Romance and luxury at Airds, Port Appin – Scotsman Travel

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Coeffin Castle, Lismore

At just ten miles long, it is a popular day trip destination and ideal for walking or cycling around. As the rain piles in on this blustery March day, we are fortunate to be on a Land Rover tour in the company of Robert, who drives us slowly round recounting the history, sharing his story and pointing out remarkable features, including the medieval gravestones displayed outside St Moluag’s Cathedral and the Iron Age broch, Tirefour Castle.

We pull up near the ruins of Castle Coeffin on the western shore and Robert leaves us to explore the site, which dates back to the 13th century. It’s a squelchy scramble to get to but it is wildly beautiful, with commanding views towards Mull. We return to a picnic of delicious cheese scones and chocolate and strawberry cake made by Robert’s partner Iris. They are typical of many islanders who juggle multiple roles to make a living. Robert is also the island’s plumber and they have another sideline in paddleboarding tours.

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The trip is organized through our hotel for the weekend, Airds. The former coaching inn in Port Appin near Oban has 11 rooms, most of which offer a view over Loch Linnhe and the Morvern mountains beyond. It’s a spectacular spot and one made for kicking back and relaxing.

Newtonmore venison at Airds Hotel, Port Appin

Luxury is something of a word here. The first sigh moment began as we settled into a comfy chair in the lounge in front of a roaring fire with a glass of chilled prosecco after our drive from Edinburgh. The welcome set the tone for a quietly luxurious romantic weekend of comfort and fine dining.

This is a celebration destination for an anniversary, birthday or special occasion, at least judging from the other guests we met.

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Our room is very cosy, decorated in tasteful shades. There is a decanter of whiskey mac, Bulgari goodies in the bathroom and of course, the view.

The exterior of Airds, Port Appin

Back in the lounge before dinner, where there is a palpable sense of anticipation of the feast to follow, we contemplate the wine list over a G&T, having already made our dinner choices from the menu in our room. The luxury feel extends to the prices, where wines start at £38.

Dinner is spectacular and sets Airds apart from any number of other nice places to stay. At £64.50 for the set menu, it is also good value, as it includes a nibble of something in the lounge, amuse bouche, three courses, coffee or tea back in the lounge and some petits fours. All the plates look amazing and the service is very attentive but unobtrusive in the candle-lit dining room. A tasting menu is also available for an additional £32.95 per person.

The first night’s dinner included a fab mackerel mousse amuse bouche, gorgeous scallops with cauliflower purée, truffled brioche and roasted jus for starters and the best venison I’ve ever had for mains. The loin of Newtonmore venison came with celeriac, a fondant potato, pickled bramble and dark chocolate jus. Delicious. Pudding for me was a showstopping banana soufflé, wobbling proudly above the edge of the ramekin, served with caramelised pieces of banana and a jug of not-too-sweet caramel Anglaise sauce. Long after everything else had disappeared from the plate I was still pouring out the last drops of that sauce.

Back in the lounge for coffee and before long conversations strike up between guests. It’s convivial and relaxing in front of the fire as we press the pause button on the world for a moment.

Breakfast is a similar level of feasting, preceded by coffee or tea served in your room before if you wish. Highlights included scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and caviar and French toast with bacon and maple syrup.

A day of activity is recommended; we went on a circular walk from Port Appin which hugs the coast for a while before turning back through woods before our Lismore adventures, but were also happy to retreat to our room for Scrabble and a whiskey mac as the weather deteriorated, with the excitement for another fine dining treat to come on a weekend to cherish.

Airds Hotel & Restaurant, Port Appin near Oban PA38 4DF offers double rooms from £370 per room per night based on two people sharing half board. There are often seasonal offers and deals available. See www.airds-hotel.com or tel: 01631 730236 for more information and booking.

A two-hour Land Rover tour with Explore Lismore, including home-made picnic costs £135 for two people, www.explorelismore.co.uk, 01631 760291.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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