BEING a landlubber, marinas have always felt rather alien to me. I’ve never owned a pair of deck shoes, I try to avoid wearing shorts and I have never spliced the mainbrace when the sun’s over the yardarm.
But in the grip of one of the many storms to batter Scotland this winter, Portavadie suited someone with my sea legs just fine. Having navigated a choppy course through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, we were more than ready to rest and be thankful when we reached our destination on the banks of Loch Fyne.
Budget or boutique?
Boutique. The Bulloch whisky dynasty has spared no expense in creating this modern marina, leisure centre, restaurant and bar, luxury apartments and permanent marquee. The resort caters for a broad range of budgets, however, from a Scandinavian-style lodge to an exclusive, secluded romantic retreat, where newlyweds who spend their wedding night there can enjoy a complimentary return visit on their first anniversary.
Our deluxe two-storey apartment included two large bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, a sauna, a glass atrium, an open-plan kitchen and living space with an L-shaped leather sofa and a balcony overlooking the marina.
Wining and dining
The restaurant is spoilt for fresh local ingredients. The fish and shellfish have only a brief visit to the kitchen en route from loch to plate. The scallops and the breaded oysters tasted like they had just been landed, and they probably had. My “taste of Argyll smokery” of smoked salmon, prawn and mussels with pickled vegetables and wasabi was a revelation. We finished with a delicious hot chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream and a selection of Scottish cheeses.
Back in the restaurant the following morning for a fortifying cooked breakfast we enjoyed our first sight of the yachts bobbing up and down in the marina, as though huddled together for shelter.
That evening we dined in the Lodge. The concept is a kind of bunkhouse but it feels more like a relaxed annexe to the rest of the resort, with sofas and board games. The kitchen goes in for a more hearty, home-cooked style here and my wife and I both enjoyed our fish and chips before relaxing in front of the roaring fire.
Worth getting out of bed for
While Storm whatever-its-name-was raged, outdoor pursuits were out of the question. But the newly opened spa and leisure centre more than made up for that. We eased ourselves into an afternoon of luxuriating by having everyday stresses and strains massaged away. The massage was followed by splashing around in the hydro pool and sweltering in the sauna. This, I’m told, is “Portavadie time”.
The decadent indolence began to take an almost surreal turn as we lounged on our loungers in our white cotton waffle robes and gazed in wonderment at the mouth of Loch Fyne being monstered by gale force winds howling in off the Atlantic.
Downstairs, however, we jumped at the chance to experience first hand just how truly awful the weather was. In addition to a well equipped gym and a 16m swimming pool with Jacuzzi, there is a heated outdoor infinity pool. It was only a short scamper in my swimming trunks from the door but it felt much further. Once inside, the sensation of being toasty and warm from the neck down while the unforgiving elements of the North Sea sandblasted my freezing face was one I won’t forget.
When the weather allows there is no shortage of other activities to try, including cycling, kayaking, sailing, fishing and walking.
A platter of homemade shortbread, biscuits and tablet was very welcome when we arrived in our apartment, and a bento box of Loch Fyne delicacies with sparkling wine helped sustain us through a day of loafing around and being pampered.
Just two hours from Glasgow, Portavadie on Loch Fyne is a fine place indeed for a relaxing break at any time of year. And you don’t even have to set foot on a boat.
• Accommodation in the Lodge from £77 per night, including breakfast. Portavadie, Loch Fyne, Argyll PA21 2DA (01700 811 075, www.portavadie.com)