Get Lost in Time at the Ardanaiseig Hotel
The wild, majestic beauty and romance of the Scottish Highlands has inspired many a legend, including a modern day story centered on a special place, untouched by time and hidden from the rest of the world, where love is enough to make the traveler want to stay forever. Of course I’m talking about my visit to the stately Ardanaiseig Hotel in Argyll on the shores of the beautiful Loch Awe, a property that is full of luxury and character and surrounded by breathtaking highland scenery.
This luxury hotel is special for many reasons, the first of which being that it doesn’t seem like a hotel at all. Occupying a grand manor house two centuries old and set on a large estate appointed with beautiful gardens, the Ardanaiseig’s transformation from grand family home to hotel was done very delicately in order to preserve the character of the building and the feeling of being a guest at a fine private home. This is one of my top five favorite hotels in the world, a truly first class experience that envelopes the visitor in the heritage and unique beauty of this very special part of the world.
Arriving at the hotel is truly like leaving everything else behind. The last few miles of the drive to the property are on an old, single track road that really emphasizes the sense of a place that is set apart. When you drive up to the large, grey stone house on the circular gravel driveway, you will be greeted at the front door by the reception staff, a lovely touch that sets the tone for the feeling that you’re staying in a large private home rather than a traditional hotel. Once inside, the elegant but warm and comfortable décor with antique furnishings and accessories, working fireplaces and views of the beautiful grounds and the lake beyond, will have you falling in love and wanting to extend your stay before you even set foot in your unique and delightful room. Every large guest room at the Ardanaiseig is individually decorated and beautifully furnished. Two outbuildings available for rental on the property, the Boat Shed which features a modern style of furnishing and large windows facing the lake and the Rose Cottage a traditional stone cottage decorated in a cozy, traditional style, offer even more room and additional privacy.
I prefer to stay in the Ardanaiseig’s main house, where the dining room, the bar which houses an excellent variety of whiskey, and the cozy and comfortable drawing room are all within easy reach. There are three categories of guest rooms in the main house, the grand Master Loch and Master Garden rooms and the slightly smaller Garden View. Each one is decorated differently and each room is known by its name, rather than its number, so if you prefer a room with a view of the Loch, you might find yourself in the softly colored Ben Luis, the deep red Cruachan with a its large four-poster, gold canopy covered bed, the bold green Ichrachan, the Tervine with its deep red walls, bay window and ornate gold headboard, the bright Inishail with beige walls and furniture upholstered with red textiles, or the Kilchurn with regal purple sofa and chairs and a four-poster bed dressed in navy blue bedspread and canopy. The Master Garden rooms overlook the estate’s beautiful gardens and are equally appointed with comfortable, traditional furnishings and each has its own unique style and special features. The fireplace in the Ben Neagh room adds an extra bit of coziness while behind a curtained archway in the dramatic and romantic Cuaig lies a claw foot tub situated to take advantage of the view out the window. The Etive, the Hayfield, which also boasts a cozy fireplace, and the Orchy are equally quirky and charming. The smaller Garden View rooms, the Awe, Nant, Nevis and Starav are beautifully furnished, bright and comfortable with lovely views of the grounds below.
The luxurious and charming guest rooms are a warm place to rest after spending the day immersed in the rugged beauty of the Scottish Highlands. While many fabled destinations, including Ben Nevis, Loch Ness, Glen Coe and Loch Lomond can be found nearby, the hotel’s own gardens and grounds offer many beautiful walks, opportunities to enjoy the lush natural setting and enjoy the privacy and peace that surrounds the property. I recommend taking some time to explore the walled garden and the woodland paths where you will likely encounter some of the wildlife that makes this area a favorite among sportsmen. Loch Awe itself, which is right at your doorstep, is Scotland’s longest freshwater loch and offers a perfect environment for fishing. Rowboats equipped with motors are available for guests to explore the lake and fish for the trout and salmon to be found in its waters. The shores of Loch Awe are a paradise of rugged green hillsides and historic buildings, including the often photographed Kilchurn Castle. With so much to do and explore outside, I also enjoy spending an afternoon with a book in the hotel’s lovely drawing room, preferably with a fire in the huge fireplace. This activity, or lack thereof, takes full advantage of the building’s quiet, homey atmosphere.
Immersing yourself in an authentic Scottish Highland experience includes dining on the best of local cuisine and fortunately, the Ardanaiseig’s dining room offers the best of the region’s specialties for guests to enjoy. A full Scottish breakfast is just the thing to get you ready for a day of exploring. The Tasting Menu, offered for dinner, is also a must as is the local salmon. Food is carefully prepared and seasoned with herbs grown in the hotel’s walled garden. You will dine in an elegant dining room overlooking the loch and perhaps retire to enjoy a cocktail in the roaring fire in the drawing room. Like me, you will never want to leave.