REVIEW: The Four Seasons Hotel, St Fillans, Perthshire
One of the toughest aspects of this pandemic has been the limitations it places on our freedoms.
Many have been the times we wished we could just run away from it all.
Heading into Scotland just as Nicola Sturgeon imposed a near puritanical lockdown on hospitality might not sound the ideal escape route, but I can assure you that a change is sometimes a lot better than a rest.
And so it proved as the missus and I decamped to the village of St Fillans in Perthshire for a night.
The Four Seasons Hotel sits on the banks of the stunning Loch Earn, its waters lapping just a few dozen yards from its front doors and the imposing Trossachs towering on the horizon.
In a previous life the premises had been a private residence belonging to a royal swim master who wanted good sight of the loch where his students trained.
While easily resisting the temptation to follow them into the chilly depths, it did afford one of the best views we have ever enjoyed from a hotel room window, the experience further enhanced by the peace of this remote location.
As for our room’s interior: it was spacious with a nice big, firm bed and most of the little extras that can make a stay special. Granted, the decor was a bit on the tired side in places, but in all honesty it didn’t detract from the stop-over. There were no complaints about the bathroom facilities either.
In so remote an area you have to make certain allowances for technological shortcomings, so the WiFi had limited reach and the telly’s channel choice was limited. But, hey, this is just the sort of place where you want to get away from all that sort of thing and take to the hills either on foot or bike (mountain versions of which are available to borrow free of charge from the hotel).
Down in the restaurant there are two menus on offer: an “à la carte” and an “all day” one, both of which contained many tempting seasonal offerings with strong Japanese as well as Scottish influences.
I chose a salt and vinegar mackerel starter with cucumber, dill, shallot and wasabi while the missus tucked into whipped goat’s cheese with beetroot, black olive and basil. Both dishes were faultless both to the eye and palate, with flavours fresh and subtly blended. Then came a nori-cured salmon amuse bouche wrapped in seaweed with sesame seed and raspberry - delicacy itself.
My main was Highland wagyu beef with baby gem lettuce, teryaki, shimeji mushrooms, XO sauce and blue cheese, making for something both very tasty and original. And with side helpings of roasted potatoes with novel twists (including capers) plus seasonal veg it was an epic plateful too.
My other half had pan-friend trout with crab rillette, with new spuds, bok choi, yuzu and crab bisque and was equally impressed. By then she had called it a day while I gamely, for the record, sampled bitter chocolate with raspberry and pistachio for dessert. Tangy, fresh and not too filling, it was just the ticket to finish.
In all then an extremely good offering. Prices are slightly higher than average but you are paying for high culinary skill and the finest produce, so it was worth it.
After a reasonably sound sleep, it was back down for an excellent breakfast, the full Scottish - complete with potato scone and haggis - setting us up ideally for the day.
Throughout the stay, the staff were unstintingly helpful and friendly while the establishment, reassuringly, showed a strict adherence to social distancing and other Covid-prevention measures.
I should mention that as well as many spacious rooms, the Four Seasons boasts several chalets (one occupied by The Beatles in 1964) further up the hillside, several of whose occupants breakfasted with us.
It also prides itself on being pet-friendly, although it is careful to segregate for those less favourably inclined towards sharing premises with other fauna.
The hotel really is a lovely setting, with several charming settlements - Comrie, Blaco and Crieff - within easy driving distance. It has its own slipway from which guests can launch boats, and other popular activities in the area to which the local topography lends itself include quad biking, off-road driving, canoeing and kayaking, white water rafting, gravity biking, sailing and clay pigeon shooting.
All the food on the menu is available on a room service basis during the day the hotel also provides packed lunches.
So here we have an extremely enjoyable getaway venue, excellent food and competitively priced accommodation.
Four Seasons Hotel
St Fillans PH6 2NF
Tel: 01764 685333
Seasonal rates: £99 to £130 per room per night, bed and breakfast