I’ve wanted to stay at The Pierhouse Hotel, Port Appin for a long time now, so I was delighted when they invited us to pay them a visit. The wee hotel with a big reputation recently became part of hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray’s ‘The Wee Hotel Company’, together with the highly-acclaimed Three Chimneys on Skye.
Located on the shore of Loch Linnhe, The Pierhouse Hotel has long been known for its excellent food and relaxing ambiance. No one enjoys unwinding over good food and wine more than I do, but I also need to be able to indulge my passion for rambling and photography when I’m travelling. Fortunately, Port Appin is surrounded by fabulous scenery and great hiking trails, so I knew The Pierhouse wouldn’t disappoint.
Scotland – beautiful, despite the rain
In the weeks leading up to our stay I’d seen lots of sunset photos on the hotel’s social media feeds. Our hopes of snapping a sunset were dashed when a prolonged spell of sunny weather came to an abrupt end on the day of our trip. Once upon a time rain would have caused an almighty tantrum. Now, we throw on our waterproofs and embrace the beauty of a rainy Scotland.
We enjoyed our drive to Port Appin and stopped several times for a potter. If we’d been fair weather travellers we’d have missed so much.
Wildlife, colourful flowers and moody views
Like this handsome stag with wonky antlers we met on Rannoch Moor.
And Glen Etive in bloom, with rhododendrons, bluebells and sea pinks adding a pop of colour to a dreich day.
The Wee White Dug believes there’s no such thing as unsuitable weather for paddling. He’d have waded straight into Loch Etive if we hadn’t stopped him in the nick of time, narrowly avoiding a drookit dog in car calamity.
Our wander by Loch Etive fuelled our desire for more rugged scenery, so we stopped in Glen Coe next, for a walk to the poignant Ralston Cairn.
Glen Coe’s Three Sisters looked mysterious, shrouded in cloud. We stood at the viewpoint and gazed in awe at the scenery. Even the boy seemed to be soaking up the atmosphere of this special place.
These are my mountains and I have come home.
After a stop in Glencoe village for lunch, we continued our journey to Port Appin.
We didn’t get far before a photo opportunity too good to miss stopped us in our tracks. St John’s Church in Ballachulish is unbelievably photo worthy during the month of May. That’s when the bluebells flower and cover the churchyard in a carpet of blue.
Who needs blue sky when you have bluebells?
By Ballachulish Bridge we explored a small section of ‘The Last Clansman Trail’, paying our respects to James of the Glens.
In 1752 James was convicted of the murder of Colin Campbell. It’s popularly believed he was innocent – he had a good alibi. James was a Jacobite though and after the 1745 Rising the only good Jacobite was a dead one. Sadly, his innocence didn’t save him from the gallows. It’s unlikely anything could have, given eleven of the fifteen jurors at his trial were Campbells – clansmen of the victim and staunchly, anti Jacobite. It’s thought Ailean Breac (Alan Breck), James’s foster son may have been the true perpetrator of what came to be know as the ‘Appin Murder’. Bookworms amongst you will recognise Alan Breck from Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Kidnapped’. The Appin Murder inspired his novel.
A shy castle and coffee
We made one final stop before heading to The Pierhouse Hotel.
Castle Stalker is one of Scotland’s most iconic and photographed castles. It’s a beauty (when you can see it). On this occasion our attempts to stalk stalker were fruitless as it was enveloped in haar (mist).
The lack of view didn’t dampen our spirits. We grabbed coffees from Castle Stalker View Cafe and went for a short walk. We even suggested the castle looked more atmospheric, concealed in swirling mist. How glass half full are we?
The Pierhouse Hotel, Port Appin
Arriving at The Pierhouse, we were met with a warm welcome and roaring fire. Our first impressions were good. This was the type of place that invited you to sit by the fire, staring at the sea through a rainy window as your cares slipped away.
A room with a view
We couldn’t conceal our delight when we were shown to our superior sea view room. It was really spacious and superior in every sense of the word – from the quality furnishings to the tasteful decor in subtle, tweedy tones. Then there were little extras like homemade shortbread and gorgeous toiletries from the Highland Soap Company. Best of all though was the view – that was superior with a cherry on top. We were right by the water’s edge with a view of the island of Lismore and the mountains of Morvern. The weather didn’t spoil the view either – it enhanced it with a touch of dramatic beauty.
Our room had a seating area with a sofa, chair and table too – somewhere to relax after a long day outdoors. Mr G settled there immediately and switched on the TV. His Saturday afternoon sports viewing was short lived, as a roaring fire and glass of wine were luring me to the bar like the song of a siren.
Snug in the snug, The Ferry Bar
The hotel bar, lounge and snug are all dog friendly, so we were spoiled for choice when it came to selecting somewhere comfy to sit.
In the end we settled in the snug – a cosy wee room filled with books, maps and games.
We enjoyed our chill time, chatting by the fire with our drinks. Our reward after rambling around in the rain all day.
The boy warmed himself too, and all was good with the world.
Dinner – The Pierhouse Hotel
That evening we ate from the a la carte menu in the hotel’s AA Rosetted restaurant (considered to be one of Argyll’s best-kept secrets). We were seated at a fabulous table with a sea view.
As we’d be tucking into good food in a stunning setting, we treated ourselves to a nice bottle of champagne to go with dinner.
The sea air had given us an appetite, so we didn’t take long to choose from the menu.
The hotel is famous for seafood, but we both chose a veggie starter.
Mr G had the chef’s soup of the day – broccoli and potato. He was happy with his choice which was a relief, as he’d been torn between the soup and West Coast scallops.
I had heritage tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella cheese, olive oil croutons and shallot, caper, herb and balsamic glaze.
I’m not sure what I expected, but I was surprised by how flavoursome and delicious this simple dish was. I sometimes find tomatoes a bit boring, but this was one of the tastiest starters I’ve ever had. It was healthy too, which meant guilt free pudding – yay.
For main Mr G had pan seared fillet of rainbow trout, brown shrimps, peas, smoked bacon, baby gem lettuce and saffron cream sauce. The verdict? “Superb”.
I stuck with veggie and had grilled asparagus, halloumi cheese, roasted red peppers, sautéed potatoes, rocket salad and lemon, mint and olive oil salsa.
I don’t think I’ve tried halloumi before (if I have it didn’t leave an impression). It was fantastic – I loved the texture and taste. It’s an ingredient I’ll definitely be experimenting with at home.
For dessert Mr G had a Highland cheese platter with smoked Mull of Kintyre cheddar, Isle of Mull cheddar, Howgate Kintyre blue, Clerkland crowdie and Aiket brie, accompanied by chutney, grapes, Pierhouse oatcakes and crackers. He declared it the best cheese board EVER.
I opted for dark chocolate crémeux tart, blackberries & vanilla pod ice cream. One word – heavenly.
A night cap and night jaunt
After dinner we collected the boy from our room and settled back in the snug for a nightcap.
We’re suckers for cocktails so we decided to sample something from the cocktail menu.
I had a sea salt Garibaldi, made with Campari blended with fresh orange juice, sugar syrup and sea salt. It reminded me of my old favourite Aperol spritz – I’d picked well.
Mr G had a Jura Bramble, made with Lussa Gin from the Isle of Jura, shaken with lemon juice and served on the rocks with a Chambord drizzle. It got a big thumbs up.
Cocktails are usually associated with achingly cool city bars, but I know where I’d rather drink them.
Cocktails finished we took the boy for a walk before bed. Even at 10pm on a murky night it was still fairly light outside. I love the long nights of a Scottish “summer” and the gorgeous blue hue of the night sky.
From outside, the hotel looked cosy and inviting, packed with happy diners tucking into fabulous food and enjoying a beer or two.
We wandered down to the ferry slipway for a walk by the shore. Across the water we could see the blink of Sgeir Bhuidhe lighthouse which sits on a small skerry.
There’s something really hypnotic about the sea. I could watch it for hours, thinking about nothing in particular.
That night, we slept with our room window open and were gently lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves – absolute bliss.
Breakfast by the sea
We woke the next morning, excited for breakfast after our superb meal the night before.
We were the first to arrive for breakfast, so we chose our prime window seat from dinner.
I was delighted to find a small bottle of milk on the table from the Isle of Gigha’s, Wee Isle Dairy. I love when local businesses support each other.
We tucked into fresh croissants from the Continental buffet as we waited for our cooked breakfasts to arrive.
Mr G had his favourite, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs (cooked to perfection), while I had a mini Scottish breakfast. The haggis was phenomenal.
We checked out of The Pierhouse Hotel, feeling completely refreshed and wishing our stay could be longer.
A three hour drive home lay ahead, but we were in no rush to leave Port Appin. We wanted to hang around for a while to explore locally on foot.
Walks in and around Port Appin
Clach Thoull trail, Port Appin
Our local exploring started with the Clach Thoull Trail. A circular trail of 1 1/2 miles, which cuts behind the hotel, around the Port Appin headland, then back to the village.
It was a scenic walk which took us along a lush green path with cliffs on one side and sea on the other.
The mountains of Morvern stood out in distance, lit by a magical light that made them glow green.
The trail takes its name from a natural rock arch with a hole in it, known as Clach Thoull (Gaelic for hole in the rock).
It was crying out for us to climb through it, so we did. It reminded me of the Wishing Stone in Morvern, so I made a wish for good measure.
Arriving back in the village we passed the original lamp of Sgeir Bhuidhe lighthouse.
For a short walk the Clach Thoull Trail packed in loads of interesting features.
Over the sea to Lismore
With the Lismore passenger ferry running from directly outside the hotel, we couldn’t resist adding an island hop to our trip.
The boy is a seafaring chap, so he was delighted to find himself on another Scottish ferry.
Ten minutes after sailing out of Port Appin on ‘The Lismore’ we arrived on the island of the same name.
Lismore is a fascinating island with loads to see and do. We only had two hours to spare, so decided to walk a 3.2 mile round trip to the pretty village of Port Ramsay and back.
One of the highlights of a visit to Lismore is buying cake from Scotland’s most unusual cake shop.
Full after breakfast we resisted, but next time we’re on Lismore we’ll be feasting on cake for sure.
Lismore is a lush, green and fertile island. We passed native woodland, tall yellow irises, delicate fuchsia bushes and wild orchids on our hike.
Even more gorgeous than the flowers, were two friendly lambs we met en route to Port Ramsay.
We spent waaay longer than we should with them, given we had limited time and a ferry to catch.
When we reached Port Ramsay (a solitary row of cute, white cottages by the sea), the boy enjoyed a paddle before we turned to retrace our steps back to catch the ferry.
All along the route we were watched by curious sheep, but we had no time to linger. Well maybe a little time, for a quick photo.
The boy paddled at the ferry slipway as we waited for the boat to arrive.
Jubilee Bridge Trail
Back in Port Appin, we squeezed in a final short walk before heading home.
The Jubilee Bridge Trail on the outskirts of the village is a great place to spot wildlife, enjoy stunning scenery and an uninterrupted view of Castle Stalker (when it’s not hiding).
We followed the path to the Jubilee Bridge, crossed it then turned to head back to the car.
Before leaving we decided to pop into a bird hide on the trail to see if we could spot any wildlife.
We didn’t see any feathered friends, but we did spot something that had eluded us so far on the trip – Castle Stalker. ✔️
Although our food and accommodation were provided on a complimentary basis, all opinions are my own.
Until next time………