JANET Christie visits Isle of Eriska Hotel, a private island that transports its guests to another world
So, you don’t have your own private island to escape to for a weekend break? What to do? Head for the next best thing, the family-owned Isle of Eriska, a five star resort and member of Relais & Châteaux that is 300 acres of luxury and tranquillity just off the coast near Oban. Once you’re over the bridge that joins it to the mainland you’re in another world.
With the hills of Morven across the waters of Loch Linnhe to gaze at and its own lush grounds, the Isle of Eriska doesn’t have to try too hard to impress. But it goes for it anyway, with Michelin-starred food, its own nine-hole golf course, spa and swimming pool. Easily accessible from Oban, Connel Airport, Glasgow and Edinburgh, guests can arrive by car, boat, or really push the, er, boat out, and take a private seaplane from Glasgow Airport.
WINING AND DINING
Michelin-starred, 3 Rosettes chef Ross Stovold and his team are at the top of their game and eating in the restaurant is an occasion. Ingredients are local: fish from the surrounding waters, meat from the hills around the island and game from local gamekeepers, and produce from the gardens is used to great effect. There’s even a smokery onsite.
Highlights of an amazing meal included Mallaig halibut and Scotch beef sirloin. I’m sure the desserts were wonderful but the waitress tempted us with the “cheese trolley”. From the 40 on offer we nibbled at Dunsyre Blue, Celtic Promise, Caboc, Kearney and Lancashire Bomb.
After a nightcap in the bar, the short walk through the grounds to your suite allows you to appreciate Eriska’s solitude. Night had made an effort, in black velvet studded with diamonds. Gazing at infinity, real life seem a world away.
A more informal experience awaits at the new Deck Restaurant, where we ate grilled fillet of Loch Creran salmon alongside sailors moored at the jetty. Watching the sun dip behind the mountains, glass of St Mungo’s lager in hand, what more could you want?
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
Neither. It’s country house at its most luxurious, with spa and cottage suites that offer extra privacy and a more contemporary feel.
Built in 1884, the main house is classic, while the newly refurbished spa suites are up to date, with the privacy to slob around in fluffy robes. Behind high walls there are hot tubs, a conservatory, lounge with kitchen in a cupboard, TV and surround-sound speakers. Beyond is a bedroom with a comfy bed, a bathroom with shower and bath, and a walk-in wardrobe. There’s wi-fi if you must, but to go to Isle of Eriska and log on is missing the point.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
There’s a nine-hole golf course, croquet lawn and indoor tennis courts. A golf lesson was tempting but exploring the island won and we were rewarded with 360-degree views from the highest point. There’s a beach for skimming stones, a jetty and otter point, where you might be lucky enough to spot one.
Next day, driving rain knocked golfing, sailing, kayaking or fishing out in favour of The Stables Spa, Eriska’s new thermal suite with sauna, steam room, mud rasul, treatment rooms, 17-metre heated indoor swimming pool and gym. An extensive menu uses ESPA and Ishga products, the latter featuring harvested seaweed. My Eriska Personalised Massage with Ishga Oils (£67 per person for 60 minutes) eased the knots from my shoulders and the seaweed-based body oil left my skin smooth as a seal.
Sadly the famous tame badgers failed to show, but a family of house martins made up for it. If there’s anything more relaxing than lying in a Jacuzzi watching a soaring house martin demonstrate the art of flying to her fledglings, I’ve yet to try it.
If you’re looking for somewhere to relax and re-energise, Isle of Eriska has it all: fine dining, a spa, solitude and some of the best views in Scotland.
Rooms are from £175pp per night, for dinner, b&b, morning coffee and afternoon tea. Spa suites from £850 for dinner, b&b (for up to four). Eriska Spa Getaway breaks, £499 per person. See website for details and for Wine Weekend package, 13-15 November, from £410pp. Isle of Eriska Hotel, Benderloch, Oban, Argyll and Bute PA37 1SD (01631 720371, www.eriska-hotel.co.uk)