A BLiSSful trip through central Scotland and Briar Cottages, Lochearnhead

Touring Scotland quite often poses a dilemma of where to go, what to do, when to see it; if only because we are somewhat spoiled for choice with regards ‘musts’ to do, see, stay, taste and generally experience.

That’s why BLiSS is so fabulous; straddling two neighbouring regions, with a focus on art and walking, the BLiSS Trail forms one ideal starting point for discoveries of Scotland.

It just so happens that the regions are the more than picturesque, Stirlingshire and Perthshire, covering great expanses of beautiful countryside and scenic lochs….and the BLiSS focal points of Balquidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St. Fillians, putting ‘i’ for innovation at the heart of this initiative by Thistle Award winning LETi (Loch Earn Tourism Information group).

The BLiSS Trail now has 25 permanent art structures dotted around the area accompanied by an informative audio guide – available via an app download for smartphones…well worth it for the bespoke stories and unique approach to touring in Scotland and fun for the younger members of your group too.

The artistic installations which connect these four villages via the BLiSS Trail reflect the area’s history and culture in stunningly unique interpretations and vary enormously from a red telephone box (all is not as it may seem) to steel thistles and a look-out cabin, reflecting the surrounding landscape. Local artists and architects are contributors to the pieces, which relate stories of local heroes and memories from the area, which may otherwise be forgotten and are heart-warmingly narrated by locals of all ages, including a very amusing 6 year-old. International guest pieces now also feature thanks to the growing popularity and awareness of the trail; something which looks set to grow further as news of the BLiSS Trail spreads across the globe.

To accompany such a pull for visitors, the BLiSS Trail requires the unwavering support of the local community and this is also evident at all stops, each turn and hiding in every corner. A network of supportive locals assists in covering the back-up for this successful trail, in terms of accommodation, coffee stops, restaurants, shops and general bon accord.

At the heart of it all, is Kim Proven, Chair of the Loch Earn Tourism Information group and ambassador of the BLiSS Trail. Kim and her husband Fraser own Briar Cottages in Lochearnhead, which is just one of the many places to stay along the BLiSS route.

Briar Cottages, Lochearnhead

Scotland is known for her warm and welcoming people – a fact that has been experienced by worldwide visitors, encouraging each one to return and discover more of our fabulous country.

Nowhere is this felt more than at Briar Cottages in Lochearnhead, home and business of Kim and Fraser Proven.

Kim is something of an ambassador for the area – rarely have I seen such passion, belief and enthusiasm for not only her business but for all tourism initiatives and attractions within the wider area, which she champions.

Her and Fraser’s lives are woven into the local community and their cultural and historical local knowledge is something to behold; no surprise that Kim takes such an active role within the community and is a deserving, yet humble, major part of the award-winning LETi and BLiSS Trail.

Briar Cottages was, therefore, the perfect place to stay whilst learning more about the art installations and the vast offering of these four innovative yet unassuming villages.

Unmissable due to the untypical thatched roof, arriving at Briar Cottages created a similar feeling to returning home; warm, welcoming and with an enormous dose of bonhomie, this was the perfect start to a stay in the heart of BLiSS country.

After chatting to guests in Briar’s pet-friendly cottage and a quick game of loch-side petanque (other pastimes are also available; namely fishing, sailing and putting), we settled in to our cottage, aptly placed on the side of the bank overlooking the loch and surrounded by beautiful grounds, filled with art, sculptures and wildflowers and maintained admirably by Fraser. A giant thistle sculpture forms the focus, loch-side from Briar and also Stan the Stag, a very photogenic and more personal sculpture commissioned by Kim and Fraser for their anniversary and representative of an actual stag who roamed the hills surrounding Briar Cottages.

Plans for dinner were scrapped; deciding instead to cook in the expansive open-plan kitchen, whilst enjoying keeping an eye on the changing dynamic of the water on the loch and the sun on the hillside. There is however a pub serving food a very short stroll away in the village.

A leisurely breakfast followed a peaceful and very comfortable night’s sleep in our Briar Cottage, which sleeps 4 – perfect for a family or two couples looking for a relaxed retreat with lots to do and see locally.

Before setting off for day 2 of our BLiSS adventures, however, we accepted an invite to Kim and Fraser’s thatched home to take a look at their Scots Pine cruck ceiling – an absolute masterpiece in itself and not only their home but sight of various village celebrations and even a wedding; such is the warmth and hospitality displayed by Kim and Fraser.

Feeling slightly despondent at leaving; plans to see additional sculptures and the remaining villages on the BLiSS Trail made departure slightly more palatable.

I often say I shall return but to Briar Cottages, I will return and I shall ensure everyone knows about the gems lying in wait along the BliSS Trail..

To find out more about Briar Cottages and the BLiSS Trail, local information, history and all things BLiSS and LETi, please visit:

https://www.stayatbriar.co.uk/