I WAS beginning to get the feeling I was the only person around who hadn’t been to Melfort House B&B.
This three-bedroom guest house has played host to cabinet ministers and rock stars, turned away members of the Royal Family (due to being fully booked – they aren’t anti-monarchists); many of my friends head over to this spot on the west coast whenever they have a few days to spare. For goodness sake, even my mother had made the trip and returned singing the praises of Matthew and Yvonne Anderson who run the place.
Melfort House is described as “an oasis of tranquility and culinary delights on the shores of Loch Melfort” and that pretty much sums it up. Unlike many B&Bs still found in Scotland, here there is the comfort and luxury of an up-market hotel, but an extremely relaxed atmosphere. The family live on one side of the house, and guests have three large en-suite bedrooms and the use of a fantastically comfortable sitting room. All set in grounds which were laid out about 150 years ago, this is the sort of place you’d happily give up the rat race for, which is exactly what the Andersons did.
A few miles south of Oban en route to yachtie central, this area is very buzzy in the summer months, especially for those who enjoy activities which involve putting on a wet suit. n
WINING & DINING
Matthew is an incredible self-taught cook. If you book ahead he can prepare the most wonderful three or four-course suppers, with as many of the vegetables as possible grown in the garden. Yvonne has developed a mild obsession with her poly tunnels and so all sorts of fruit and veg are available outwith the normal Scottish seasons. He’s not afraid to try combining different flavours without going completely Michelin-style mental. We had a starter of Scottish salmon cured with black treacle and caraway seeds with pickled cucumber, then butternut squash and star anise velouté followed by stiploin of Argyll roe venison with a caramelised pear, pear chutney and a marsala jus ending with lemon tart brûlée and crème fraiche. After scoffing all that, we still managed coffee to wash down the home-made tablet. Breakfast was a glorious feast of fruit compote, cereals and as much of the traditional full Scottish as you can face on a hardly-empty stomach. Melfort House does not have a licence so remember to take some wine (£4 corkage). If you forget, it’s a trek to the nearest off licence, but you will find a complimentary dram in your room.
All three rooms are sumptuous with very comfortable beds, TV and DVD. There is also a sofa, so if you fancy just lazing about reading a book it feels quite right to do so. We had the Loch Room which had heavy silk curtains and lovely pieces of furniture. Having arrived in the evening we hadn’t seen the views, but when I pulled back the curtains in the morning it was as though someone had pasted a huge, perfect postcard of the loch across the window. It is probably one of the most wonderful views I have ever seen from a bedroom window. The large bathroom had a bath and power shower and the lovely local lemongrass soaps and shampoos are carefully wrapped in black satin ribbon.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE
Being a B&B, this isn’t going to break the bank, although it certainly doesn’t have a budget feel about it. The rooms really reminded me of another establishment not a million miles away from Melfort House which has a very similar feel but charges about three times for bed and breakfast. Prices are from £95 a night (although do check out mini breaks as there may be deals for two nights or more) and the evening meal is £33 a head. There are also themed breaks such as painting, cooking and horse riding.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
It’s aout three hours from Edinburgh but a great drive. There are more things to do in summer than winter; water-based activities are a speciality, but Argyll has lots to see so it is definitely worth having a car.
If you are there on a particular Friday and pop along to the Loch Melfort Hotel bar, you might experience Matthew jamming away with some local musicians – he’s a member of Piper Active and can play and sing tremendously. In fact, the night we were there, us non-musicians were probably in a minority. It had that Local Hero feel which cynics think only exists in heart-tugging Scottish films, and boy is it fun.
Having only opened Melfort House as a B&B about seven years ago, the Andersons have built up a large loyal following of guests who return again and again. I might be late to discover this little gem, but like Arnie, I’ll be back.
Melfort House, near Oban (01852 200326 www.melforthouse.co.uk)