Thursday 3rd April.
Immediately after Expo finished we met with our tour guide Alister and our Visit Scotland rep Martina and drove approx. 40 minutes from Glasgow city and stopped off at Doune Castle for a quick visit. This castle was used for filming of Monty Python movies and more recently for the TV show Outlanders which apparently is really popular in the US.
We then made our way to Cromlix House Hotel – tennis player Andy Murrays new hotel located near Dunblane. From the castle to the hotel took another 20 minutes or so. From Glasgow the hotel is approx. an hour. Good to note too that Cromlix is just a 15 minute drive for anyone wanting to play golf there.
The hotel was only open a few days when we arrived so there is very much a new hotel feel about it and new carpet smell etc! its finished to a really high standard and has a really nice country house feel about it. it has 10 bedrooms and 5 suites in total. The restaurant in the hotel is part of the chain Chez Roux and this is the only part of the hotel which is really modern style.
The rooms were extremely comfortable and quiet. Big bathrooms with free standing old fashioned baths. Evening turndown service also provided. Loved this place – only let down really was the dinner. Given the Roux name attached to the restaurant I kind of expected something a little better than soup and roast chicken with tarragon sauce! However I’m sure if you ate in the restaurant off the normal menu it would be a different experience.
Friday 4th April
We left the hotel at 9:30 am and travelled for approx. an hour to Balquihidder via Callander which is the main route to Fort William.
Very nice place – really quirky and very well known for its food. In fact the day that we were there the owners were just leaving to collect Prince Albert and Prince Harry from the seaplane – they were coming for lunch. Lots of activity and police presence around that morning!
We continued on to Glencoe House in the West Highlands which was used for some parts of the James Bond movie Skyfall. Very scenic area particularly at Glen Etive. It’s a historic mansion with 5* suite accommodation. Good for those who like activities and outdoor adventure and equally those who like just peace and quiet.
There is no restaurant in the property – all dining is in room dining. Lovely place and probably my second favourite place we visited on the trip.
Following our lunch here we made our way westwards on the route to Oban but we stopped before Oban in Benderloch where we were staying at the Isle of Eriska Hotel.
This is a Relais & Chateaux Hotel. Four star property, country house style. I did like it but probably had higher expectations of it given that it had the Relais & Chateaux accreditation. The owner did tell us that they don’t have a lot of money and anything they make does go back into the hotel and they are constantly adding new things. That said the rooms are a good size and comfortable and extremely quiet. Bathrooms a little outdated but fine. Lovely drawing rooms downstairs for relaxing. Also spa on site and some leisure facilities.
They can arrange fishing and other boating activities onsite to see Duart castle or boat trips to watch the sun set.
Very much known for their food here and a bit of a Ballymaloe feel about the place, they grow a lot of their own food and are very experimental – one of the desserts was a fennel ice cream!
Good service here – would definitely suit AI clients I think.
Saturday 5th April
Left the hotel in the morning and drove to a local museum in Kilmartin Glen. Very small museum with little shop and a nice café. Good for insight into the local landscape and explanation of standing stones and cairns etc.
We then went to Crinan by Lochgilphead for lunch at the Crinan Hotel. Awful hotel – only nice passable thing about it was the ok restaurant on the top floor with views out over the sea. Definitely NOT one for AI clients!
After that we took the short ferry from Tarbert to Portavadie Marina for our overnight there at the Portavadie apartments. It’s a huge area with apartments – some 4* at the Lodge and others in the 5* section. They are 2 and three bedroomed apartments. They are nice but nothing special to speak of I have to say. They are just like modern apartments, no character or feel to them at all. Nice views out over the marina. Clients can do self-catering if they like but there is no grocery shop there at the moment. There is a restaurant in the lodge and the 5* block so clients can also do B&B or DBB if they want. Leisure centre will be completed in the next phase next year.
They do have minimum stays of 2 night and sometimes three nights in the summer but unless it’s for a real boating enthusiast I wouldn’t be crazy about it and don’t think it would fit with our clients.
Sunday 6th April
We left early in the morning and took a very short ferry to the Isle of Bute to see Mount Stuart House. This was definitely a highlight for me – spectacular historic house on the island and you can actually stay there too!
Would be an amazing venue for an incentive group as they are very organised – we were welcomed with piper on arrival and artisan smoothies in retro bottles and mini cakes. They can accommodate up to a max of 30 people in a private group if I remember correctly. Waiting on info from them on this so will advise then. Groups can also use the original magnificent dining room.
Unfortunate thing is other than their accommodation there isn’t anything else really of quality on the island at all. However it is possible to get a ticket from Glasgow for train and ferry (in the same place so very handy) and entrance to the house (guests transferred by bus from train station) for approx. £20 – the journey from Glasgow to Weymss and then the ferry all in all would be about 2 hours but well worth it to see this place. Its very ornate with lots of marble and huge collection of paintings and is very much still a used home for the family that own it.
After our visit and brunch (really good food here – excellent catering) we got the Calmac Ferry to Weymss which takes about 40 minutes and from there its 1hr into Glasgow where we were dropped off at the airport.
Glasgow 1st /2nd April
We stayed at the Malmaison Hotel in the business district of Glasgow so there wasn’t a whole lot in the immediate vicinity – you would have to walk down town but it doesn’t take long.
The hotel is very quirky and different – I really liked it. Best breakfast of the whole trip here in this hotel.
On the last day as I had some time to kill before going to the airport to meet Alison – a few of the people from my fam trip went to see Blytheswood Square – a property in central Glasgow the only 5* hotel in the city. Beautiful hotel. Quite modern inside which you wouldn’t think given the exterior is quite old.
Rooms are also modern but with some nice touches like Harris tweed chairs in the rooms. The bathrooms are all marble and really nice.
Good size in the suites – the classic rooms would be an average city centre hotel size i.e. not that big but they are lovely too.
Very busy restaurant on the ground floor and nice cocktail bar on the first floor. They also have a spa there.
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Submitted by Liz Aungier
Contracting Manager, Irish Welcome Tours