Loch Rannoch, in Perthshire, has always had the draw of beautiful scenery – the famous silhouette of Schiehallion does not figure in the brochure of its eponymous hotel for nothing! – and it has the added advantage of a potential coffee and shopping diversion at the House of Bruar on the way.

Therefore, anyone visiting the Macdonald Hotel Loch Rannoch would be well advised to drive in daylight – the road may be winding, but the scenery is truly spectacular and on a frosty winter’s morning, it is a welcome relief to any dreich day.

The hotel is warm and welcoming, with a traditional coal fire in the lounge bar and a warm autumn colouring and tweedy shades on the decor, which is comforting as soon as you come into the spacious reception and lounge area.

The welcome was warm for us (and the dog), with the executive room allocated to us one of many in the hotel that have that world famous ‘loch view’, with a squint at Schiehallion. You are immediately put at ease by the reception staff, who clearly do not adhere to the notion (as in some hotels ) that the customer is considered an interference in an otherwise good job. Exactly the opposite!

The hotel is dog friendly, people friendly and staff friendly and you know from the outset, that this is going to be an enjoyable stay.

For those of us who have dog companions, as well as human companions, it is similar to having young children and it is often difficult to find somewhere that feels relaxed about the canines being around. Some hotels consider that being dog friendly, involves allowing dogs in the room, but nowhere else in the hotel and staff are expected to tolerate our four-legged ‘children’, in the same way they tolerate our two-legged ones.

In some establishments, this often includes a surcharge of around £20 per dog per night – which seems to us to be ridiculous when the clients sleep on the floor, aren’t entitled to breakfast and are cleaner than the shoes on most children. At MacDonald Loch Rannoch, the charge is a reasonable £15 per dog per night. It is also important to note, that it is against the law for hotels to charge for, or not allow assistance dogs.

While we have every sympathy with a ‘no dogs in the restaurant’ rule, we were delighted that MacDonald Loch Rannoch allowed dogs in the Schiehallion bar area during dinner and was willing to serve up the same delicious restaurant menu to guests – as in the Ptarmigan restaurant – who preferred to bring their dogs with them.

Duty manager, Neil Caskie, was quick to point out that the ‘doggie’ trade is increasing, due to higher costs at leaving dogs in kennels and the fact that many don’t want to leave them in the care of anybody else. It’s certainly been a factor in helping MacDonald Loch Rannoch attract new customers and there were a couple of others with dogs staying in the hotel the weekend we were there.

So, while we perused a typically Scottish menu – which, we were please to note from some highly prominent posters in the hotel lobby – was focussed very much on sustainable Scottish and locally sourced produce – our waitress, Shannon, brought our doggie companion a bowl of water and involved her in conversation, while we got on with something more serious!

The menu itself was traditional with a twist and top marks to the chef, who produced two of the best starters we have had for some time. The trio of smoked salmon, was three individual types and flavours of smoked salmon and not just a variation on a theme, while the smoked venison with a parmesan crisp convinced me that I should try all of the elements on the plate in one bite, as the flavours should play off one another, giving a unique and pleasurable taste. Which they did in spades.

Both remained very much true to the theme of ‘Scottish’ and/or ‘local’. The smoked salmon was from John Ross in Aberdeen, while the dreamy smoked (but not too much) venison came from just down the road at the Rannoch Smokery. Disappointingly, that might be the last time anyone will get to taste this fine product, as our visit coincided with the announcement of the closure of that wee business. Such a shame.

Now to the big deal. The main courses. We opted for a sirloin steak and lamb shank as the star attraction. Both of these were tender, tasty and sourced locally, as was the venison, which was another choice on the menu.

The slow braised lamb couldn’t have been a finer celebration of the area. A Blackface or Cheviot, slowly baked to almost falling off the bone tenderness and served up with butter-mash and an excellent, and in season, roasted selection of root veggies. Nothing is better than well-cooked lamb shank and while we felt this could have been in the oven for another half hour, the taste held up well.

The sirloin steak – which shared its Red Tractor approval scheme designation with the lamb and chicken dishes, but had a +£6 on the menu – came with notice that it had been ‘hung for 21 days’ and was all Scottish. Well, if that was the case, then it was superb and so all the more applause to the men who bred it, reared it, then sent it for slaughter and butchered in Scotland. It was first class and came with the accompaniment of hand cut chips, tomatoes and proper, not out of the freezer, onion rings.

All that left room only for a shared cheese platter. While the platter was good, a heads up is needed for those of us who don’t like goats’ cheese, which is normally served separately but in this instance was disguised as a benign ‘crowdie’.

There was a good selection of wines to accompany the meal, although the descriptions were a bit confusing at times – a Sauvignon Blanc, for instance, came with the description of what appeared to be a very nice red!

The rooms were comfortable, good sized and well proportioned, with an amazing view over the loch and the added quietness, which surrounds the hotel in its forest setting, makes for a very relaxing night. And, for doggie friends, there are some tremendous off-road well-marked trails all around the hotel, with a quiet wee hike into the village possible where there are cafés and shops, etc.

The hotel also comes with its own, standalone leisure centre. Families take note: this is not manned and therefore you will be asked to sign a disclaimer should you use these, especially if you have children with you. There’s a heated swimming pool, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and a small gym.

After all that walking, working out and swimming, then your decidedly peaceful night will be rewarded by a breakfast that was hale and hearty and cooked to order. The smoked haddock and poached egg proved a particular favourite, but the ‘full Scottish’ – quite why beans are on this always baffles me – was a good antidote to the frosty weather outside and would fuel anyone up for the rigours of another day exploring around the hotel… or even a stab at Schiehallion itself!

Some points to ponder:

The menu has a two/three course strategy which costs a fixed £29 for two and £34 for three courses, with some (like the steak) an added extra.

Doggies are welcome … at £15 per night.

Some great walks around the hotel, plus plenty within a short car journey.

Staff: first class, courteous, mostly knowledgeable and dog friendly themselves!

It’s 21/2 hours from Glasgow and roughly the same from Edinburgh.

From March onwards the price is from £79 per night for a classic double room based on two people sharing with breakfast.

Dangerous ground: The House of Bruar is only 15 minutes away!