This October, after a long few weeks of illness and stress, we decided that a holiday was needed to spend some time together as a family. Having done the rounds at various holiday parks over the years we decided that this year we would try something different, and that’s how we came to book Forest Holidays.
We loved the idea that a Forest Holiday is whatever you want it to be. You can escape to one of nine idyllic locations, choose from luxurious cabins set deep in woodlands, on the edge of mighty lochs, or in bright forest meadows and make your holiday your own. With that in mind we decided to travel up to Scotland and stay at the Strathyre site, and we literally could not wait.
Our journey up there was uneventful, the children slept the majority of the way and the scenery was so breathtaking that the four hour trip just flew. As we pulled up the long drive to the Forest Holidays entrance it felt as though the weight was slowly lifting from our shoulders and the weeks of worry and illness all left behind.
Although I knew that we were staying in the forest, I hadn’t realised just how literal that would be. We had gone from exiting a relatively busy road to being deep in the forest with the most beautiful cabins dotted amongst the trees.
There are three types of cabins – Copper Beech, Silver Birch and Golden Oak – ranging from one to four bedrooms with a range of features and added extras.
We were very lucky to have a Golden Oak and it was, without a doubt, the most beautifully presented lodge we have ever stayed in. Situated on the edge of the loch and away from the majority of cabins, it felt as though we were the only people out there.
The inside of the lodge couldn’t have been more welcoming with lots of little touches to make our arrival extra special.
With a huge open lounge and ample seating for eight people, the living area looked out onto a double patio with a barbecue, outdoor dining furniture and the children’s favourite part – the hot tub!
The kitchen was fully equipped with everything we could possibly need, including a microwave and dish washer, as well as a spacious dining area which was really in keeping with the forest feel outdoors.
The bedrooms were all completely spotless, a great size and, unlike other places we have stayed at, the beds were so comfortable! I loved that the towels were all included with an option to have them changed mid week if necessary.
As a family of six we were impressed to discover three bathrooms in the lodge, each with a bath or shower, sink and toilet and heated towel rails – perfect for drying our hot tub towels!
Forest Holidays literally caters for as much or as little as you like. You can go there and simply shut yourself off for the week, do nothing but sit in the hot tub, walk in the forest and dine in the Forest Retreat. Or you can throw yourself into enjoying the outdoors and the huge variety of activities which are available to book at an extra cost. And for Gaz and Lewis, they were most definitely wanting to do the latter!
We hired two bikes for the week so that Lewis and Gaz could get up early and be off on a bike ride, coming home drenched from the rain (the downside of Scotland!), splattered in mud (there’s a laundry on site!) but with rosy red cheeks and a buzz of excitement at their dare devil rides through the mountains.
Although we arrived out of season there were still a number of bookable activities such as canoeing, zorbing, archery, high ropes and nearby activity centres with quad biking and segways. Lewis and Gaz spent a very wet morning canoeing on the loch which, although it was hard going (mainly for Gaz who did all of the hard work), was an experience they won’t forget in a hurry.
For younger children there is so much to do which doesn’t have to cost a penny. They were just so happy to be outdoors running wild and I loved that they were embracing nature and really making the most of every moment.
Of course they had their moments, more so when we made the epic mistake of trekking up the mountain just as it was about to go dark, not realising that a short walk had turned into a full on trek entirely up hill with no visible way down!
We can laugh about it now but at the time, with three of the children screaming and crying, blindly groping our way in the dark, it really wasn’t quite as funny. Even less so when a huge black beast of some kind leapt across the path in front of us and darted into the trees! Thankfully the lights of the cabins finally drew us back home and we soon learned that night times in the forest are dark!!!
On the days when the weather was really bad and Gaz and Lewis were off exploring, the children and I enjoyed pottery painting at the Retreat. This came at an extra cost but was just £3 and a really lovely activity and great way to stay warm.
The retreat has a fantastic menu of both food and drinks, all of which can be ordered as take out and delivered straight to your cabin. There is also a small shop on site selling the basic items along with fresh local meats, ready meals and a range of gifts.
I was so happy to sit there, drinking a hot chocolate and watching the world go by, and the children were more than happy to get creative. I can’t say that I was quite as happy at the prospect of hanging them on my Christmas tree…
We also took part in an organised Autumn trail which involved following a map around the forest, visiting ten different stations and answering questions to solve the puzzle. The children loved it, especially Eva who was storming ahead on a mission, and I was so relieved to see her confidence returning after a tough few weeks back in school. When she claimed her prize, a very sweet little teddy, she was over the moon and promptly named him Forest.
At the first sight of sun we decided to have a day out to Loch Lomond, somewhere Gaz and I have visited together but never taken the children. We decided the best way to see the Loch was via a cruise and the views were just spectacular!
There is something very magical about the Lochs, and about Scotland itself, and it was so lovely to share that with the children.
There is so much to see and do around Loch Lomond and we had such a lovely day there together. You know those days where nobody seems to whinge quite as much and nothing really goes wrong? It turns out that a little bit of sunshine was exactly what we had needed.
There’s something so calming about being by the water, and whether we were at our cabin or out exploring, the amazing thing was that we were never far from the water. I miss that so much now we are back home.
If you were to ask the children what their favourite thing was about our Forest Holiday, they would tell you, without a moments hesitation, the hot tub!! The novelty never wore off, even when they were in there twice a day!
And although the hot tub may not have been the relaxing experience that it could have been without the children, the days the children spent catching rain drops on their tongues or the nights they floated on their backs counting the stars, those are the moments I won’t ever forget.
When Friday came around we were all a little sad to go home, “I’m going to miss my holiday house.” Megan told me, “Our house is boring, it doesn’t have a hot tub!”.
On our drive home we stopped at Stirling and had a walk up to the castle which was a lovely way to end our holiday. Although I wouldn’t say that our holiday was relaxing, it never really is when it comes to our children, I think that we all looked and felt a lot healthier than we had done on arriving. It’s true what they say, fresh air really is the best medicine.
We have never done a Forest holiday before, our Summer holidays are always at the beach or at holiday parks centred around the children, and I have to admit that I did worry that there wouldn’t be enough going on for the youngest three. It turns out that children don’t need noisy arcades and busy swimming pools, they don’t need performances and discos, fairgrounds and bouncy castles because, as cliche as it may be, the greatest playground a child can ever have is outdoors enjoying nature. Well that and a hot tub…..!!
I would love to return to Strathyre and see Scotland through the seasons but at the same time we are excited to visit the sites further South and experience Forest Holidays at opposite ends of the country. I’m sure in the warmer weather Lewis would love to enjoy water sports, the children able to paddle in the lakes, and I know that Gaz and I would more than enjoy a barbecue on the decking, a cold glass of wine in our hands and a view as beautiful as this one.
To anyone who has been considering a Forest Holiday and isn’t quite sure whether to take the plunge and book it, I wouldn’t hesitate to say do it!! Forest Holidays are designed entirely around you, be that as a couple, as a family or a group of friends. As it says on the website, there’s a forest escape for everyone, and this one was mine.