Travel review: Strathyre, Scotland
Maybe it was the large plastic yellow duck sat snootily on the side which had the robin’s main attention or the intricate bird feeding station a few yards infront.
But whatever the attraction, it was having fun and so were we! Officially we were counting the species of birds we spotted deep in the Scottish forest as part of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Big Garden Bird Watch.
And we couldn’t have a better spot. Ruaridh (7) and Flora (5) were more than happy to take part in the survey if it meant sitting in a beautifully warm hot tub which was attached to the log cabin we were staying in, deep in the heart of the Forestry Commission owned land, just outside Callander, a spit’s throw from Stirling, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The Foresty Commission, in partnership with Forest Holidays, has nine impressive locations in the UK where log cabin style accommodation is set within the heart of a forest.
Strathyre was our choice and what a choice! Based in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and encircled by wood, water and mountains, it was truly awesome as the children declared!
The accommodation comes in three categories, Golden Oak, the deluxe version with everything you could ask for, Silver Birch complete with a hot tub and Copper Beech for those on a budget.
Our Silver Birch cabin nestled just at the side of Loch Lubnaig and we had stunning views of the majestic peaks of Ben Ledi. Inside the accommodation was top notch, with a fully equipped kitchen, downstairs bedroom for the children and their own shower room, large lounge complete with a log burner and television with an entertainment package available. The master ensuite bedroom was upstairs and was cosy and compact, a fan in the high ceiling allowing the warm air from downstairs to drift upwards.
And outside the all important hot tub , which was the main attraction for Ruaridh and Flora, who dragged dad Kenny and I in to test out the bubbles.
The cabin and tub are eco friendly, with daily checks to make sure all is well and once you are settled in, its hard to drag yourself away from the lovely surroundings.
But ranger Jack Black was the man to entice us out. Jack is a former soldier and survival expert and is a firm favourite at Strathyre.
His quirky sense of humour and passion for life is infectious and he was the perfect guide to take us on a bush skills walk.
As well as the accommodation, Forest Holidays provides lots of outdoor activities to keep everyone entertained and we had great fun with Jack learning how to light fires, read compasses and make nettle tea.
Ruaridh and Flora hunted for quartz stones so they could make a night light that Jack suggested and their bedroom had sprigs of Scots Pine scattered about to make it smell all Christmassy.
Not happy to sit on his laurels, Jack also roped Ruaridh and Flora into taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch and a quiz to mark Burns Night.
There is plenty to do on site, with walks and bike trails as well as ranger led activities which teach you a thing or two about the countryside.
Outside the forest, the area around Callendar is full of fascinating activities. Once home to famous outlaw Rob Roy, who is buried not far away in the churchyard of Balquhidder Parish Kirk, the outdoors soon calls you and there is everything from canoeing to cycling and off road safaris.
We joined safari expert Alan Sneddon from Hidden Glen Safaris for a fascinating tour of the glen. We hopped into Alan’s Land Rover Defender and we were soon whizzing around some beautiful countryside. This area of Scotland boasts some of the most picturesque scenes and Alan is the man to make sure you get the best out of a two and a half hour safari.
Alan offers a range of safaris to suit the customer, from watching rutting red deers to early morning bird watching as well as the more traditional safari we joined Alan on, or a luxury one which includes a meal at the nearby top notch Monachyle Mhor Hotel owned by celebrity chef Tom Lewis and his family.
Our experience took us through the beautiful Balquhidder glen and passed all the landmarks made famous by Rob Roy and then off road to experience the Braes of Balquhidder, seeing herds of deer as we passed and on the look out for golden eagles.
It really was an interesting way to see the area and learn about its history and Alan proved to be a man of real knowledge.
The Trossachs area is well known for its lochs with the lovely Loch Katrine close by and of course the famous Loch Lomond, home to Cruise Loch Lomond, run by Stuart Cordner. Stuart runs a whole host of cruises which cover the area, but the best one for the Trossachs area is the Inversnaid Cruise, which takes you on water around Rob Roy country on board one of Stuart’s impressive boats.
Taking in all the outdoor pursuits also gave me the ideal opportunity to test out the Fitbit Flex™, a wireless activity and sleep wristband which is one of the gadgets on offer to help you keep track of steps, distance and calories burned.
It has been designed by Fitbit, the market leader in digital health and fitness and also tracks how many moderate-intensity cardo minutes a user has done in a day.
A great aid to allow people to keep a track on their fitness as they go about their daily lives and works hard for you day and night, with apps to ensure you can monitor your progress whenever you want to.
Shaped like a wristband, it is the only fitness gadget to sync wirelessly with Bluetooth 4.0.
It’s water resistant too, so can be used in the shower and having it on your wrist really motivates you too get outdoors and when you have such a wonderful spot as the Trossachs to try it, there is simply nothing better!
Forest Holidays offers nine stunning locations in the UK with differing types of accommodation from luxury cabins to tree houses. For more information and special offers, log onto www.forestholidays.co.uk and to read more about fun ranger Jack Black, see www.forestholidays.co.uk/forestipedia/meet-jack-black-forest-ranger-at-strathyre-and-a-force-of-nature
Delve into the countryside with expert Alan Sneddon of Hidden Glen Safaris, www.hiddenglensafaris.co.uk or jump aboard Cruise Loch Lomond, www.cruiselochlomond.co.uk
The forest is a great place to try out fitness gadget Fitbit Flex™. which is designed to follow your every move! Log onto www.fitbit.com for up-to-date advice and stockists.