Ardanaiseig

Argyll, Scotland, United Kingdom Book from

Reviewed by Laura Dixon
Ultra romantic lochside hotel with a stunning restaurant and a touch of baroque and roll
Ardanaiseig (pronounced ar-den-ass-ay) is a grand Scottish hotel with a difference. Three miles down a bumpy track, it sits in perfect seclusion on Loch Awe surrounded by forests, roe deer, 19th century gardens and staggering views. It's been called the most romantic hotel in Scotland, but it's neither this nor the excellent location and great service that sets it apart. It's the hotel's unique style.

The hotel's owner, Bennie Gray, is an art dealer with vision. Snapping up the hotel on the spot the first time he saw it, he recognised the chance to create something that went beyond the classic baronial home. He wanted to inject a little rock and roll, too. As a result, the hotel is full of personality, from the statues reclining in the hedges to the reworked oil paintings of Bianca Jagger and Lauren Bacall hanging on the walls. In addition to the 18 rooms, there's a fine dining room, a drawing room and a bar with open fires, plenty of board games, a snooker room in the basement, and an extremely groovy boatshed for couples to hide away in.

Highs

  • The views of Loch Awe - with 3 pairs of returning ospreys - are unbeatable
  • The romance factor: sumptuous furnishings, four-poster beds and a wonderful sense of warmth
  • The food is superb and often features individually-created menus
  • The self-contained boatshed is a wonderfully unique and secluded 1960s-styled bolthole for couples
  • Dog owners rejoice: canine companions are actively encouraged (though there's a small charge)

Lows

  • A 6-course meal every evening will certainly expand your waist line after a couple of days
  • It's definitely off the beaten track - 10 miles down a single-track lane, and 45 minutes from the nearest town of any size, Oban
  • Not especially child-friendly - no kids are allowed in the dining room, although high tea and other snacks can be prepared for them
  • Midges in season (May and August particularly) are a nuisance
  • Bathrooms are nothing special and the peaty water is a bit off-putting
  • Recent reports of rather inattentive and unhelpful service

Best time to go

The best time of year for a visit is the spring, as the azaleas, bluebells, daffodils and rhododendrons are in bloom, but the hotel is open most of the year (it closes from Jan 2 - Feb 1) and is appealing at all times. May and August are traditionally the worst months for midges. In terms of events and attractions, the local Highland Games take place in neighbouring villages every weekend through June and August.

Our top tips

Day trip to Oban, the nearest town, for its excellent whisky distillery or take a boat to the islands of Mull, Iona, Staffa and beyond.

Great for...

Eco
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 16 + 2 cottages
  • Restaurant and bar (drive to other restaurants)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Tennis Court
  • Snooker Table
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

There are 16 double rooms (4 Master Bedrooms Loch View, 6 Master Bedrooms Garden View and 6 Double Bedrooms Garden View) in the main part of the hotel, with the additional Rose Cottage at the back and the Boatshed on the loch.

For the main hotel rooms, Bennie brought in a set and costume designer from the Scottish Opera to create a bit of drama, and he succeeded. They feature lavish gold or brocade curtains and bright walls in crimson, oxblood or lime green. The pick of the bunch are the 6 Master Loch Views, 2 of which have four poster beds. Ichrachan is our favourite, while Ben Lui stands out for its centrepiece bathtub; we also liked classically elegant Cruachan and fresh, blue Kilchurn.

Awe, one of the smaller Double Garden rooms, contains a Gothic princess-style bed once owned by Emma Bunton. Ben Neagh, a Master Garden View room, has an enormous pewter fireplace, while Orchy is a split level room with an entrance into the garden and is perfect for dog-owners. Bathrooms are a bit plain, with neutral colours and big tubs, plus Molton Brown shower products to add some zing.

The Boatshed is modern one-bedroomed suite, fresh and Scandinavian from the outside, vibrant 60s style on the inside. It comes with a funky sitting area, full-height windows to a lochside balcony, a raised double bedroom, and a dining corner. Best of all, it's right on the loch, away from the main hotel, with fantastic views and total seclusion: perfect for a romancing couple.

Rose Cottage is the best family option: self catering and self contained, it sleeps up to four people in one double and one twin room. You also get a cosy sitting room and a proper kitchen, with hob, microwave, dishwasher, fridge and washing machine. Some semi-underground rooms looking out on to the loch are also in the pipeline, so to speak.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Phone
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

Dinner is a lavish feast - 6 well-sized courses plus a pre-starter and a pre-dessert - and our first evening alone made the long trip worth it. Pumpkin soup, smoked trout with quail egg and caviar, wild mushroom ravioli, and duck with a delicious jus all tingled on our taste buds; ripe brie with walnut bread, coffee and petit fours rounded it off nicely. Such indulgence every night is not for everyone so, if you are staying several nights, you might want to steel yourself for a 45-minute drive into Oban for a lighter meal.

The day starts with glorious light over Loch Awe, and a choice of classic Scottish or continental breakfast in the dining room. Sandwiches, soup and other bar snacks are available in the bar from 12pm to 2pm, and afternoon tea is served after that. We particularly enjoyed the full tea: smoked salmon and ham and cheese sandwiches with the crusts cut off, followed by teacakes, fruit cake and shortbread, plus a pot of tea. This might be an alternative to dinner one day, if you are feeling the pinch...

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Restaurant
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Hire a boat and explore Loch Awe; pull up at their private island or make for the northeast end of the lake for a view of the atmospheric remains of Kilchurn castle

  • Cast off: Loch Awe is well known as a fantastic trout and pike fishing location. Permits can be bought at the hotel and salmon fishing can also be arranged

  • Stroll round the shrub and woodland gardens, one of 12 that make up the Great Gardens of Argyll and Bute

  • Grab a bike and get cycling: the hotel has bikes available on a first-come, first-served basis

  • Read the papers or play board games in the drawing room

  • Swim in the bay outside the hotel, which is shallow and sandy, when it's warm enough

  • Go clay pigeon shooting on the grounds

  • Watch the wildlife, which includes roe deer, osprey, pine marten and red squirrel

  • Take a steamboat cruise on Loch Awe, complete with picnic

  • Keen birdwatchers will want to watch the diving birds, snipe, osprey, occasional sea eagles and various owls

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Wildlife

Kids

It's not an ideal family retreat because the emphasis is on the food and on romance, but if you're keen to come up here with kids, then ask and you'll be accommodated. Children are allowed everywhere in the hotel and there is a play area outside, but they are not permitted in the dining room - a special high tea menu is supplied in the bar. For toddlers, baby sitting and baby monitors are available.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement

Baby listening:

Baby listening/monitors available on request

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
8/
Food
8/
Service
7/
Value
8/
Overall

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