by Linda Hull
This year’s holidays have been on the theme of return visits. May half term back at Lower Saltings in Aldeburgh (still highly recommended) and early Summer back at the in-laws’ house in France enjoying the sun were followed by a trip in August back to Loch Fyne, and what is now well and truly branded as Argyll’s Secret Coast.
I have blogged about this area before, but there were a few gems on this trip which definitely deserve sharing, not least our accommodation. I found Oystershell Lodge while having a general web browse, and have never booked holiday accommodation so quickly, without the usual multiple website visits and agonising. However, the setting of the lodge looked so idyllic we decided to go for it, and the fact we have booked again for the same week next year may reassure you that it was every bit as good as advertised.
The lodge is on a private estate at Otter Ferry, within walking distance of the Oystercatcher pub. The views are simply outstanding, from the verandah, the patio doors in the living space and the floor to ceiling windows in the master bedroom. The cottage is well furnished and equipped, with an ensuite shower which is always welcome. Along with the views, the other selling point is access to the shore, which is immediately outside and bordered by ‘cliffs’ (or a small ridge of rocks perfect for two girls to scramble to their heart’s content). The girls loved the freedom of being able to skim stones and paddle while we loved being able to watch them from the comfort of the sofa with a glass of wine. There are also endless walks along the shore to be enjoyed.
As we happened on the best week of weather in the Scottish summer, we could easily have amused ourselves most days around the cottage, but we did do some exploring. We returned to Ardkinglas Woodland Garden, which had a Gruffalo trail (in Scots) to add interest to the forest walk. This also brought us in striking distance of the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, which is certainly in my top five places to eat anywhere. There was another nice walk to be had around Castle Lachlan, back along the shores of Loch Fyne towards Strachur. Again there were stunning views, from a castle ruin, which rather made me think of Famous Five relocated north of the border.
We ended up on two occasions at the Barn at Millcroft, one of those places which looks lovely on the website and then is even better in reality. The café cum gift shop had lovely food, delicious ice cream and tucked away in the garden a nature shed which the girls loved. Our first trip there followed a day at Ostell Bay, which I covered in my last blog. On this occasion, as the tide was in, the bay provided excellent paddling opportunities for the girls in relatively warm waters. Our second trip was a reward for a long walk from Portavadie through the forest to a deserted village and back to Glenan Bay – extremely muddy but worth it for the lunch that followed. The newly opened spa and infinity pool at Portavadie Marina has been saved for a future visit.
We spent the one properly rainy afternoon on the Waverley paddle steamer – the view wasn’t up to much but the girls enjoyed looking at the engine room and eating cake in the tea room. Our final day also threatened rain, so we headed away from our intended destination of Inveraray Castle and took the shortest ferry ride ever to the Isle of Bute – a whole five minutes from Colintraive to Rhubodach. After a wander round the shabby splendour of Rothesay, with palm trees and glorious sunshine, we headed for the beach again at Ettrick Bay. The weather was in our favour, so we managed the full range of British beach activities including kite flying, paddling in pants (the girls) and eating ice cream (all of us). We left plenty for another trip to Bute, including the Victorian toilets on Rothesay Pier which I have on good authority are worth a visit.
Our good luck with the weather was definitely a factor in the success of this holiday. However, I have been visiting this part of the west coast for my whole life, and each time discover new treasures. Armed with some Avon Skin-so-soft to keep the midges away, good waterproofs and a disposition that sees just one sunny day at the beach as nothing short of a triumph this is a simply marvellous holiday destination, and despite the PR gurus best efforts it is still pretty much a secret. Even so, I booked next year’s accommodation before writing this post!
Being lucky enough to live a couple of hours from Ostell Bay, I headed up with the boys and a friend a couple of weekends ago – both were soon stripped off and in the water, bringing back memories of equally mild “October weeks” past…
I’m so happy that more people are discovering out “Secret Coast” – even if it means it’s a little less quiet than it was when we were wee. Kilbride Farm were doing well with ice cream & coffee sales, on their last weekend of the season, which was great to see. And bonus – the brambles were ready!