A MAN-SIZED HOLIDAY IN SCOTLAND
Scotland may not spring to mind as the best place to travel for a sun tan – but hey, sun tans are out anyway, and Scotland is a manly option for a holiday centre.
Think walks, climbing, shooting and fishing, against a background of spectacular scenery, with evenings enjoying a quiet dram of the hard stuff plus some sound local food.
And for UK residents, there’s the added bonus of environmentally-friendly travel options.
Happily, the somewhat basic standards associated with many Scottish hotels in the past have now been vastly improved, providing a choice of places with good facilities and services in buildings that range from simple cottage styles to grand castles. Somewhere in between is the baronial mansion of Ardanaiseig Hotel.
Built for Colonel Archibald Campbell of the Clan Campbell in 1834, this is tucked away on the shores of Loch Awe, near the East coast of Scotland. Not so well known as such other Scottish lochs as Ness and Lomond, one of monster fame, the other praised in song, Awe has scenery that does indeed inspire awe, providing wonderful views from the hotel.
Left, Ardanaseig Hotel and above, the view of Ben Nui and Loch Awe.
It has just 16 guest rooms, each with an individual style, furnished with antiques, combining luxury with a comfortable elegance. It has won various awards, as has its restaurant. Deer stalking can be arranged by the hotel all year round, clay pigeon shooting, riding and sailing are on hand, and fishing on the loch may result in fresh trout or salmon for tea. It is just the sort of place where a man can relax, enjoy the great outdoors and return to for a cosseted evening.
This is not to say, of course, that ladies will not be equally welcome here, nor that they cannot enjoy the outdoor pursuits. But it is a great setting in which to play the Laird. www.ardanaiseig.com
Not far away, across the water, is the Isle of Skye. Dr Samuel Johnson was somewhat critical in records of his travels in Scotland in 1793 but reserved praise for the “very good farm-house” at Ullinish, a country lodge on Skye where he and his companion James Boswell stayed.
And this is still here, a small but delightful inn, seen right,surrounded by lochs on three sides and overlooked by the Cuillin Mountains, in a remote and rugged landscape.
For over three hundred years, this building has provided a refuge for travellers, now to a standard of luxury that would certainly have impressed Dr Johnson, and offering just 6 guest rooms. Stay in the one he occupied, sleep in a grand half-tester bed, as here, and look out on stunning scenery.
In addition to walking and stalking, guests may care to take a tour and a sample at the Talisker Distillery, or play a round at the Skye Golf Club. And as well as enjoying the local fish and game in the hotel’s fine restaurant, there are also more unusual treats from the chef to be sampled – crispy pig’s head with parsnips or local oysters and Stornaway black pudding. You won’t find those on the standard international menu. email@example.com
In the castle category is Castle Venlaw, left, a spendidly turreted pile that overlooks the pleasant Borders town of Peebles. Dating back to 1742, it is admittedly a small castle, boasting just 12 bedrooms, and seems not to have engaged in any battles but was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers from the Great War.
With the River Tweed running through the Borders heartland, this is a mecca for fishing aficionados, famed for its salmon. But for style aficionados, this is also the traditional centre for fine Scottish knitwear. In the past, we toured the region, visiting large and small knitwear houses, but alas many are now gone, killed by international corporations and cheap competition. But the luxury core remains and visitors might seek out the factory shops of these companies, to find some bargains.
Back at the Castle Venlaw, enjoy one of Scotland’s fine malt whiskies beside a log fire at the bar in the turret, before dinner in another award-winning restaurant and then bed in a four-poster. www.venlaw.co.uk