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Issue 16 - Small is beautiful

Scotland Magazine Issue 16
September 2004


This article is 14 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Small is beautiful


Pool House
Poolewe, Ross-shire
Tel: +44 (0)1445 781 272
There are many different hotels which might prove the claim that ‘small is beautiful’ but none are quite as diversely intriguing as Pool House.

It’s in the glorious north-west county of Ross-shire, in the village of Poolewe on the edge of Loch Ewe. Aglass-clear river runs close to the hotel and into the bay where we watched otters and seals play. The route to Poolewe takes you past the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve where superb Scots pines are set against a backdrop of quartzite-capped mountains. If you love the wildness and fun of a dichotomic holiday where both rough nature and five-star comforts woo, then here’s a place just made for you.

Choose from a selection of terrific suites, including Diadem based upon an RMS Titanic theme. (The captain of the ill-starred but endlessly fascinating vessel was a relative of one of the hotel’s owners, the friendly and kind Harrison family). Working marvels of Edwardian plumbing provide reviving and interesting diversions, sitting rooms are plush as can be, beds either huge or vast, walls hung with art and items of beauty, fabrics and décor rich and gorgeous.

Dinner is served in the North by North West dining room where gilded ceilings and sparkling settings set an irresistibly romantic tone. The whole dining experience, including pre-dinner drinks and canapés in the library, an adventure.

The dining room faces the Isle of Ewe: whisper that in your beloved’s ear.

The Airds Hotel
Port Appin, Argyll
Tel: +44 (0)1631 730 236
Owners Shaun and Jenny McKivragan have been enhancing their gem of a country house/inn since acquiring it some two years ago. The Guide stayed this summer and, frankly, it is immaculate.

If it was a car, it would be a Range-Rover. And, talking of cars, one will get you here from Glasgow in about two hours or so. One of the joys of Scotland is that a relatively short journey from town can take you deep into beautiful scenery; and the outlook from Port Appin to the hills of Morvern has caused many a guest to declaim their joy in such surroundings.

Comfortable bedrooms are flawlessly maintained and feature many pleasing touches of luxury. Corridors and crannies feature contemporary oils and water-colours, including those of family member Terry McKivragan, R.I. Drawing rooms offer elegance, crackling log fires, objet d’art, slowly ticking clocks and all the peace in the world. Big chairs and sink-into sofas are as inviting by evening as are the tables and chairs in the sun lounge by day.

Head chef J. Paul Burns is a dedicated guy who uses great suppliers and his cooking is much admired. He won a commendation at the Scottish Hotels of the Year Awards 2004, closely followed by the Scottish Chef Awards‚ top hotel chef title. His cuisine, served with some reverence in the intimate loch-facing dining room, is simply outstanding – his Lobster Ravioli, for example, seductive.

Kirkbean, Dumfriesshire
Tel: +44 (0)1387 880 234
Approached by a private drive through trees and rhododendrons, romantic Cavens (with the ring of a Champagne house to its name) is smartly restrained. It faces out to old yews, walled gardens and fits nicely into the green countryside. Jane and Angus Fordyce have the best of taste and their white-painted house is a graceful, inviting and welcoming hotel.

By the old Scots pine balustrade a distant ancestor glares down from his lofty hanging space. In the herringbone wool-carpeted hallway there are hunt paintings. Pop into the downstairs loo and you’ll be able to have a peek at framed menus from London’s Ritz and Grosvenor House hotels. Angus spent many years there and has brought his acquired skills back to his native land: confidently anticipate good food.

Big sitting room lounges are relaxing. The recently refurbished Library is a picture of elegance. Afternoon tea is served at 4pm – enjoy it in the garden! Asmall drinks menu features the Fordyce motto, In Arduus Fortis, ‘strength in adversity’. Of adversity, there is none here; you’ll find it all a charming, quality experience. Fresh bedrooms are superior: Criffel is a huge, elegantly decorated barrel-vaulted room; Nithsdale is finished in a duck-egg blue with feminine lace touches; Oswald has a sun lounge.

Dinner, open to non-residents, is top value. Fresh, good eating, in a classy room: enjoy true country house cuisine, fine wine and conviviality.

Top three tips!

Durness, Sutherland Fiona MacKay is a textile designer and the rooms here have delightful touches of style. Good food. Magnificent scenery.
Tel: +44 (0)1971 511 202

Carrbridge, Inverness-shire
A former manse, this relatively simple but well-appointed house in National Park offers fine dinners and breakfasts.
Tel: +44 (0)1479 841 240

55 Frederick Street, Edinburgh
Modern, cool and full of beautiful people in its chic style bar / restaurant. 10 rakishly modern rooms with hi-fi systems upstairs
Tel: +44 (0)131 622 7800


Here are five more ideas

Skeabost Bridge, near Portree, Isle of Skye
Tel: +44 (0)1470 532 202
Ravishing suites in a small, white-towered country house in such a beautiful setting. The place is full of surprises and brings a decadent level of luxury to the winged isle. Ab fab!

by the Castle, Edinburgh
Tel: +44 (0)131 225 5613
The Library,Vestry, Guardroom, Inner Sanctum, Armoury and Old Rectory are the “perfect lust-dens”, to quote one guest. Rare antiques, opulently draped beds and rich textiles wow.

near Glamis Castle, Angus (20 minutes north of Dundee)
Tel: +44 (0)1307 840 340
Just half a dozen perfect bedrooms at this shining gem of a country house where everything is shot-through with quality and taste. The food, am and pm, excels. Glamis Castle is next door.

Colbost, by Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye
Tel: +44 (0)1470 511 258
A five-star ‘restaurant with rooms’ this is one of Scotland’s most inspirational hospitality assets. Six rather cool suites. Tasteful, stimulating atmosphere sets tone for award-winning cuisine.

near Stranraer, Wigtownshire, Galloway
Tel: +44 (0)1776 853 220
A working lighthouse in a wild setting beams a bright invitation! Stay in a room in the elegant old lighthouse keepers’ house within the exciting complex. Good food. Open all year round

All hotels featured in the ‘Best of Scotland’ section are by definition recommended by this magazine. The ‘GoldPlate™’ and ‘SilverPlate™’ awards of HotelReview™ Scotland refer specifically to food. For full information please visit the Guide online. All hotels featured on this page have been inspected by fully accredited and independent HotelReview™ reviewers.

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