I can’t believe my luck. It is the middle of March, the sun is shining, there is not a cloud in the sky and it is nearly 17 degrees. You could be forgiven for thinking I was in Spain but, no, I was in the west coast of Scotland.

Last month ended with us enjoying some of the warmest weather conditions in Europe, outshining traditional hotspots such as Spain, Greece and Turkey.

As we drove along the picturesque roads of the A828, we approach our destination for the weekend, The Airds Hotel in Port Appin,12 miles from Oban.

The former 18th century coaching inn enjoys sweeping views across Loch Linnhe and the Morvern mountains, and is just a stone’s throw from the 14th century Castle Stalker, one of Scotland’s most romantic ruined castles, which occupies a tiny rock island to the north of the village.

HeraldScotland:  The views from the Airds Hotel are breath-taking The views from the Airds Hotel are breath-taking

 

Airds has a string of awards to its name including Scottish Luxury Hotel of the Year and Best Fine Dining Restaurant on the West Coast of Scotland. It has also featured in the Good Food Guide for more than 40 consecutive years.

Port Appin itself is a pretty little fishing village on a peaceful secluded peninsula between Oban and Ballachulish.

From the jetty at Port Appin you can catch the shortest and cheapest ferry crossing to Lismore.

The island is 10 miles long by one mile wide and is called the Great Garden because it is relatively low lying, and very green and fertile compared with the mountains of Mull, and those on the mainland. There is also a small car ferry linking Lismore to Oban.

I am not a boat person so we decided against the small ferry, and instead we walked around the area and took in the amazing views.

Back at the hotel, we checked into our room. We stayed in the Loch View Suite, which, as the name suggests, has open views of the water. The room was spacious with a separate lounge, and a large bathroom with his and hers sinks.

Before dinner we enjoyed canapés in one of the two lounges by the open fire. Dinner is served in the conservatory at the front of the hotel making the most of the stunning views.

 

HeraldScotland: Enjoy the views from the dinner tableEnjoy the views from the dinner table

I am a fussy eater and often struggle when chicken is not on the menu, so it forced me to try other options and I am glad I did, the food was exquisite, beautifully presented and is locally sourced.

We enjoyed a four course meal, which included scallops, duck and halibut. For the more adventurous guest, the hotel also offers a tasting menu each night.

Following a great night’s sleep, we woke to more blue skies. After breakfast, we ventured into Oban for the day. After a walk around the harbour, we climbed the steps to McCaig’s Tower, a famous landmark. Built in 1897 by local banker John Stuart McCaig, the aim of the tower was to provide work for local stonemasons and a lasting monument to the McCaig family.

HeraldScotland: Enjoy the views from McCaig's Tower in ObanEnjoy the views from McCaig's Tower in Oban

The climb from the town centre was well worth the effort. I had to stop half way but it was worth it when we reached the top. It has spectacular views across Oban Bay to the Atlantic Islands.

The gardens inside the tower are well maintained and are a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of life in Oban.

From our vantage point, we watched as the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry sailed across to the isle of Mull. It costs £40 for a car and two people for a return trip.

The island has become well known by all who view BBC programmes like Springwatch and Coast. My memories are as the home of the CBeebies programme Balamory, based around the coloured houses of Tobermory.

Mull also some boasts beautiful beaches. It has earned an enviable reputation as one of the top wildlife tourism destinations in the UK. Thousands of birdwatchers and wildlife lovers flock to Mull every year, hoping to catch a glimpse of birds such as sea eagles.

The mountains which stretch across the middle of the island rise to over 900m and are well-loved by hill walkers, such is the variety of routes and views to be enjoyed.

There are also numerous easy walks on the island with sweeping views which are less challenging.

The Mull Aquarium is Tobermory’s newest visitor attraction. It has a huge salt water tank, touch pools, interactive games and a cinema room. You can also learn about the local history, including about local wrecks and safety at sea.

Back in Oban, the walk down from McCaig’s was thankfully easier, and after lunch we headed back to the hotel to explore more.

Across from Airds the garden leads straight to a seashell-strewn beach.

When the tide is out you can walk over to the lighthouse and, if you are lucky, catch sight of otters.

 

HeraldScotland: The Sgeir Bhuidhe Lighthouse in Port AppinThe Sgeir Bhuidhe Lighthouse in Port Appin

We walked along the shoreline to Castle Stalker, which has been restored by the owners and used as a holiday home. When they are in residence, the hotel can arrange a tour.

The hotel also has a wide range of activites including horse riding on the shores of Loch Linnhe, boat trips, guided tours both on foot and by luxury car, mountain biking or a leisurely cycle. After another wonderful meal, we retired to our room to watch the sunset on our final night in Port Appin.

Aird’s might look modest from the outside – with just 11 rooms – but this hotel is big on everything else. Top notch food, great attention to detail, beautiful rooms and wonderful staff.

Robert McKay has been the manager since 2006 and, with a new owner on board, they have big plans for this little hotel. I wouldn’t bet against them pulling it off.

https://www.airds-hotel.com/

 

Travel facts:

Airds Hotel & Restaurant (www.airds-hotel.com) in Port Appin near Oban offers double rooms from £370 per room per night based on 2 people sharing half board.

Airds 3-night Easter break is from £515 per person (2 sharing ½-board). The price includes a home-made chocolate Easter egg, a cream tea on one day, a whisky mac in the room and a newspaper delivered to the room with tea/coffee and home made pastries. Valid for arrivals on any day between 15 and 18 April and subject to availability.

Full Afternoon Tea (sandwiches, scones, cakes, biscuits, butter jam, clotted cream) costs £26.95 pp or Cream Tea (scones, butter jam, clotted cream) is £10.95pp and all options come with a vast choice of teas (artisan and traditional).

For extra privacy, you can hire the Airds cottage for a week on a self-catered basis (priority booking facility for the restaurant is offered): price is from £715 based on 4 people sharing.

For further information contact:

Reservations: www.airds-hotel.com / 01631 730 236 / airds@airds-hotel.com

IG: @AirdsHotel / TW: @AirdsHotel / FB: /Airdshotel