By Janice Hopper

Scotland is renowned for its mountains, coastlines and lochs but escaping to the nation’s woodlands and forests is a travel option that’s becoming increasingly popular and accessible.   
Holiday makers are thinking more about how they’re spending their money and demand is growing for a new breed of eco holiday across the UK. 
The Forestry Commission has tapped into this growth market and is combining environmental concerns with quality family holidays in picturesque Scottish woodlands.
In the 1960s Forest Holidays was founded by the Forestry Commission to meet the growing demand for sensitively placed accommodation in scenic forest locations.  
Such tourism opportunities are exhilarating for visitors but they’re a key business opportunity for the commission, helping it to pay for and maintain the forests, create facilities to enhance a visitor’s experience and welcome more people onto their land.
In 2016, 11 new Forest Holidays cabins were opened in Strathyre, at the heart of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.  There are nine Forest Holidays sites across the UK with a second Scottish base located at Ardgarten Argyll, all offering holidays off the beaten track. Eco travel is still a relatively developing market but if a company uses it as a selling point visitors are keen to know the criteria.  
Michael Ansell, head of estate development with Forest Enterprise Scotland said:  “All new cabin proposals by Forest Holidays are considered in detail by Forest Enterprise Scotland before being agreed. 
Forest Holidays develop, design and build their cabin sites to ensure minimal impact to the forest setting, wildlife habitats, flora and fauna and are taken through the full planning process. 
Site design follows the natural constraints and sensitivities of the forest environment and the highest level of attention is paid to safeguard the natural environment.
“Aesthetics are also important. Cabins are designed to visually fit into a forest setting without detriment to the surroundings. They sit on steel piles, ensuring no harm to adjacent trees and are raised above ground to avoid disturbance to the forest floor. The units also use various technologies to reduce carbon emissions which is another plus for the environment.”
Despite being called ‘cabins’ each unit is more like a (one to four bedroom) family home, decorated to a high spec with comfortable interiors. In Strathyre guests can choose between a Golden Oak cabin with hot tub and hammock on the decking, a wood burning stove and a sunken bath for two, a Silver Birch cabin with hot tub or Copper Beech accommodation. 
Eco doesn’t mean compromising or curtailing a guest’s expectations, and in terms of price a three day weekend for four people in a Silver Birch cabin starts at £295.
From a visitor’s point of view there is something novel and exciting about a woodland break on the banks of Loch Lubnaig.  Forest Holidays chief executive, Bruce McKendrick, says: “The experience of sleeping overnight in a forest in a National Park is magical and for our guests coming to stay at Strathyre is an adventure they’ll never forget, but they value more than that. 
“We enhance the natural landscape, create habitats for wildlife and inspire guests with our love of the forests. It is possible to both succeed as a business and to give something back.”
In terms of rural revenue Forest Holidays generates £2m per year for the Forestry Commission and each Forest Holidays cabin introduces an estimated £30,000 into the local community, with each site generating around 19 full-time and 40 part-time permanent jobs.  For eco travellers the ethics of the site matter, but like any holidaymaker visitors want to entertain their family and friends so the nearby attractions are just as relevant.


Another key aim behind the Forest Holidays and Forestry Commission collaboration is to enable more people to visit and benefit from woods and forests. Guests are not short of options of things to do and places to see in the Strathyre vicinity.

ACTIVITIES ­— It’s easy to book outdoor activities through Forest Holidays.  Segway safaris, archery, paddleboarding, forest survival courses and air rifle shooting are all available.  There’s also a mini forest ranger session for little explorers.

WALKING — Forest walks in Queen Elizabeth Forest are literally a few steps from the door of each Strathyre cabin. Walk the four mile Coireachrombie Trail up through the spruce forest for views across Loch Lubnaig and the Carse of Stirling. It’s common to see pine martens and red squirrels in the area.

CYCLING — The National Cycle Route 7 (Inverness to Glasgow) passes by the Strathyre site and connects Killin and Callander. The route follows a section of the old railway line which was built in 1880 linking Glasgow to Oban. Closed in 1965, a busy railway track is a now a scenic, woodland cycle path.   

CANOEING AND KAYAKING — It’s possible for canoeists of mixed ability to take to the water at Loch Lubnaig and Loch Voil, but for advanced kayakers more challenging conditions can be found at Monachyle Burn at the head of Loch Voil and at Calair Burn, south of Balquhidder village.

HISTORY — Strathyre is the setting for tales of the 18th century outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor. Today you can visit his grave at the kirkyard in Balquhidder.  

THE TROSSACHS — The location of the cabins, in the heart of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, is a big draw.  Sailing Loch Katrine on the steamship Sir Walter Scott is a sublime experience for any age and there’s ample opportunity for walking and cycling along the shoreline. The scenery inspired writers like William Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott who set ‘The Lady of the Lake’ here, and in part instigated the Victorian passion for all things quintessentially ‘Scottish’. An Art and Literature Trail runs along the north shore highlighting historic points of interest.

BLAIR DRUMMOND SAFARI PARK — A wilder option is the Blair Drummond Safari Park, near Stirling. Home to lions, tigers and monkeys, as well as more familiar farmyard animals, Blair Drummond is an ideal family day out. 

NEAREST TOWNS — The small towns of Callander and Aberfoyle are nearby for provisions, tourist information and independent shops.

The modern tourist wants it all, but it’s now possible to combine an indulgent, restful break with outdoor pursuits and environmental concerns in some of Scotland’s most treasured land.  Now did someone say hot tub?


Explore Forest Holidays at
Learn more about the Forestry Commission at
For more information on the National Park visit
Blair Drummond’s website is
Find out more about sailing times on Loch Katrine here
Today Forest Holidays is a joint venture, public/private partnership, with the Forestry Commission and has a 125-year lease on the land on which sites are based.  The Forestry Commission is paid a rental so the monies realised from cabin developments go back into managing the forests.