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Scotland For Dummies
By Barry Shelby
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7645-7862-6
Chapter OneAyrshire and Argyll
In This Chapter
* Getting to Ayrshire and Argyll
* Seeking out the best places to stay and eat
* Discovering the Burns Heritage Trail, Culzean Castle, the Isle of Arran, and more
* Hittin' the links in Troon and Turnberry
* Shopping for local goodies and finding the best pubs
The region of Ayshire stretches from the southern and western fringes of Glasgow south to southwest along the Firth of Clyde. Argyll covers the southwestern islands and western peninsulas of Scotland. While Ayrshire boundaries are well marked, Argyll is a bit more amorphous, encompassing a region that historically stretches into the Highlands.
One of Ayrshire's primary attractions is "Burns Country," because the area was the poet Robert Burns's birthplace as well as his predominant stomping grounds for most of his life. But Ayrshire also offers golfers some of the best links courses in the world. If you take the train from Glasgow to Ayr, the main town of Ayrshire, you can see one course after another in the sandy dunes along the shoreline.
Argyll, which means the "coast of the Gaels," encompasses islands such as Bute and Arran as well as the more remote Kintyre Peninsula. Kintyre is so sufficiently isolated that ex-Beatle Paul McCartney has long owned a ranch there where he and his family can retreat from prying eyes. It takes the better part of the dayjust to reach Kintyre, however, so I don't dwell on its charms for too long in this chapter. The port of Oban (pronounced oh-bin), gateway to the Hebrides and primary burgh of Argyll, and the town of Inveraray, on the shores of Loch Fyne, are more accessible, as is Loch Lomond, and all provide a pseudo-Highland experience.
You may not have time to see everything Ayrshire and Argyll have to offer, but visits to places such as the mansion and grounds of Culzean Castle or placid shores of Loch Lomond can still be accomplished as daytrips from Glasgow.
Your options for getting in and out of the area include scheduled buses and trains that run from Glasgow to towns and terminals such as Wemyss Bay, Largs, and Ayr in Ayrshire and Oban in Argyll. If you're ambitious, however, and want to fully explore the Cowal or Kintyre peninsulas or the Clyde coastline, a car is your best choice.
Spending the Night
When it comes to accommodations, you may want to stay on the mainland in larger towns such as Ayr, Inveraray, or Oban for the sake of convenience. Some other choice accommodations, however, are available in more far-flung precincts. Some have even earned star ratings from the tourist board; see Chapter 8 for a description of the rating system. In the listings below, room rates generally include full breakfast, unless otherwise stated. And don't forget: You may well get a better deal than the advertised "rack" rates.
Alexandra Hotel $-$$ Oban
On the northern end of the Oban seafront, this hotel affords views of the town and the waterfront. Once one of the largest buildings in town, this stately pile has been refurbished and modernized. You can play a little table tennis or snooker or simply paddle around in the large heated indoor pool. The friendly staff will make your stay very comfortable, and the hotel offers 24-hour room service. It also has accommodations especially created for travelers with disabilities. Rooms are modestly furnished but pleasing, with small bathrooms.
See map p. 289. North Pier, Oban. 01631-562-381. Fax: 01631-564-497. Rack rates: £40-£80 ($74-$148) double. AE, DC, MC, V.
WORTH THE SEARCH
Ardanaiseig $$$ Kilchrenan
This hotel is arguably the poshest and least accessible place listed in this chapter, so if you seek a bit of luxury in an out-of-the-way corner, read on. The Ardanaiseig (pronounced ard-na-sag) hotel is a stone Scottish baronial pile built in the 1830s on the shores of Loch Awe; it sits at the end of a curvy single-track road through the woods some 15 miles from Taynuilt (on the road to Oban). The gardens are especially colorful in spring when the rhododendrons are in bloom, but they have plenty of year-round interest as well. The public spaces include a large drawing room with views of the hotel's own wee island in the loch. Evening meals, supervised by head chef Gary Goldie, are especially memorable, and every day brings a different four-course menu. Guests can rent the gatehouse, called Rose Cottage, which sleeps up to five. Another small cottage was being built near the hotel's pier in late 2004. The hotel, which prefers not to take small children, closes for three weeks in January.
See map p. 287. 3 miles north of Kilchrenan, off the B845 from Taynuilt. 01866-833-333. Fax: 01866-833-222. ardanaiseig-hotel.com. Rack rates: £103-£138 ($190-$255) double. AE, MC, V. Closed Jan-mid-Feb.
The Argyll Hotel $$ Inveraray
This Best Western-managed waterfront hotel overlooking the picturesque Inveraray harbor is a pretty, white-stone building with green trim. Originally built in 1750 to accommodate guests of nearby Inveraray Castle, the Argyll is still putting up the castle's many visitors. You'll find a lovely atrium sitting room, a cozy formal dining area, and the beautiful wood-and-gilt Argyll Bar. Each room is nicely put together, with blond wood furniture. If you can, book a room with a view of Loch Fyne.
See map p. 287. Front Street. 01499-302-466. Fax: 01499-302-389. the-argyll-hotel.co.uk. Rack rates: £90 ($166) double. AE, DC, MC, V.
De Vere Cameron House $$$$ Luss
Posh and plush, the five-star Cameron House offers the premier lodgings along the banks of Loch Lomond. The midrange deluxe rooms face the loch, and the luxury suites are part of the original house and allow guests to have their meals in their own sitting room with dining table. Guests also can rent the hotel's 46-foot cruiser, the Celtic Warrior, moored in the hotel's private marina. The fine dining option is the Georgian Room, which is not suitable for children under 14; gentlemen are expected to don jackets and ties. Smollets is the name of the hotel's casual dining option.
See map p. 287. A82 north of Balloch, Dumbartonshire. 01389-755-565. cameronhouse.co.uk. Rack rates: £245-£285 ($453-$527) double. AE, MC, V.
Drover's Inn $ Inverarnan
The stuffed, snarling, and slightly worn animals near this inn's entrance give a pretty good hint as to the nature of this rustic tavern with restaurant and overnight rooms. The atmospheric pub usually has an open fire going, barmen in kilts, and plenty of travelers by foot and car nursing their drinks. The pub food is average, but the ambience of the place makes the Drovers a worthwhile stop. The inn has 10 overnight units in the original house built in 1705, and another 16 rooms in a new building in the rear. Rooms are run of the mill and worn but comfortable enough.
See map p. 287. A82 at by Ardlui. 01301-704-234. droversinn.co.uk. Rack rates: £46 ($85) double. MC, V.
Fairfield House Hotel $$$ Ayr
On the seafront near Low Green, this circa-1912 town house has been restored and converted into a 44-unit hotel. The staff is attentive and will help you arrange tee times at nearby golf courses. A noted designer of classic British interiors decorated the rooms in a country-house style. The units are large and luxurious, many done in chintz; most of the bathrooms have bidets. The British AA guide rates the Fairfield House's restaurant highly for the "freshness and seasonality" of its cuisine.
See map p. 285. 12 Fairfield Rd. 01292-267-461. Fax: 01292-261-456. fairfieldhotel.co.uk. Rack rates: £110-£170 ($203-$314) double. AE, DC, MC, V.
Glenapp Castle $$$$ Ballantrae
This beautifully decorated pile close to the city of Stranraer offers Victorian baronial splendor with antiques, oil paintings, and elegant touches at every turn. Other accommodations in the region pale in comparison. The mansion was designed in the 1870s by David Bryce, a celebrated architect of his day, and it overlooks the Irish Sea. Lounges and dining rooms are elegant, and the spacious bedrooms and suites are individually furnished. Tall windows let in the afternoon and long summer evening light, making the rooms bright on many days. The hotel, open seasonally unless by special arrangement, stands on 12 hectares (30 acres) of lovely, secluded grounds that are home to many rare plants. Smoking is only permitted in the library.
See map p. 285. Ballantrae, Ayrshire, some 20 miles south of Ayr. 01465-831-212. Fax: 01465-831-000. glenappcastle.com. Rack rates: £365-£405 ($675-$750) double. Rates include dinner. Open only Apr-Oct. AE, V.
Greencourt Guest House $-$$ Oban
Of the many B&Bs and guesthouses in Oban, this one stands out for its warm reception and view over the town's bowling green. Greencourt only has six units, five with en suite bathrooms. Nonsmokers will appreciate the nonsmoking policy. Unlike many other homes along the winding streets of Oban, Greencourt has its own small parking area.
See map p. 289. Benvoullin Road. 01631-563-987. Fax: 01631-571-276. greencourt-oban.co.uk. Rack rates: £48-£64 ($88-$118) double. MC, V. Usually closed in Dec and Jan.
Kilmichael Country House $$$ Isle of Arran
This small, 300-year-old hotel is the best accommodation - and the oldest building - on the island. The lovely, spacious rooms hold antique wood furniture, fresh flowers, and pleasant pastel upholstery and drapes. The sitting room, formerly a chapel, has an impressive stained-glass window, and you'll enjoy sitting by one of the fireplaces on a blustery day. The hotel has an interesting collection of Japanese ornaments - but the tasty cuisine in the dining room is traditional Scottish.
See map p. 287. Glen Coy, near Brodick on a private road off the A841. 01770-302-219. Fax: 01770-302-068. kilmichael.com. Rack rates: £150-£190 ($277-$351) double. MC, V.
Loch Fyne Hotel $$ Inveraray
Just north of town, this old stone house perches on a lovely spot over the loch. It offers big rooms, a friendly desk staff, and a large pool and steam room. The last time I visited, the pool was full of kids. The attractive rooms aren't fancy, but little couches and beautiful views of the water make for a relaxing time between trips to the Jacuzzi or sauna. The food in the restaurant is quite satisfying and a good value.
See map p. 287. On the A83, just above the center of Inveraray. 01499-302-148. Fax: 01499-302-348. Rack rates: £65-£125 ($120-$231) double. MC, V.
Lochgreen House Hotel $$$ Troon
Adjacent to the fairways of the Royal Troon Golf Course, Lochgreen is a lovely country-house hotel set on 12 lush hectares (30 acres) of forest and landscaped gardens. The property opens onto views of the Firth of Clyde and Ailsa Craig. The interior evokes a more elegant, bygone time, with detailed cornices, antique furnishings, and oak and cherry paneling. Guests can meet and mingle in two luxurious sitting rooms with log fires or take long walks on the well-landscaped grounds. The spacious bedrooms have the finest mattresses.
See map p. 285. Monktonhill Road. 01292-313-343. Fax: 011292-318-661. costley-hotels.co.uk. Rack rates: £140-£235 ($260-$435) double. AE, MC, V. Free parking.
Malin Court Hotel $-$$ Turnberry
On one of the most scenic strips of the Ayrshire coast, this well-run hotel fronts the Firth of Clyde and the Turnberry golf courses. It's not a great country house, but rather a serviceable, welcoming retreat offering a blend of informality and comfort. Bedrooms are mostly medium in size. The staff can arrange hunting, fishing, riding, sailing, and golf activities.
See map p. 285. Turnberry. 01655-331-457. Fax: 01655-331-072. malin court.co.uk. Rack rates: £52-£75 ($96-$139) double. 20 percent discount for children under 16 staying separately from their parents. AE, DC, MC, V.
Manor House $$-$$$ Oban
At one time, the Duke of Argyll owned this Georgian residence on the coast road. Despite its formal exterior, the house is warm and inviting inside. The tasteful rooms have excellent views of the bay, fine antiques, and floral linens. The Manor House is known for its well-stocked bar and fine restaurant. Rates here include breakfast and dinner, but rates without dinner may be available - check the Web site or call for details.
See map p. 289. Gallanach Road. 01631-562-087. Fax: 01631-563-053. manor houseoban.com. Rack rates: £85-£102 ($157-$189) double. AE, MC, V.
Piersland House Hotel $$$ Troon
Designed by William Leiper in 1899, this hotel was originally occupied by Sir Alexander Walker of the Johnnie Walker whisky family and remained a private residence until 1956. The importation of some 17,000 tons of topsoil transformed the marshy surrounding property into a lush 1.6-hectare (4-acre) garden. The moderately sized guest rooms have traditional country- house styling.
See map p. 285. 15 Craigend Rd. 01292-314-747. Fax 01292-315-613. piersland.co.uk. Rack rates: £124 ($230) double, £180 ($333) suite with dinner. AE, MC, V.
Quality Hotel $$ Ayr
The Ayr railway station, a landmark since 1885, is still going strong. Connected to it is the Quality, with its red-sandstone Victorian exterior. It isn't the most modern hotel in town, but many visitors consider the Quality's high ceilings, elaborate detailing, and old-world charm reason to check in. Many of the guest rooms are quite spacious, if routinely furnished. All come with small shower-only bathrooms.
See map p. 285. Burns Statue Square. 01292-263-268. Fax: 01292-262-293. choicehotelseurope.com. Rack rates: £71 ($130) double. Children under 14 stay free in parent's room. AE, DC, MC, V.
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