Renowned for its world class whisky distilleries, scenic lochs, dramatic mountains and breathtaking vistas, beautiful Argyll is home to some of the very best luxury and boutique hotels in Scotland.
WRITTEN BY LINDA JACKSON
Within a picturesque 100-mile stretch of lush Argyll countryside and included in the Connoisseurs Scotland portfolio of heritage and romantic places to stay, are five very different hotels – each set in a stunning location and all offering elegant accommodation, warm hospitality, outstanding cuisine, great service and memorable experiences.
In the Scottish Highlands at the north end of the historical Crinan Canal, in a tiny unspoilt fishing port on Scotland’s west coast, sits Crinan Hotel, known for its arty ambiance and painting exhibitions, the freshest of seafood and stunning wild surroundings.
All the bedrooms overlook either Loch Crinan or the canal basin and the amazing panoramic views, which constantly change their appearance as the sun and shadows strike the hills, extend far across the water toward the isles of Mull and Scarba and the sound of Jura. From the terrace of the hotel’s informal and cosy Seafood Bar, just yards from the water’s edge, watch the fishing boat land its catch of jumbo prawns in time for dinner. Listen out for fishermen’s tales when tucked away in the intimate General’s Bar, look out the windows in the hope of catching a glimpse of frolicking dolphins when enjoying breakfast or a five-course gourmet dinner in the Westward Restaurant, and snack out on smoked salmon sandwiches and fresh home baked cakes at the hotel’s coffee shop beside the canal basin after a bracing waterside walk.
The Crinan Canal, a nine-mile navigable route between the Clyde and Inner Hebrides, was built in 1801 to eliminate lengthy sails around the Kintyre peninsula. Follow the historic canal by car, foot, bike, boat or canoe (there are 15 locks and 7 bridges); for breathtaking views go walking in the hills or discover beautiful local islands by boat with lunch on a beach or on board.
Jump in the car and journey north for a touch of pampering and fine dining at the Isle of Eriska Hotel, Spa and Island, a 300-acre private island which sits at the mouth of Loch Creran, located 12 miles north of Oban. Enjoying stunning views overlooking the dramatic Morvern Mountains and Loch Linnhe, this country house offers an elegant collection of diverse rooms as well as self-catering or B&B options in their Hilltop Reserves, just a short walk from the hotel, complete with hot tub and amazing views.
Nourish mind, body and soul at the hotel’s Stables Spa: choose from a range of face and body treatments which include blissful Treatment Programmes lasting up to 200 minutes.
Chill out in the sauna or steam room, take a swim in the 17m heated swimming pool, sit back and relax in the Jacuzzi, or get physical in the air-conditioned gym. Before surrendering to the temptation of pampering, enjoy the tranquillity and activities the island of Eriska offers. Surrounded by sea and with a backdrop of magnificent mountains you’ll find walking around Eriska easy and scenic.
Outdoor enthusiasts can try clay pigeon shooting, archery, sailing, fishing and walking, while budding golfers can use the driving range and waterside nine-hole golf course. Dine at The Deck for an informal repast and incredible views (it overlooks the golf course and loch to the mountains beyond) or relish fine dining in the restaurant which offers a la carte as well as five- and seven-course sumptuous tasting menus.
As the crow flies Airds Hotel and Restaurant sits just minutes away from the Isle of Eriska, although skirting Loch Creran by road you’ll clock around 25 scenic miles. This cosy boutique hotel and luxury romantic hideaway in Port Appin, with eleven elegant bedrooms and two cottages, is also perfectly formed for exclusive use – ideal for touring classic car clubs and bike clubs. Because of its exceptional location and unrivalled scenery of Loch Linnhe and the Morvern mountains, Airds makes a wonderful base for exploring the Highlands and Inner Hebridean Islands of Mull and Skye… and you’ll certainly enjoy dining in the hotel’s restaurant, the views are captivating and the hotel has proudly held 3 Rosettes over 27 years.
Quiet, peaceful, warm and friendly are some of Aird’s other attributes, plus stunning sunsets and an abundance of outdoor activities on the doorstep.
Roads and mountains in and around Port Appin offer great opportunities to biking enthusiasts – for a leisurely cycle take to the quiet scenic back roads, follow the dedicated cycle track alongside Loch Linnhe, or take your bike on the ferry to Lismore, an island strewn with ruins that date back to the 13th century. There are a number of castles within easy driving distance of Airds, exhilarating RIB adventures to take on the loch, horses to ride, and plenty of picturesque walks, scenic drives and fresh clean air to enjoy. After a day exploring Argyll what better way to relax than to sink into a comfy armchair in front of a burning log fire in Aird’s intimate and cosy lounge, sipping an aperitif, content with the knowledge that a gourmet experience is imminent.
Visualise sumptuous suites, lavish bathrooms, indulgent in-suite dining; private terraces with hot tubs, marble fireplaces and ornate ceilings… Just think big on the 35-mile drive further north to Glencoe House where space and privacy really kick in. Nestling in famous Glencoe Glen within ten acres of private gardens this historic mansion (former home of adventurer Lord Strathcona who made his riches constructing railroads) offers fourteen vast suites contained within two buildings – Glencoe House and The Bell Tower.
Staying at Glencoe House promises unique glamour, glitz, and gourmet experiences.
In the exclusive Glencoe House Suites candlelit 5-course dinners or an eight-course tasting menu are served in-suite… elegant, secluded and romantic. And in The Bell Tower Suites guests have totally privacy (no waiting staff) with a fully-stocked kitchen and ready-prepared gourmet meals to choose from. The Great Hall, for use of Bell Tower guests only, has just two tables available if a formally served candlelit 5-course dinner is required. The Glencoe area, known as the ‘outdoor capital of the UK’ offers adventures as thrilling as the suites at Glencoe House… tour the western isles, go walking, climbing, skiing, or on a photo safari tour. Choose from easy scenic drives with your car, or hard downhill mountain bike rides with a dose of adrenalin.
An easy drive from Glencoe to Lochaber, just a few miles beyond Fort William, is where you’ll find Inverlochy Castle Hotel and Restaurant which sits in the foothills of Ben Nevis and in a landscape rich with evergreens and history.
This beautiful 19th century castle, now a luxury country house hotel, was honoured with a visit by Queen Victoria in 1873.
The hotel’s spectacular location offers a magical wedding venue, and dining at ‘Albert and Michel Roux Jr at Inverlochy Castle’ (awarded AA 3 Red Rosettes) offers a culinary experience hard to beat. The three elaborate dining rooms feature period furniture gifted to Inverlochy Castle from the King of Norway. Bespoke Arran Aromatics toiletries, superior cotton bed linen and large TVs disguised as mirrors are just some of the special facilities guests enjoy in the Gate Lodge, 17 regal bedrooms and suites.
With Inverlochy Castle also being in the ‘outdoor capital of the UK’ you’ll discover an impressive range of country pursuits available nearby – choose from wildlife, walking and photographic tours; whitewater rafting, fishing, shooting, deer stalking or off-road driving adventures, to name but a few.
MV Hebridean Princess is a small cruise liner which carries just 50 guests and is based in Oban from where she makes cruises of between 4 and 10 nights, sailing the waters of the western isles and beyond to far-flung St Kilda, the Orkney and Shetland Isles and the Norwegian Fjords.
A Hebridean cruise, which offers the unrivalled comfort and refined service of a floating country house, is truly unforgettable. In a world where mediocre standards are all too common, you will be assured of the very best service from a hand-picked crew for whom supreme attention to detail is the norm.
Often described as ‘like home, but better’, meals are served in the Columba Restaurant where guests can dine on their own, with a companion, or at a larger table hosted by one of the ship’s officers.
Fine dining is an important part of the cruise and much of the food is sourced locally. For those who wish a degree of privacy during the day, there is a Conservatory, a Library, a bar and The Tiree Lounge which comes complete with an ingle-nook fireplace as well as several open-air spaces in which to soak up the sun.
At the end of the day, you retire to your cabin, many of which have full sized baths and are amongst the most spacious for vessels of her size These are but a handful of the luxury and boutique hotels in the Connoisseurs Scotland portfolio to add to your Argyll travel itinerary.