Playing at the Ryder Cup? Member of the Scottish rugby team? Singing at the Hydro? You may well spend a few nights at the rather renowned Cameron House. Not only is it a five-star hotel, it also boasts three restaurants (one of which has a Michelin star) and some amazing views over the famous Loch Lomond. In short, it has all you could want from a country retreat, albeit in slightly flashier surroundings than the usual dilapidated castle.
Step towards the imposing entrance, and you’ll be greeted by male staff (the concierges) who are dressed… well, dapper is the word for it. Their uniform is a hybrid of Highland marksman and patriotic schoolboy. Starched shirts, subtle tartan and socks up to their knees. Yes, socks. All in all, it makes for a stylish and traditional ensemble that probably seduces even the most introverted American tourist.
The décor of the foyer is rather stunning. It’s all dark: grey wallpaper continues the crosshatch hints of tartan; stuffed animals’ heads (real or not? who knows) gaze blankly from above; classic candles replace modern lightbulbs. The rooms continue in the same vein: tartan cushions, soft carpets and massive armchairs to fall into as you flick through Scottish Field. If they’re going for an opulent Monarch of the Glen theme, they’ve hit the mark.
Although the furnishing of the room is fantastic, the bed comfortable and the bathroom spacious and well laid-out, there is DUST. Okay, so it’s a hotel. The poor cleaners have hundreds of rooms to make spotless in just a few hours. But, it’s a five star hotel. For such a celebrated enterprise, there perhaps shouldn’t be dusty corners or questionable curls in the shower.
There’s the occasional blunt reply from a receptionist, but on the whole the staff are very efficient, even sending up emergency toothpaste supplies. This continues at breakfast, where we are told to sit as long as we like after the kitchen has closed. A good selection of buffet choices are offered (poached eggs a bit watery) along with soft pastries and Scottish produce (Katy Rodgers’ yoghurt, black pudding and haggis). The Cameron Grill, where morning munchies are served, has beautiful views towards the islands that hover over Loch Lomond itself.
Undoubtedly, the popularity of Cameron House has been propelled by the setting and variety of activities on offer. Not only does it boast its own leisure facilities, but the Carrick Spa is just up the road; seaplane flights are on the doorstep and the choice of restaurants will have you drawing straws out your bonnet.
But (oops, there’s the but!) it doesn’t attain the perfection you’d expect from such a highly praised hotel. Yes, it’s busy and some staff members must deal with bitchy customers, but that doesn’t mean that all of us deserve effrontery. Plus, it would be useful if receptionists explained the organisation of dinner and breakfast arrangements, especially for first-time visitors.
Apart from these niggles, Cameron House does exactly what it says on the tin: ‘A warm, safe and snug haven from the elements, an elegant blend of contemporary design with a graceful nod to the Loch’s wild and baronial past.’ And don’t forget that extra sprinkle of good old Scottish dust.