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Scotland to a Tea: Mhor tea please in the Trossachs

You won't find isolated motels at the top of many people's lists of their favourite places to stop for a spot of afternoon tea, but sample the fresh baking at Mhor 84 in Balquhidder and you could see it become the exception.

The 16th century drover's rest and one-time soldiers billet is on the A84 trunk road (hence the 84 in the name) midway between Killin and Callander, but once you get out of the car, bracing Perthshire air and views of imposing Trossach hills ensure that it feels a long way from the thoroughfare.

That sense of taking a step away continues inside. Where you might expect the dark cosiness and dingy mahogany of typical historic roadhouses, the decor is fresh and bright and dotted with lovely touches like an antler lamp and reclaimed school benches, creating an atmosphere that is simultaneously traditional and modern (and deserving of the nomination received in this year's Scottish Style Awards).

There is originality in the menu too. The three-bean soup was as tasty as it was filling, and how nice to have the option of a cheese scone alongside. A memorably quirky fixture is the Big Piece, a huge, prominently displayed toastie, with daily changing fillings, from which you can order your own 'piece'.

Tea is served in mismatched vintage crockery, and even if you weren't planning on a nibble alongside, it will be hard to resist once you are struck with the alluring display of meringues and cakes at the front door, where classics like fresh ring donuts (also available for hungry hikers to take away) and carrot cake compete for attention alongside the likes of rhubarb Danish pastries and a light, moist, beetroot and hazelnut cake.

Formerly the Kingshouse Hotel, the venue reopened this spring with new, though experienced hands at the helm. Brothers Tom and Dick Lewis, and their partners Lisa Lewis and Mhairi Taylor are behind a symbiotic collection of outlets that champion Scottish produce, including the Monachyle Mhor Hotel and farm in Balquhidder - the source of many of the fresh ingredients used at Mhor 84 - and the Mhor Bread bakery and tearoom in Callander.

"Our bakery makes the cakes, pastries and bread for Mhor 84, then we ice and finish the cakes here on site," explains Lisa Lewis. "All four of us are involved in choosing what is made at the bakery and what we like to offer at Mhor 84.

 "The provenance of the food for all of our business is what we are most proud of," she says. "We have a kitchen garden, as well as sheep, cattle, pigs and chickens, and game and foraged foods."

Mhor 84 may be reasonably priced and conveniently located at the roadside, but this is where its connection to the formulaic American 'motel' model ends - and though the branding (especially the funky Route 66-style logo) is effective in helping it to stand out, this isn't meant just as a refuge for Stirling-bound motorists, "it's for people on the move, whether that be on foot, bicycle or by car," says Lisa.

It's certainly well placed - its neighbours are munros, and it is moments away from Rob Roy's grave site, just off one of Britain's most beautiful cycle routes (National Route 7) and next to the path for walkers on the 94-mile Rob Roy Way.

However you travel to Mhor 84, it is a pleasure to sample its rich treats, and if you're shrewd enough to have already burned calories in the great outdoors and can savour them guilt-free, you'll be going back for seconds.

Info:  Mhor 84, Balquhidder, Perthshire. Daytime menu and lighter refreshments are available until 6pm, with an evening menu until 9pm. Food is also available to take away.

Visit Mhor 84's website for more details.

Getting there:Midway between Killin and Callander, Mhor 84 is a prominent white inn, well signed from the A84 and other routes.

Mini menu: Donuts £1, Soup and warm cheese scone, £4.90.

Sugar score: Sugar is presented in beautifully battered silver sugar bowls, with salt also separate in wee pinch-from-able pots. Lovely touches.

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Food and drink

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