The irony of dining at the 2010 Romantic Restaurant of the year with my business partner was not lost on me. And whilst I’m very fond of her, perhaps the setting would be a little over the top for a bit of professional bonding? Fortunately the Ardanaiseig Hotel seems appropriate for any occasion. And it’s easy to see why it won Intimate Wedding Hotel of the Year as well. The Ardanaiseig knows exactly what it is and does it beautifully. It is a boutique country hotel with bags of class. And I use the tag boutique advisedly since it can be overused as shorthand for ‘minimalist, small bedrooms’. This is the opposite; the rooms are lush with four posters in some, fabulous bathrooms feature the ubiquitous Molton Brown products and corridors are welcoming yet bold statements. The owner is an antiques dealer and it’s not hard to see his unique eye for style in the décor, furniture and the overall dressing of the hotel. There’s an understated opulence about Ardanaiseig that, for us, added to the place’s charm. It’s all topped off with an awe-inspiring view of Loch Awe from almost every window. If you can, try to book a loch facing room – it’s worth every penny.
Dinner and breakfast are served at the aforementioned fine dining restaurant and despite the Highlands’ poor culinary reputation lauded by food critics nationwide, Ardanaiseig is one of a handful of places who are leading the way in turning it around. It’s almost worth the trip for the food alone. You can enjoy an aperitif in the bar whilst perusing the menu – which is a set tasting menu of five courses, each one just the right side of big leaving room for the next course. With much of the produce grown in their own grounds such as the venison, fish, herbs, vegetables and fruit, you are assured of freshness and sound farming practices. On our visit we enjoyed exquisite scallops with vierge sauce, Aberdeen Angus beef and some of the best Amalfi lemon tart I’ve tasted. An extensive wine list complements the food perfectly. Afterwards we retired to the lounge where we enjoyed a few night caps, remarking that for such a smart hotel, it was incredibly laidback in style. Not a bit of stuffiness in sight, just pure relaxation and a good chance to catch up.
Should you wake feeling in need of some activity to work off the delicious breakfast, there is plenty to choose from. Whether it be aiming high at the clay pigeon shooting range on site, fishing in a loch full of fish or enjoying a trip around the loch by boat, the hotel has something to tempt you to stay longer.
We left feeling refreshed and like we had been on a holiday and the trip back through the lochs and mountains flew by. Highly recommended.