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Isle of Eriska

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Iassociate Argyll with stunning
scenery, “soft” (wet) days, lush
vegetation (courtesy of the soft
days), and some of the worst
midgie bites of my life. But still, I
love this region and its gentle ways.
Much of what’s best about this tranquil
region of Scotland is exemplified by the
Isle of Eriska, a private island close to
Oban, which just happens to come with
a five-star hotel boasting a recently
Michelin-starred chef and new hilltop
self-catering retreats.
Set on a 300-acre estate, the island sits
at the mouth of Loch Creran, with
spectacular views to Loch Linnhe and the
Morvern mountains. Stay in one of the
retreats and from your private deck, as
you bubble away in your personal hot tub,
you can enjoy sunsets over the islands
before taking the five-minute stroll to the
nearby 25-bedroom main house, which
operates as a successful Relais & Chateaux
five -star hotel. There you can be
rewarded with a meal that will
be a culinary highlight for
2017. A nice little combo.
You can now buy your
own little piece of this
private island, as the
owners are offering partownership
of these selfcatering
bijoux houses.
It’ll cost you £10,000 plus
VAT, and give you 70 nights
accommodation over 10 years
with no maintenance fees.

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Isle of Eriska

  1. 1. 6 April 30, 2017 The Sunday Times Travel SCOTTISH NEWS lTouch of Class Travel has a great offer on three nights at the Ritz- Carlton hotel in Abu Dhabi. Half board and flights from Edinburgh between May and July 15 from £559pp. 0843 216 0451, touchofclasstravel.co.uk lDunalastair Hotel Suites, in the heart of Kinloch Rannoch, Perthshire, reopened its doors on May 1 following a two-year, multimillion-pound renovation. The modern five-star boutique hotel features innovative architecture, bespoke furniture and a modern colour palette, making guests feel they are in a contemporary, luxurious home away from home. Opening rates are from £155 for a superior suite. dunalastairhotel.com lBritish Airways is to launch weekly flights from Edinburgh to Palma in June with basic, each-way fares from £59. Flights will operate Fridays throughout the summer, departing from Edinburgh at 6.15am, arriving in Palma at 10.15am local time, offering plenty of time for tapas, above, before the return flight at 11.10am, arriving back in Edinburgh at 1.15pm. ba.com lWow Air, Iceland’s only low-cost airline, has announced a new service from Edinburgh to Chicago beginning in July 2017, with fares from £139. Flights go via Reykjavik, bringing the capital city’s diverse culture, dramatic skyscapes, acclaimed gastronomy and lively sporting scene to Scottish travellers on a budget. wowair.co.uk Apart from the infectious camaraderie of the international staff, the other abiding memory I take away is the plethora of wildlife on your doorstep. 10LOCAL HIGHLIGHTS 1. Falls of Lora. This tidal race forms when the water level in the Firth of Lorn drops below the level of the water in Loch Etive as the high tide goes out. 2. Tralee Bay. A “proper Scottish beach”, where you can stomp out the drams of the night before, is a short walk from Eriska. 3. Ardchattan Priory and Gardens. On the north shore of Loch Etive, this special place was established more than 700 years ago and is one of Scotland’s finest gardens. 4. Cruise up Loch Etive. The loch stretches some 20 miles inland to the mountains of Glencoe, and has a colony of seals. 5. Dunstaffnage Castle. Surrounded on three sides by the sea, the castle, pictured, dates back to the 13th century. 6. Bonawe Iron Furnace. This ironworks from the mid-18th century produved cannonballs for the navy at Trafalgar. 7. Isle of Lismore. This beautiful, fertile island with an ancient history is well worth the ferry trip. 8. Oban. The “gateway to the isles” is shabby in parts, but wonderfully nostalgic for the Saga generation. 9. The Robin’s Nest tea room. For great homemade cake, Taynuilt is one of the best places in Scotland to enjoy it. 10. Scottish Sealife Sanctuary. Scotland’s largest marine mammal rescue centre operates a highly successful “rear and release” programme for seal pups. 01631 720 371, eriska-hotel.co.uk YOUR PRIVATE ISLANDThe Isle of Eriska hotel is offering part-ownership of its hilltop retreats, complete with private deck and hot tub, just a stroll away from its Michelin-starred restaurant.ScottishtraveleditorKatieWoodsoaksitin I associate Argyll with stunning scenery, “soft” (wet) days, lush vegetation (courtesy of the soft days), and some of the worst midgie bites of my life. But still, I love this region and its gentle ways. Much of what’s best about this tranquil region of Scotland is exemplified by the Isle of Eriska, a private island close to Oban, which just happens to come with a five-star hotel boasting a recently Michelin-starred chef and new hilltop self-catering retreats. Set on a 300-acre estate, the island sits at the mouth of Loch Creran, with spectacular views to Loch Linnhe and the Morvern mountains. Stay in one of the retreats and from your private deck, as you bubble away in your personal hot tub, you can enjoy sunsets over the islands before taking the five-minute stroll to the nearby 25-bedroom main house, which operates as a successful Relais & Chateaux five -star hotel. There you can be rewarded with a meal that will be a culinary highlight for 2017. A nice little combo. You can now buy your own little piece of this private island, as the owners are offering part- ownership of these self- catering bijoux houses. It’ll cost you £10,000 plus VAT, and give you 70 nights accommodation over 10 years with no maintenance fees. Between now and June you can try before you buy and, if you do sign, you’ll get back the £500 fee for the three-night taster stay — the norm is £300 a night, based on three nights. Even if you don’t choose to buy, this is a bargain because the quality is exceptional. There’s plenty to do: there’s a six-hole golf course, soon to be nine, with shortbread-tin views, a driving range, putting green, croquet lawn, mountain bikes and clay pigeon shooting. In the Stables Spa there’s a 17-metre indoor pool with sauna and steam room, plus a variety of treatments on offer. The wonderfully modest chef Paul Leonard is a real gem. Previously with Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, his seven- course degustation menu is a treat at £90 — and likely he’ll have grown or smoked half the ingredients himself. The 40-variety cheese trolley is worth the journey alone. Kayaking on the Falls of Lora at the mouth of Loch Etive, left; Tralee Bay and Lochnell Castle, a short walk from the Isle of Eriska, near Oban
  2. 2. The Sunday Times April 30, 2017 7 L ike us, they’re co-joined by a bigger, bolshier neighbour, but that’s just the start of the list entitled What We Have In Common with Our Canadian Cousins. About 5m Canadians claim Scottish descent, and of the 22 Canadian prime ministers to date, 13 had Scottish heritage, including the first, Sir John Macdonald, born in Glasgow in 1815. While more Canadian cities are now accessible from Scotland, the main city we still choose is Toronto, which is served three and four times a week from Glasgow and Edinburgh from June to September. I enjoyed the service from the Air Canada Rouge flight attendants, who are young with funky uniforms and a “can- do” attitude — they’re trained in customer service at the Disney Institute in Orlando. They paint children’s faces, get the kids to help out with the water service, and make puppets out of sick bags — try getting that on BA. While its planes don’t have seatback entertainment, Rouge does have a cool app to download before boarding. The aircraft all use Player, a next-generation in-flight system that streams unlimited live entertainment to your electronic device. Toronto’s cultural diversity makes it foodie heaven, writes Katie Wood Since I was last in Toronto, even more skyscrapers and shopping malls have been built, and its “underground city” is now officially the largest mall in North America, with more than 30km of connected walkways and 1,200 stores. Known as Path, it’s a network of pedestrian tunnels and elevated walkways connecting the office towers of Toronto. About 200,000 people avoid the harsh winter by living and working here in a troglodyte existence in which a thick coat is unnecessary. Much as I dislike the freezing winds making my face actually hurt, I wouldn’t join the subterranean crowd. I’ll go in summer or wear a scarf and bunnet so I can enjoy the city’s greatest asset: its cultural diversity. Toronto has a plethora of international neighbourhoods that give it real zing. Half the city’s population was born outside Canada, and about 130 languages and dialects are spoken there. It’s one of the most cosmopolitan places on earth, and I love that you can eat your way around the world without leaving the city. Where do I start? Little Italy, Little Portugal, Greektown, Chinatown, Koreatown, Little India — this is foodie heaven. Many visitors come to the city simply to eat. There are great walking tours for gourmands that take in markets such as Kensington and the 200-year-old St Lawrence Market, voted the best indoor market in the world by National Geographic magazine. This is where to sample Ukrainian pierogies, Jewish bagels, Portuguese sweets, Indian candy, local cheeses, and the city’s famous peameal bacon sandwich, slapped with honey mustard. Round off your feast with a Toronto butter tart, reminiscent of a runny treacle tart — a sugar rush to fuel any sightseer for further exploration. The Distillery District is home to designer boutiques, artisan shops, art galleries, cafes, performance venues and award-winning restaurants. The pedestrian-only village features more than 70 outlets in the restored Victorian-era Gooderham & Worts whisky distillery. One quirky and surprisingly enjoyable place is the Bata Shoe Museum. It began as a monument to the personal passion for shoes of Sonja Bata, who had been collecting shoes of every type since the 1940s. By 1979 her collection had outgrown her storage space, so her family established the Bata Shoe Museum Foundation in 1995. It has everything from shoes worn by indigenous people to shoes from every era of fashion. In the “walk of fame” there are shoes worn by John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe and Picasso. It may be a cliché but it’s still worth visiting the city’s landmark CN Tower, with its Skypod observation deck lying 447 metres (135 storeys) up. In my opinion, however, it’s not worth driving two hours to get to Niagara Falls — I’ve seen more impressive falls without all the queues, hype and souvenir shops. I stayed at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, which I’d recommend for a splurge, but Toronto has accommodation of every type. Air Canada Rouge runs non-stop summer services from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Toronto. Economy return from Edinburgh from £452.94, and Glasgow from £449.26 (inc taxes); 0871 220 1111, aircanada.com; ontariotravel.net, seetorontonow.com COSMOPOLITAN CANADA Toronto is home to restaurants from every corner of the globe and food markets such as the 200-year-old St Lawrence The Toronto skyline grows ever more crowded, but the CN Tower, with its observation deck 447 metres up, still stands out If you need an excuse to travel to beautiful Islay you have it in the form of the Festival of Music and Malt, taking place this year from May 26 to June 3. With its celebration of traditional music, ceilidhs, the Gaelic language, golf, bowling and whisky, it’s pretty much all that’s best about Scotland wrapped up neatly in one place. All the island’s distilleries hold open days throughout the week of the festival, so it’s a great opportunity to sample the wonders of our national drink and decide on your favourite. Islay may be a mere 240 square miles in size and have around 3,500 inhabitants, but it has no fewer than eight distilleries. The whisky hailing from this southern Hebridean isle is best known for its peaty, smoky quality — a veritable bonfire in a glass. Of course, these days it’s not just whisky that’s making a name for itself : “Mother’s ruin” has had a notable resurgence in recent years and island gins are now all the rage. Barra, Colonsay, Jura, Arran, Skye and Harris have some stunning examples of handcrafted, artisanal Scottish gins. Over 70 per cent of gin made in the UK is now produced in Scotland. Even the small isle of Colonsay has its own gin — not one but two — Wild Thyme Spirits and Wild Island Botanic Gin. The latter is made using traditional gin botanicals combined with an array of botanicals specific to the island, including lemon balm, meadowsweet, wild water mint, heather flowers, bog myrtle and sea buckthorn. Harris gin has nine specially selected botanicals and reflects the maritime influence of this delightful island. Sugar kelp is key to this spirit. Hand-harvested by a local diver from the deep underwater forests of the Outer Hebrides, this natural ingredient gives Harris gin its unique flavour. Across Scotland, independent whisky distillers are increasingly favouring gin over whisky as it’s quicker and easier to make and gives them a faster return. In 2010 gin sales, at £774million a year, were about half those of scotch. Today both are worth about £1.2billion, although by 2020 gin is predicted to soar to more than £1.5billion while scotch sales will remain flat, according to Euromonitor market research. Better known for its whiskies, Islay also has The Botanist gin which was conceived and is distilled and handcrafted at the Bruichladdich distillery on that beautiful island. It uses 22 handpicked local botanicals and nine berries, then adds barks, seeds and peels during a slow distillation. There’s something very special about travelling to the island where a special bottle of gin comes from. Every time you enjoy a tipple it will bring back memories of your trip — a veritable tonic! All these islands, and many more, can be reached by CalMac Ferries — where everyone gets mates rates. ISLANDTREATSTO LIFTTHESPIRITS Artisan gins are now vying for a place among traditional Hebridean malts ADVERTISEMENTFEATURE EVERYONE GETSMATES RATES WWW.CALMAC.CO.UK

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