Love in a cold climate
Mark Robertson discovers a romantic bolthole in the middle of the grey Scottish winter
It’s not always easy doing nothing, but that’s what we’re here to do. Stop, relax, get away. And Loch Fyne, a blue grey landscape cut in two by an opaque, metallic body of water, gives the impression we’re hundreds of miles away from home and not just over an hour from Glasgow.
The Loch Fyne Hotel sits on the snaking road on the west bank of the loch. The village of Inveraray is within staggering distance, but for the most part we’re gleefully self-contained in our room, which combines the right elements of comfortable trad (overstuffed couches, a huge roll top bath) and functionally modern (fire hose-like showers and widescreen TV).
After witnessing two Norwegian tourists blowing across the car park like tumbleweed we think better of a bracing stroll, opting for a visit to the hotel’s spa treatment rooms instead. The natural wood décor and distant tinkling bells may seem like a cliché but, combined with two sure-handed therapists, it works.
We sit side by side while every knot is kneaded from our strung out muscles during our hour-long, his and hers aromatherapy massage session. Now we’re relaxed, and the sauna, steam room or indoor pool feel like much more of a challenge; the most we can manage is some gentle bobbing and quiet perspiration. Anything more vigorous would be too much. We were offered a go in the outdoor hot tub but the rain hat with trunks look would have spoiled my imagined Playboy mansion vibe.
That evening, the united nations of waiting staff - French, Polish, African and even Scottish - make us feel pleasantly fussed over during a luxuriously long evening meal. The menu offered welcoming slabs of rare roast lamb, fillets of salmon and towers of tender steak (but not, to our surprise, shellfish).
The next day we awake well rested, if a little stiff from the mattress which was uncomfortably lumpy. After a substantial breakfast we pack up and set off for home, only to happen upon the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar less than ten minutes down the road.
The peculiar absence of shellfish from the menu the previous evening made a visit to this culinary institution seem compulsory.
While the waters of Loch Fyne give few clues to the wildlife teaming beneath the surface, this place showcases it in style. There’s an award-winning restaurant, but this early in the day it’s the 40ft long counter at the Oyster Bar’s retail side that appeals. Oysters, langoustines and mussels chill on yards of crushed ice alongside monster king scallops, haunches of local venison and hunks of Bradan Rost (a truly amazing kiln-roasted salmon), all sufficient to inspire some Rick Stein-esque kitchen action back home.
Driving back down the winding road through the drizzle, the heater turned up full blast and the boot of the car beginning to smell just a little fishy, our shoulders are loose, our pores cleansed and our heart rates happily regular.
This trip was about escapism without the need for a passport. Ideal for when time (and for that matter money) is tight. We relaxed and found a refuge that feels far away but is comfortably close to home.
For more on the Loch Fyne Hotel visit www.crerarhotels.com/ourhotels/loch_fyne_hotel/