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Island retreat of Eriska is a real luxury hideaway

By Philip Murray

The wooden-decked road bridge which takes you on to the island.
The wooden-decked road bridge which takes you on to the island.

THE magic of an island setting has always proven irresistible to me.

Be it the majestic rugged landscapes of Arran and Skye, or tiny gems likes Staffa and Handa which punch well above their weight for memorable experiences – every one is unique, and every one has generated more happy memories than I can count.

I am happy to report that Eriska is no different, and the five-star hotel which calls the island home is the sublime icing on the cake.

Tucked away in the Lynn of Lorne, near Oban, this small island, which covers only 300 acres, is the perfect bolt-hole from which to escape the cares of the outside world.

Not only does it enjoy spellbinding vistas across the Lynn to Lismore and Morvern beyond, but its small size belies the many things you can enjoy during your visit.

From the surprisingly varied landscapes – which include tree-lined hills and fine coastal links – to the hotel and its many facilities dotted around the island, you'll be able to keep yourself as busy or as laid back as your heart desires.

Reached via a solitary wooden-decked bridge, which connects the island to the mainland, The Isle of Eriska Hotel & Spa feels nicely secluded, despite excellent transport links for Oban, Fort William, Glencoe and the Inner and Outer Hebrides. Crossing the wooden deck and driving the short distance along the verdant, tree-lined drive feels like a real moment of arrival.

The main hotel building is surrounded by a lush wooded landscape.
The main hotel building is surrounded by a lush wooded landscape.

And the attentive staff only helped further cement the sense that I'd arrived somewhere special. Throughout the stay they went above and beyond, ever ready to offer assistance.

Indeed, those opting for a stay in one of the island's hilltop retreats – or other lodge properties – are even able to make use of a private shuttle service to get them to and from the main hotel building. This should prove perfect on inclement days or, if you plan on enjoying the excellent ales or wines without having to worry about driving.

Speaking of libations, the food and drink were a real highlight. The hotel's cuisine is award-winning, and it shows. The food, naturally, looked amazing, with dishes presented like culinary works of art that it felt almost a shame to tuck into. But tuck into them I did – the venison in the main course, in particular, was beautifully tender.

There was also an excellent mix of local and cosmopolitan ingredients, perhaps best exemplified by the ornate cheese trolley which rolled out for my dessert – its tasty dairy offering ranging from Easter Ross to Lincolnshire and on to continental Europe.

The accommodation, meanwhile, was faultless. Those staying in the main hotel are treated to a grand Victorian house, complete with the extensive grounds you'd expect from such a period building.

The interior décor is full of classic Victorian touches – such as dark wood panelling, warm purples and enticing fireside chairs, which always make for such inviting places in which to while away an hour.

The main restaurant in the hotel.
The main restaurant in the hotel.

The lounge and bar even house an extensive library, featuring works by everyone from Bernard Shaw and Jonathan Swift to the autobiography of noted thespian John Gielgud. So if you've forgotten to bring a book of your own, you'll find ample choice when looking to cosy up in front of those fires.

Each bedroom is also unique, both in layout and décor, the latter of which is classic with subtle touches of modernity – perhaps best exemplified by the TVs, which look just like normal mirrors when not in use.

Those lucky enough to book one of the hilltop retreats, meanwhile, are arguably even better off – their higher vantage point offering stunning views, which their outside decking and open-air Jacuzzi take full advantage of.

Indeed, their unrivalled west-facing views are perfect for romantic sunsets – while the hot tubs are another magical feature, either during golden hour or at night when Argyll's dark skies ensure there's a patchwork of beautiful stars to enjoy. And yes, the experience of a Jacuzzi under the stars was every bit as enchanting as the description would have it.

The retreats also come packed with amenities, including a fully-equipped kitchen, spacious lounge with dining space and satellite TV, double-bedroom, and a huge bathroom complete with shower and large tub.

Away from the accommodation, the island is chock full of plenty of other facilities too – so much so, in fact, that Eriska feels like a real destination in and of itself. It boasts a large spa, complete with indoor pool, gym and even a nine-hole golf course. Other facilities include clay pigeon shooting, squash, five-a-side football, tennis – and even a croquet lawn.

Natural charms are also plenty, and the island is home to the likes of roe deer, herons and even otters. And while I didn't see any of the latter on my travels, I did come across evidence of their presence – some recently devoured crab on the foreshore proving they were close at hand.

The hotel also has grand plans for the future – including improved docking facilities at the north of the island for passing yachts.

As if its existing guest experience wasn't already enticing enough, that such plans are in the offing suggests an even brighter future lies ahead for this beautiful hotel and its memorable island locale. And I, for one, cannot wait to see it.

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