Review of Portnellan, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, Scotland
Portnellan is a collection of award-winning, luxury holiday lodges situated just outside the scenic village of Crianlarich, in the northern reaches of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.
With views across stunning Glen Dochart, and opportunities for all sorts of outdoor activities, Portnellan is a great base for an active family break.
We stayed in Otter – a four-star lodge right at the top of the estate. Otter's location was superb, with breathtaking views of towering Ben More from the outdoor balcony. This was a wonderfully private spot, with nothing but birdsong and the sound of the cascading Ben More burn to disturb the peace and quiet.
Otter's balcony is a great place for wildlife spotting. While sitting outside in the sunshine we saw all sorts of birds – although we weren't lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the red squirrels, deer and pine martens that are often seen near the lodge.
Inside, Otter lodge is comfortable and cosy, with two bedrooms (a king-sized and a twin), a spacious bathroom, and an L-shaped living area with fully equipped galley-style kitchen.
The same fantastic view of the mountain can be enjoyed while relaxing on the sofa with a glass of wine – or washing up in the kitchen! But despite the comfortable interior, we were keen to get out and explore.
Canoes and sit-on kayaks are provided free of charge to Portnellan guests, so we set off with life jackets and paddles (also provided for free at Reception) to explore the twin lochs of Loch Dochart and Loch Iubhair.
Connected by a narrow ribbon of the river Dochart, these lochs are home to a wealth of water birds and other wildlife – we saw several herons as we paddled.
In the middle of Loch Dochart is a tiny, uninhabited island. We navigated across and moored our canoes in a little inlet to explore. Feeling as though we were in a storybook, we clambered up a path to find a forgotten ruined castle, swathed in greenery and with trees growing up through its central tower.
This is Loch Dochart Castle, built by Sir Duncan Campbell between 1583 and 1631, and destroyed in 1646. The fact that this ruin can only be reached by boat – and we had the island all to ourselves – added to the magical atmosphere.
Back on dry land there are plenty of other activities to try, including cycling – bikes can be hired from reception – and walking.
There are walks of all distances and for all abilities in the region, but many visitors like to climb Ben More – at 1,174 metres, there are no higher British mountains than this to the south.
Portnellan is right alongside the Ben More trailhead. The ascent of Ben More takes a full day, and it's very steep – so walkers should be experienced, wear suitable clothing, and be prepared for changes in the weather.
We took an evening walk a little way along the trail, climbing steadily along a clear path. Our efforts were rewarded with stunning views of Glen Dochart and the surrounding mountains.
Further afield, it's easy to reach many other attractions from Portnellan. The attractive, historic village of Killin – home to the spectacular Falls of Dochart – is just 12 miles away, and offers a good choice of shops, pubs and restaurants.
To the south, Loch Lomond and all the other delights of The Trossachs are within easy reach. Or enjoy a visit to a castle: Doune Castle – of Outlander fame – Inverary Castle and Kilchurn Castle are all within an hour's drive.
There are some excellent environmental policies in place at Portnellan. Compost bins for vegetable peelings and other biodegradable waste are provided in every property, and there is easy access to recycling bins, which are dotted around the estate.
A small shop in the green-roofed Reception building sells local produce – including fresh organic meat, and essential groceries.
Portnellan also runs a tree-planting scheme. Visitors can choose from a list of native trees, and the tree will then be planted on the estate. This is a great way to offset the carbon from your journey to Portnellan, or a tree can be planted to mark a special occasion or remember a loved one.
For each visitor's tree planted, Portnellan will plant a second tree – benefitting the environment and helping to boost biodiversity on the estate.
For more information, and to book, visit www.portnellan.com