Alexandria, Scotland

Photo: Bryan Weir via freeimages.com
Photo: Bryan Weir via freeimages.com

This weekend is all about choices. Do you want to sleep in or get in an early round of golf? Would you rather see a beautiful lake up close during a cruise or from high above after a hike? Should lunch include smoked salmon or New England-style seafood? Do you prefer hawks or ponies? Does relaxing mean going to a spa or a distillery? Is happy hour best in a bright clubhouse or a moody den? And does six or eight courses strike your fancy for dinner?

The only decision you don’t have to make this weekend is where to go. After arriving in Glasgow, you drove northwest toward Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. The city quickly gave way to purple-hued hills and crystal lakes once you crossed the River Clyde. In Alexandria, you found an art gallery in a former car factory, golf courses, and a brewery. But your sights were set on the lake. Loch Lomond, Great Britain’s largest lake in surface area, is considered a natural wonder. The freshwater lake is home to more than 30 islands and almost any water activity you could imagine.

Loch Lomond is also home to the Cameron House. You started to see Gothic towers and turrets before you event reached the 18th-century baronial mansion. Perfectly manicured lawns ran toward the water. Though it looked formal and a bit stuffy from the outside, your fears were quickly squashed inside. The mansion felt relaxed and comfortable. Tartan fabrics decorated oversized armchairs. Quirky animal sculptures watched you from the corners. Plus your room perfectly mixed modern comforts with Scottish heritage. Plaid carpets, broadsheet duvets, and even antler chandeliers put you firmly in the Scottish Highlands. While a thick mattress, a rainfall shower, and an iPod dock made you feel right at home. The view of the sparkling lake didn’t hurt either.

Photo: QHotels
Photo: QHotels

Now, after a good night’s sleep, it’s time to start making those choices. Though the 27 holes at the Carrick Golf Course are challenging, you decide to skip the green to stay snuggled in bed a little while longer. Since a thick mist still hovers over the lake, you opt to wait until tomorrow morning to go on a cruise. You probably wouldn’t be able to see the wallaby colony, the nudist colony, or the ruins of the Celtic chapel yet anyway. Instead, hike Ben Lomond, a distinctive mountain on the lake’s eastern shore. Keep an eye out for peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and your footing en route to the peak, where you’re rewarded with a stunning view of the national park, the lake, and its islands.

Since you can eat New England-style seafood anytime back home, skip the Boat House and go to the Cameron Grill for lunch. Kilts with sporrans hang above the leather booths, and the salmon bar is stocked with smoked and cured salmon, beetroot, and honey. Since you’re full after lunch, go for a hawk walk instead of a pony trek. While donning a heavy leather gauntlet, a majestic hawk flies toward you and gracefully lands on your arm. Head to Glengoyne Distillery to tour the picturesque facility and compare the 12- and 18-year-old whiskies. Then switch to a Japanese whisky when you return to the hotel’s Great Scots Bar, where the walls are lined with photos of famous Scots.

Your easiest decision of the day ends up being dinner, as eight courses sounds like way too much food. Sample Kilbrannan langoustines and roasted Orkney scallops. Eat a fillet of stone bass and a saddle of lamb. Try pasteurized and unpasteurized cheeses. Finally, take a small bite of the Valrhona dark chocolate dessert before retiring to your room. You have an early tee time to get up for tomorrow morning.

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