The Beatles had a long lie when they stayed here – but Neil Braidwood found plenty to tempt him outdoors.
The last time I stayed at St Fillans, on the banks of Loch Earn, I was 15 years old, cycling around Scotland with my pal, Richard Hurding. It was the first stop on our mammoth tour of the Highlands, and as we pitched our tent on the south side of the loch, for the first time in our lives we felt really free…
There were no parents, just us, our bikes and a tin of frankfurter sausages heating on our wee cooking stove. I declared it my favourite place as we laughed and swam in the loch with the sun beating down on our necks â€“ and later we crossed the bridge to a hostelry and bought an underage pint.
Today, I am back in St Fillans with my wife, Maureen, our 12-year-old son, Charlie, and our springer spaniel, Ruby. We are staying in one of the six chalets owned by the Four Seasons Hotel, perched high on a hill overlooking the loch. These chalets are more than 50 years old, famously occupied by the Beatles after they performed in Edinburgh back in 1964. Go to next page
As we unpack our bags in chalet number five, things look relatively unchanged since then. The curtain fabric is new, but with a definite nod to the Sixties, pictures on the wall are also from that time, and of course the landscape seen from our window is much the same as the one John, Paul, George and Ringo would have looked out on. Yet, as the sun breaks through the clouds and casts shadows on the hills round the loch, the colours are ever-changing.
The chalets are compact, itâ€™s true, and they are not self-catering, so there isnâ€™t a kitchen. A kettle is supplied, however, so you can make a cup of tea. Thereâ€™s a TV, DVD and CD player, and the two single beds in the sitting room/bedroom have been pushed together to make a large double. Charlie has a room with a single bed, and some chalets have bunks, so the maximum you could sleep is four. Ruby has food bowls and bedding kindly supplied by the hotel. There is no WiFi, but why would you need that?
No-one overlooks you, so you feel splendidly isolated up here among the enormous Scots Pines, and the route of the railway line, pulled up by Beeching in 1963, lies just behind our cabin, allowing a fantastic early morning dog walk over forgotten viaducts all the way to Lochearnhead (7 miles) if you feel so inclined. It is muddy in places, so you would need adequate footwear. Go to next page
Dogs are welcome in all areas of the hotel except the restaurant, so we settled in to the snug bar, with its open fire and bundles of glossy magazines. We counted at least another five guests with dogs of all shapes and sizes â€“ and all got on pretty well with each other. The hotel offers dog-sitting and walking services, but these need to be booked in advance. You could go the whole hog, and have your pet washed and groomed, or treat them to a gourmet doggy meal. In fact, even if you donâ€™t have a dog, the hotel will lend you one or both of the resident Munsterlanders â€“ Sham and Pagne.
Dinner is either in the relaxed Tarken bar or the more formal Meall Reamhar restaurant. The menus are almost identical, though the amount of cutlery differs. There was a variety of scrumptious sounding specials on, ranging from â€œoyster shots with sweet chilliâ€ to catch of the day, which was sea bream and a creamy cranachan for afters. There was a junior menu, and Charlie chose a hearty fish and chips as his main course â€“ some of the other options werenâ€™t sophisticated enough for his taste!
We slept well in the cabin, which was really cosy and quiet, although Ruby was a bit restless, and growled at the slightest rustle outside.
The weather was gorgeous on our last day, and I was keen to show everyone where I had camped all those years ago. I couldnâ€™t pinpoint it, and there were signs stating â€œNo Campingâ€ where I thought we had stayed. And even though the sun was shining, I didnâ€™t fancy a swim in the loch. Back to first page