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Set sail for a happy holiday

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Sunshine, hot tubs and barbecues were the order of the day when David Dalziel took his family on
a woodland holiday


Finding the perfect family holiday destination can be a tricky task. On the one hand, you need to have plenty for the children to do, the location needs to be safe and, ideally, nice and quiet at night so they can sleep.

At the same time, you want there to be something for the adults to do as well, so you need to plan carefully and choose somewhere that offers all of these things.

That’s where Forest Holidays comes in. The company promises “simple luxury in beautiful forests”. After a visit to its Strathyre site in June, I can attest to the fact that both of these promises were fulfilled.

I took my young family to Strathyre from Aberdeen, which took less than three hours by car, driving through the beautiful Perthshire countryside. I had never heard of Strathyre before – despite having spent a weekend recently at Lochearnhead, which is only about five minutes closer to Aberdeen and it being just outside the popular tourist town of Callander.

We arrived in glorious sunshine, which only added to the beauty of the location, right on the banks of Loch Lubnaig.


Family fun in the hot tub

We checked in with the friendly staff at the newly refurbished Forest Retreat and made our way to our three-bedroom lodge – complete with its own hot tub on the balcony. More of this later.

My four-year-old son, Charlie, was delighted with the accommodation and set about choosing his room.

We wasted no time in exploring the area and quickly found the onsite children’s playpark a stone’s throw from our lodge. This was a great way to spend an hour or so building up an appetite before tea. But what to have? We couldn’t decide between freshly baked pizzas at the Retreat or a barbecue on our balcony.

The Forest Retreat

Pizza it was, but not before we had all tried out the hot tub. Not just a big favourite with the adults, the “mini swimming pool” was a hit with my son and baby daughter. The hardest part was getting them out of it.

Once we had packed the kids off to bed, we made use of the hot tub again in a more peaceful manner, enjoying a glass of Prosecco as we drank in the tranquil surroundings. This was bordering on bliss.

A ramble with Jack the ranger is fun for all the family

The next morning, it was time to try out one of the many forest activities on offer. We chose the Junior Ranger Crafts, as it is suitable for younger children. We met up with our friendly ranger, Jack, who was a real character. Having spent 30 years in the British Army, Jack knew his stuff and took us around the site on the hunt for birds, frogs and even gruffalos. Sadly, we didn’t find any of the latter, but we had great fun searching and Charlie loved pond-dipping in the specially created pond up near the ranger’s camp. Great fun, and educational, too.

With Callander being so close, we made the short journey to the town, where we paid a visit to the sweetie shop and ice-cream parlour, then spent a happy afternoon at the little park. Callander is full of nice pubs and restaurants for those with older children or just on their own (you lucky people).

Venturing slightly farther the following day, we drove to Loch Katrine, where we enjoyed an hour-long sail on the steamship Sir Walter Scott. And what a treat that was. Not only for the still waters and fantastic views, but also for the brilliant staff onboard who made it such a memorable sail.

The steamship Sir Walter Scott

The captain noticed Charlie boarding the ship and asked his name. Then, once we were well into our journey, he asked over the Tannoy if Charlie would like to have a go at sailing the ship. So off we went, up the stairs to the bridge, where Charlie had the honour of steering us all along the loch. What a treat for a young lad, and he was over the moon with his Young Captain’s certificate and other little gifts he was given. A lovely touch.

Also memorable was the information offered over the Tannoy regarding the special offers at the onboard cafe. There were a couple of hot drinks for sale, one with whisky, the other with brandy. However, due to the alcoholic nature of these beverages, the ship had a strict policy on the number of drinks passengers could consume, and that was a “minimum of 10 each”. This was met with a roar of laughter throughout the ship.

I would thoroughly recommend an outing on the loch, especially as it was such good value at only £20 for a family of four.


Back at the lodge, if you really want to spoil yourself, you can book an in-cabin chef who will bring a five-star culinary experience to your dining room. Feeling stressed out and in need of a good massage? Then there is a long list of luxurious therapies that can be arranged in your lodge, from thermal hot stones to a couple’s massage.

When it came time for us to leave our forest lodge and return home, it was with heavy hearts. No more hot tubs, barbecues or walks by the loch. It had been a lovely family break, and I am sure we will be back sooner rather than later.
Travel facts
Forest Holidays has two sites in Scotland and seven throughout England.

Forest Holidays is offering Press and Journal readers a chance to receive a 10% discount on bookings made before October 31, 2014. To take advantage of this discount, quote offer code ABERDEEN10 at the time of booking.

The offer can be used on any date, location or cabin type.
This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.

Call 03330 110 495, e-mail
or visit the website at

For times and details about sailing on Loch Katrine, visit