To those of you who seek solitude, extreme relaxation, chilly-shouldered night-time hot tubbing followed by curling up by a roaring log fire, or even the dubiously punishing enjoyment of mountain hikes and exceedingly long bike rides, boy have I got a splendid idea for you.
I have been coveting the very notion of such an escape since I first discovered Forest Holidays around 10 years ago. At that time I would order the paper catalogue and sneak away for a hot bath or (let’s be honest) extended loo break clutching my pamphlet o’ dreams. I have always been tremendously fond of a pine forest; of the canopy of quietude, the soft carpet of needles beneath the feet, and the glorious isolation of any remote, enclosed location. When I was a ween we frequently camped in the Peak District and so from nigh-on a toddling age I have been in love with nature.
However, I am also madly, wildly devoted to hot bubble baths and warm fluffy towels, to indoor plumbing and mod cons. My friends, this is where Forest Holidays’ most luxurious eco-cabins come into the picture.
As many of you will know, my Mum passed away on 3 September of this year, after a long-but-short illness. Through naïveté or perhaps through wilful ignorance, I didn’t expect to lose her nearly so soon. She was 64, and had many lifetimes of living left to do. I may be 36, but no doubt, I still need my Mum.
One of my Mum’s many valuable lessons was an appreciation of rest, relaxation, and of recharging the batteries so we may fight another day. I therefore felt it was very fitting to take some of the money she had left me and book N and I into a top notch fancypants ‘golden oak‘ cabin at the edge of Loch Lubnaig, nestled in a valley of the Trossachs National Park, Scotland, for that traditionally hectic week just afore Christmas proper.
Forest Holidays seem like a pretty good deal as far as such companies go; they support UK forests (via the Forestry Commission), local communities, and UK tourism. The Scotland site we stayed at, Strathyre, was actually the first location for cabins built in collaboration with the FC in 1973 (don’t worry folks they have sure been tarted up since then). It isn’t explicit within their corporate responsibility blurb, but they also use a lot of eco-friendly (and mostly vegan friendly) toiletries and kitchen basics. They have multiple UK locations, some being perfectly accessible without a car.
Because I hate most people and have a soft, ridiculously molten heart hidden ‘neath a fragile but convincingly hard, black exterior, I paid extra for the corner-most cabin, on the edge of the forest footpath (and national cycle route 7 for N) so that I would be relatively untroubled by other humans, having their fun and such.
If I may, dearest bloggo readers, I will let a few photos speak for themselves herein. We enjoyed (sort of) a very icy ascent halfway up the nearest big hill, a heck of a lot of night-time relaxing in the deck’s hot tub, a couple of long bike rides (in N’s case, if we ask him nicely he might blog about it, there were some awfully nice photos and a pony or two), and even some crafting in the site shop/cafe/HQ. (Hold the phone, he went and blogged it up.)
There were really only a couple of minor niggles with the whole enjoyable experience; wi-fi is not included in the price of the cabin, and I paid extra for this (it did go down at one point; not for long but without my internet-umbilical I start to panic pretty sharpish) which seems a little unusual in, dare I say it, this DAY AND AGE.
Also, with a full kitchen of appliances and cuisine-accoutrements, there were zero basic condiments (salt, pepper, stock cubes, cooking oil) but some very overpriced basics in the shop (£3 each for salt and pepper, £6 for olive oil). The ready-made meals were pushed heavily, but of course being a big ol’ vegan they were of little use to me. I had pre-ordered an on-site fruit & veg box, which was lovely but didn’t arrive until the evening of our second day and so we were forced to purchase the single most expensive can of Heinz baked beans I have ever encountered. I felt it was a wee bit disingenuous to push the self-catering element when the ready-made pizza/burger/curry packs were being peddled so relentlessly. However, we did buy some fresh bread and on one occasion a lunch, and my chips were really top notch. N, being pescatarian, even had very few choices on the menu so there was really nothing substantial for me. This was expected (being in rural Scotland) but a MacSween’s veggie haggis would be a splendid menu item for the veggies/vegans if you ask me (hint hint, Forest Holidays).
There are a number of additional activities and luxury ‘extras’ that can be booked in advance of your stay. The sites are very child/dog friendly (though we left Vulpe with her Dad for the week, being utterly bonkers as she is) with lots of stuff to do.
Overall, my blog chums, we really did have the most wonderful break; it was much appreciated at a time when the Christmas-hysteria was really ramping up, and as the chlorinated waters bubbled around our travel-weary bodies on that first night, we vowed to take a yearly hot-tub holiday from then on.