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Issue 20 - Joys of living on an island

Scotland Magazine Issue 20
April 2005


This article is 13 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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Joys of living on an island

In exclusive association with

Kilmichael House
Glen Cloy, Isle of Arran
Tel: +44 (0)1770 302 219
The Isle of Arran is renowned these days for several principal things: quality food and drink produce; it’s the family home of first minister Jack McConnell; people call it ‘Scotland in miniature’ and as a favoured holiday destination it has a couple of very good hotels. Of these, Kilmichael is the highest rated (a finalist in The Scottish Hotels of the Year Awards 2005) and is certainly the most historic. It offers seven elegant and rather beautiful bedrooms.

Kilmichael House is listed as a building of historic and architectural significance and is the oldest house on the island. Situated at the heart of grounds granted to the forebears of its builders by King Robert the Bruce all the way back in 1307, it occupies a very picturesque, tucked-away spot known to have been inhabited long before that.

The name Kilmichael indicates the site of an early Christian missionary presence dedicated to St. Michael.

Today, Geoffrey Botterill is your front-ofhouse host, assisted by his attentive manager Helen. Anthony Butterworth who with Geoffrey owns the house is chef and at the guide we much recommend his cuisine – founded on natural and often very local produce, prepared in a style that allows the flavours to shine through. Throughout the house expect cleverly-chosen colours, Oriental rugs on polished wood floors, objet d’art from the owners’ travels. Play the big grand piano while sipping an aperitif?

Toravaig House
Sleat, Isle of Skye
Tel: +44 (0)1471 820 200
You’re going to get a bit of Gaelic here – and why not? Since an overdue Act of the Scottish Parliament in 2005, it’s an official language. Iomradh air Taighean-òsta na h-Alba (HotelReview Scotland) travels the length and breadth of our rugged land and of her isles we have a special affection for An t-Eilean Sgiathanach, the winged isle, Skye.

Not least of all as there are some superb hotels and restaurants.

Toravaig is owned by Kenneth Gunn and Anne Gracie. Kenneth was for the last half dozen years captain of the luxurious small cruise ship MV Hebridean Princess.

Anne, a native of Skye and a Gaelic speaker, spent many years running a busy guest house and self catering business in the north of the island. Now both have established, in this scenic area, a beautiful small country house hotel of some quality, with an ambience of peace and deep comfort.

There are two twin rooms and seven double rooms. All have good pressurised showers and many also have baths. These fresh bedrooms have sleigh or brass beds, with the best of snow-white bed linen. The hotel’s Iona Restaurant is a sparkling place in which to enjoy some of the island’s wonderful fish, game or lamb. Cream walls, dark red under the dado rail, feature local scenes; drapes are a family tartan and leather high-backed seats add a dash of contemporary style.

One obvious local word springs to mind: glayva! (Very good!)

Argyll Hotel
Baile Mòr, Isle of Iona
Tel: +44 (0)1681 700 334
From the west-coast port of Oban a Cal-Mac ferry will first take you first to the Isle of Mull, passing dramatic Duart Castle, home of Clan MacLean. When we travelled this spring the spectacular beauty of the crossing made one almost weep at it all; for the blood is strong when the Hebrides are involved. Felix Mendelsshon wrote his Hebrides Overture after an extended visit, and in the music that flowed from his inspiration we can hear the call of these isles. And of them all, Iona is most sacred with its remarkable and soul-lifting abbey, ancient Celtic high crosses and peaceful community.

Having crossed Mull and having watched eagles soar, Heilan’ coos nibble on salt marsh grass and an otter play in Fionnphort Bay, we were back on the waves again for the 10 minute crossing to Iona, the sunshine turning the sea – thanks to the perfectly white sand underneath – an Aegean turquoise. When St. Columba came to Iona some 1500 years ago, God surely directed his coracle well.

Baile Mòr, the ‘main village’ on Iona offers accommodation choice but the best is the remarkable little Argyll Hotel. It’s not just chic and charming but sophisticated – and in something of a first, certified organic by the Soil Association! Enjoy delicious, vibrant and healthy fare, read or relax in the sea-facing conservatory, sleep in cosy rooms, draw in to the fire, play on the beach.

Here are three more ideas for you

Near Portree, Isle of Skye Tel: +44 (0) 1470 532 202
In new hands for just over a year, Helen Myres and her cosmo crew have created something unexpected. It’s a weave of Highland hunting lodge and urbane boutique hotel. Suites are luxurious. At night many candles flicker and the mood is, frankly, quite sexy. Design Award winner 2005

Port Ellen, Isle of Islay
Tel: +44 (0) 1496 302 310
Definitely and unabashedly one for the golfers among us, the Machrie offers a very pure links experience. The golf bar is a place of swapped notes, scores and many a fine local Islay malt. The review at includes a walk / play through the links by golf writer Tony Fasson

Ardhasaig, Isle of Harris
Tel: +44 (0) 1859 502 066
Na Hearadh in Gaelic, Hearri in Old Norse, forms the southern part of Harris and Lewis. This is the edge of Europe. Ardhasaig House, which did very well in the Breakfast and the Island Hotels categories of the 2005 Awards offers delicious fare, comforts, conversation and in Katie MacAskill a lovely host

Hotels featured in the ‘Best of Scotland’ section are by definition recommended by this magazine. The GoldPlate™ dining award, RedH™ hospitality award and MoMA™ Mark of Merit quality award are presented on merit by the Guide. Hotels featured on this page have been inspected by independently-minded, experienced reviewers

Full information / reviews at