NESTLED on the banks of Argyll’s Loch Long is a woodland delight waiting to be explored.
It needs no fanfare; the majesty of Ben Arthur as its backdrop, the tranquillity of the spectacular tidal loch at its fore. Without question, this is a picture-postcard setting.
No surprise therefore that Forest Holidays chose to build one of its two luxurious Scottish getaways at exactly this spot. A 40-cabin retreat offering ‘simple luxury’ in the heart of the forest, making it the perfect holiday – or weekend break – for families, couples and friends of all ages.
Simple luxury it is indeed, with the likes of outdoor hot tubs, underfloor heating and log-burning stoves forming part of the impressive, well-proportioned cabins which offer floor to ceiling views of the amazing scenery around, as well as well-equipped kitchens, beautiful bathrooms and many extra touches. These include in-cabin spa treatments, champagne packages and culinary hampers for tired four-legged friends – the list goes on.
It is all in the detail at Argyll Cabins. The location itself – like all Forest Holiday sites – is set within Forestry Commission woodland, resulting in everything from the cabins (built in Forestry Stewardship Council certified timber, as well as being thermally insulated), to minimal outdoor lighting, designed to be sympathetic to the surroundings. So, if bustling on-site entertainment (swimming pools and kids’ activities, for example) are your thing – Argyll Cabins are likely not.
This is almost certainly music to the ears of those wishing a break in such an idyllic location – less than two hours’ drive from Edinburgh, near the village of Arrochar - without feeling as though they are in a holiday ‘park’. And yet, although it is certainly quiet, it is far from boring.
So what is there to do? The site itself is purposely minimalist. At the entrance is the Forest Retreat, with a small shop offering locally sourced produce, including chilled ready meals, beers and treats. Light lunches can be enjoyed here, and breakfast snacks (rolls and pastries) are made fresh to order to be delivered to your cabin. It is also a spot to grab a snack and a coffee – and enjoy the view.
The Retreat is the place to hire bikes (at a cost of around £20 a day), get information on local walks and events and book Forest Ranger activities.
Coming highly recommended after my visit, is the Young Explorers session with Andy the ranger – and his dog Ness – nicknamed ‘Bat Man’ for his expert knowledge of the creatures that can be found in the woods. Lasting two hours, the walk sets off from the Retreat, taking in a loop of the forest before arriving back on the other side of Argyll Cabins, down by the loch to hunt for mussels, periwinkles and crabs.
On a wet evening in May, this was no challenge for an eager welly-clad two-year-old (and his drenched parents) keen to keep up with Andy and hear his lively tales.
Among them were those of the history of the forest; how to build a den to keep out driving rain and wind; the hiding places of beavers; and where – even – a huge, hairy Gruffalo may be spotted.
Another treat for fans of the outdoors is Loch Long itself, with canoeing sessions leaving from the shore on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons. For just £21, including wetsuit hire – and lasting an hour-and-a-half – a group of novices (including my husband) set off with a local instructor on a sunny May afternoon (just hours before the ranger walk in the pouring rain – Scottish weather at its best) with glowing reports on return.
Using creels they searched for crabs and starfish, jumped off a jetty for a short (and apparently refreshing) swim, before hearing of the varied sea life in the loch, which includes otters and seals.
If such activities are not up your street though, the loch can be enjoyed for walks and – the children’s favourite – simple stone and shell throwing. There are also mussels a plenty for those eager enough to take them back to their cabin to cook.
Argyll Cabins is the perfect location for hill walkers, either for an easy stroll along the banks of River Croe or a more adventurous trip up Ben Arthur – known as the Cobbler. Cycle routes are in plentiful supply too, including the Cat Craig Cycle Loop. For those opting for gentle trips, trailer carts and tag-a-longs can be booked for use by children.
If making the most of Argyll’s great outdoors leaves visitors exhausted at the end of the day, the luxury cabins are designed for unwinding. The outdoor hot tubs are fantastic, looking out across Loch Long underneath a star filled sky, and the beds are very comfortable.
It is again ‘simple luxury’ when it comes to the furniture, with large settees suitable for all the family to snuggle up on, making the most of the online films (and the Movie Night Special food pack if you really want to splash out on sweets, drinks, popcorn and ice-cream, all delivered to your cabin door).
Whatever the occasion, the weather or the season, a break in Argyll Cabins is guaranteed to be both exciting and relaxing. It may be less than two hours from the Capital, but it feels very remote and with that it offers a chance to re-fuel - be it on birdsong and leafy forest trails, or champagne and lazy hours spent in a hot tub. The choice is yours.
• Argyll Cabins can be found at Ardgartan, Arrochar, Argyll and Bute, G83 7AR
• A THREE-night break (Friday-Monday) in June for two adults/two children starts at around £500 (depending on cabin size). For special offers, and full pricings, visit www.forestholidays.co.uk.
• Pets are welcome at all Forest Holidays sites, but guests are able to request pet-free cabins also.