enough to satisfy any explorer’s thirst for beauty through a simple drive through (including a quick stop for a few photos, of course). However, its here where the loch’s glory is almost its downfall, with such beauty that it’s easy to miss the subtleties of the land; winding paths through rich forest to incredible viewpoints on high-up hills, quaint villages with blissful benches to relax and unwind, and incomprehensibly breathtaking sunsets at its west-facing head.
As beautiful as the big picture is (and my word, it’s beautiful), to simply take Loch Earn on face value ignores the special nuances that make it unique. A personality trait I can’t help but feel its resident hotel, The Four Seasons, also boasts.
Nestled on the East of the 17KM stretch of water, it’s easy to be taken aback by the obvious beauty of The Four Seasons, with tasteful and well-thought out interior and an Instagram-famous art installation Still on loch banks outside. However, it’s a guest house offering more than meets the eye – from fresh shortbread on arrival and an enviable selection of teas and hot drinks in your room, to an unbeatable selection of wine (low-end and fine), a comprehensive dog food menu for four-legged pals, hidden libraries (complete with huge cuddly bears), wellies outside for walkers to borrow, and small finishing touches to the bathroom that make it feel like home (you’d be amazed at how much cotton pads for removing makeup mean after a long day exploring the area in wind!).
The Four Seasons is impressive on first glance with fine dining, well-furnished rooms and an elegant facade. But it’s the subtle touches once you’re inside that really make it unique.
The building began its story in the early 1800s, when it housed a manager of the local limekilns before a spell as a schoolmaster’s house. Since being converted into a hotel in the 1900s, it has seen a number of extensions and changes over the years, now boasting 12 bedrooms in the main building, six hilltop chalets, and an aptly named Vivaldi’s apartment for larger parties to soak in the views. While I didn’t get to explore the chalet or apartment, the hotel room was cosy and smartly fitted with a laid-back and stylish design, and all the conveniences you could need. Spacious, comfortable and extremely cosy, if you can get your hands on a loch-facing room you won’t be disappointed with the views (though you’ll probably feel like destroying the road’s LED lighting outside if, like me, you fancy a moonlight gaze).
And, while it takes its accommodation standards incredibly seriously, it takes its food even more so – with two restaurants and a pick of options depending on your needs. The comfortable bar selection in laid-back TARKEN is designed to satisfy even the most adventurous of hill-walkers’ appetites with pub favourites and Moroccan twists on light bites, while the two AA rosette fine-dining venue Meall Reamhar is a hidden delight; offering the very best of Scottish cuisine in the very best of Scottish scenery.
Like the rest of the hotel, it’s the extra work and subtle touches in the menu that make it an outstanding visit, with the kitchen crew thankfully taking the art of making great food as seriously as I take eating it. Guests are offered a healthy choice between the four-course tasting menu or an a la carte selection and, being the ever-hungry boar I am, I opted for the former – in my eyes a decision worth making. Balancing style with substance for an impressive array that tantalises and delights, the signature dishes in particular are not to be missed and far beyond usual expectations for a rural retreat. From the Seared Scottish Scallops (amazing for their presentation alone), to the exceptionally well-cooked fillet of Scotch beef (the most perfect medium rare I think I’ve tasted) and the otherworldly delight of the too-tempting-to-miss desserts, everything from the balance of flavours to the structure of the menu has been so well thought-through you won’t have a second thought in eating it.
Breakfast, it will come without surprise, is suitably scrumptious with a choice of cooked and continental treats – the perfect accompaniment to watching the sun rise over the loch, taking in its unique tidal system and colourful surrounding hills.
The best thing of all, however, is that while everything’s of exceptional quality (both the food and the rooms), there’s no pretence behind them and you feel quite at home incredibly quickly.
Loch Earn is an exceptional beauty meaning there’s not much required to make a stay there enjoyable. The Four Seasons, however, doesn’t believe enjoyable is good enough and does everything within its power to make your stay exceptional. Like the area itself, the hotel’s undeniable surface beauty is almost second to the little aspects that really make it unique – a hotel with character, charm and – best of all- personality. Whatever the season.
Rooms start from £69 for bed and breakfast or £98 for dinner, bed and breakfast. For more information or to book, visit www.thefourseasonshotel.co.uk.