Two weeks after returning from our stay at Cameron Lodges and we're still sighing about how brilliant it was. I've even been online to check if we can sneak in another visit before the end of the year. And Christmas at Cameron House sounds like the most picture-perfect and magical affair. I have my fingers hovering over the 'book' button.
But before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you all about the three nights we spent in a luxury Cameron Club Lodge on the banks of Loch Lomond.
GETTING THERE & CHECKING IN
Cameron Lodges is situated on the banks of Loch Lomond just thirty miles from Glasgow. Driving from North Wales it took us five hours in total, although we did stop halfway for lunch for an hour to let the boys play and run around ... and for Paul and I to sit in silence after being on the receiving end of approximately 1.2 million enquiries of 'are we nearly there yet?'
Cameron Lodges has two, three and four bedroom lodges situated immediately within the Cameron House resort (Cameron House Lodges), and also two miles away (Cameron Club Lodges) on the Carrick Estate. Yes, with all of them having similar names, it does get a bit confusing (for example, The Spa at Cameron House is not actually located at Cameron House, it's on the Carrick Estate), and despite studying the website in advance, it took me a day or two to really understand where everything was located. There's a map in each welcome brochure within the lodges but I think a paper copy when you check-in would be a really nice touch (or a printable pdf online).
Check-in time at Cameron Lodges is 4pm and no matter how sweetly you smile, the keys will not be released to you beforehand. However, the building where you collect your keys from is located a minute's walk from Cameron House Hotel so if you get there a little early, you can always pop along for a coffee. Or even a walk along Loch Lomond to soak up the fresh, Scottish air while you wait.
Just a minor niggle, even if you're staying in the Cameron Club Lodges on the Carrick Estate, you still have to collect your keys from the Cameron House resort. Getting the boys out of the car after a long journey, to then have to wait for the keys, to then bundle them back in the car, to finally get to our lodge was perhaps not the most relaxing start to our trip. If there's a way to transfer the very quick check-in process to the Carrick Estate, I think families, particularly with young children, would be very grateful.
Our home for the three nights was this Cameron Club three bedroom detached lodge. And we LOVED it. A couple of years ago, we decided that never again would we stay in self-catering accommodation with fewer amenities than our own home. As my husband put it, 'why pay to stay somewhere less comfortable than where you live?'. Granted this was after a week of musical beds with two boys constantly fighting sleep and mattresses seemingly made of stone, but it really put us off.
Having seen photos of the lodge on the website, we shouldn't have been so surprised by how amazing it was but we still had a 'wow' moment upon walking in. The lodges are upside down living so we encountered the bedrooms first (two twins and one double) and they were all a fantastic size with beds to rival our own in terms of comfort. Plenty of wardrobe space, large ensuite bathrooms, fluffy towels, and complimentary toiletries ... all immaculate, too.
But it was the living space which we fell head over heels for. Open plan with more than enough space for four adults and two children to all find a spot to either watch TV, play games, sit and read a book, or pour a very large gin and tonic and relax on the balcony. The kitchen was so well equipped with everything we needed and more to prepare the two meals we ate in the lodge. And a dishwasher to wash everything up afterwards!
Rather than me writing a full list as all of the details can be found here, other than food, drink and maybe some washing powder and extra dishwasher tablets, there's really not a great deal that you'll need to bring with you. If you're staying for more than a few days and did want to bring lots of shopping with you, you don't have to worry about walking miles from your car to the front door however, as there are parking spaces just a few metres walk from each lodge and lots of cupboard space to put everything away. The lodge really is a home from home albeit with much better crystal glasses than I personally own.
CAMERON HOUSE & THE CARRICK ESTATE
Both the Cameron House resort and the Carrick Estate are stunning. Every corner you turn, there is another beautiful view. The resort and the estate are a couple of miles apart so just a few minutes in the car, but you can walk between them in an hour if you fancy a stroll through the countryside ... with amazing views across Loch Lomond as you go.
Most of the restaurants and amenities are located at the Cameron House resort, but on the Carrick Estate you'll find the spa, The Carrick golf course, and The Claret Jug restaurant. Staying here, you needn't pop across to the Cameron House resort as there's enough to keep you entertained (particularly if you're a keen golfer or spa enthusiast) but you'd be missing a treat if you didn't head over for at least one drink in the Great Scot's Bar and to watch the sea plane taking off.
WHERE TO EAT
During our stay, we were treated to a meal at the very family-friendly The Boat House restaurant located lochside at the Cameron House resort. I loved the nautical, New England-style decor and the boys loved the large, glass doors with a view of all the boats docked at the marina. Had it been warmer, we would have definitely sat outside on the large, decked area.
The menu is perfectly pitched at families, catering to every age and taste. When we visited, the children's menu contained three starters (pizza bread, fresh melon, soup), six main courses (fish and chips, pizza, cheese burger and fries, mac 'n' cheese, penne carbonara, crab cakes) and three puddings (ice cream, brownie, apple crumble). With one course costing £6.50, two costing £9 and three totalling £12, the prices are on a par with your typical gastro pub. The boys loved their meals although once my youngest spotted my mum's monkfish, he quickly swapped his penne carbonara for it.
From the adult's menu, we can (obviously) highly recommend the monkfish, and the seafood sharing platter was also divine. If you're visiting this summer, then I'd suggest opting for the white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake if you have a sweet tooth. It was delicious!
We also popped in to the Great Scot's Bar (located within the hotel) for coffee during our stay, and loved it so much that we picked up the boys from the creche and headed back for an impromptu lunch. It's one of the nicest, most relaxing bars I've been in. One half has a very cosy feel to it but head through the archway and there's most definitely a modern, cool vibe going on. With helpful bar staff and one of the best club sandwiches I've tasted, I could have happily handed my credit card over and stayed all day (and made my way through the vast whisky selection ... over 260!) if we didn't have two cheeky cherubs with us.
On our final night, we made the short walk from our lodge to the '19th hole', The Claret Jug. While it's part of the clubhouse and really geared towards those wanting a bite to eat after a round of golf, we had a really nice evening there. In fact, I preferred it to The Boat House. It's darker, quieter and not so family-focused ... does that make me sound terribly child-unfriendly? Essentially, if you want to dine out in a laid back but still polished restaurant without the hustle and bustle of young children, then head here. You'll love it.
WHAT TO DO
Between the resort and the estate, there are an overwhelming amount of activities to choose from. I think you could probably stay for a week and still not fit everything in. In fact, that's one of the reasons we want to return. The boys really want to spend some time in the Kids Zone and the swimming pool (it has a slide!!) at Cameron House Hotel, and I definitely want to take a trip on the seaplane. There's also pony trekking, archery, clay pigeon shooting and mountain biking, if you're feeling up for a bit of action and adventure. And if we go with my parents again and they're open to a spot of evening babysitting, Paul and I want to try The Cameron Grill and Martin Wishart's Michelin-starred restaurant.
But here's what we did managed to fit in and enjoy ...
A ninety-minute cruise on the 46 foot luxury motor yacht, The Celtic Warrior. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. We set sail from Cameron House marina and took a tour of the loch and its islands (with a cold glass of champagne in hand to accompany the amazing commentary from the staff).
A round of golf on the world-renowned The Carrick course. The course is set across a fault line so nine of the holes are in the Scottish lowlands and nine are in the highlands. ALL eighteen are set amidst the most breath-taking scenery. I won't reveal our final score but let's just say the walk was nicer than the golf played.
My mum and I spent an afternoon at The Cameron House Spa (located just a minute's walk from our lodge). Voted Scotland's best spa for three years in a row, our expectations were high and we were not disappointed. We spent a couple of hours in the Thermal Experience and absolutely loved it. Steam rooms, hydrotherapy pools, and a rooftop infinity pool overlooking the golf course. It was incredible! We both had an aromatherapy massage and considering I'm not the biggest fan of massages, I throughly enjoyed it. I almost melted in to the massage table in a relaxed heap. It was so, so nice.
So Paul and I could enjoy our round of golf without two tearaways running off with the balls, the boys were booked in to the creche at the hotel for the morning. It's run by qualified nursery staff and costs £10 per child for 90 minutes, although you can book multiple sessions.
Regular readers will know that my youngest really struggles with separation anxiety and, at nearly four, is still averse to being left with close family members who he knows well. I was quite prepared for him to refuse to stay at the creche and for me to miss out on the golf. However, he saw the toys and the welcoming smiles of the girls working there and ran in without the smallest shadow of doubt crossing his face. And when we picked him up, he was quite happily playing and seemed in no rush to leave. For me, that was a sure sign of the quality of the care.
Although we received our stay at Cameron Lodges free of charge for the purpose of this honest review, we would have happily paid for the experience. Apart from the couple of minor niggles which I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it was a brilliant three nights. The fact that both of my boys cried on the morning we had to leave sums up their experience.
The lodge which we stayed in sleeps six comfortably and eight quite nicely. At a cost of 'from £219' a night, that's amazing value for such luxurious accommodation in the most beautiful of surroundings. If you wanted to skip the restaurants and eat all meals in your lodge, you could easily make it an extremely affordable but brilliant holiday. Splash out on some of the activities, and it would be an incredibly memorable stay.
I wouldn't hesitate to return to Cameron Lodges. We all loved it. However, I must admit that I was blown away by Cameron House Hotel so it may be there that we head to on our next stay, though.
If you're thinking of booking a stay and have any questions, just pop them in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer them as soon as possible.
And some final photographs if you missed them on my Instagram feed.