It’s two years since we discovered the joys of an Argyll Holidays break, whilst spending a weekend at Drimsynie Estate Holiday Village. Recently, we returned to check out the renovations that’ve taken place there since our last visit.
With love in the air (it was Valentine’s Day) Mr G and I left Edinburgh with the Wee White Dug and The Twenty-something (formerly The Teen) in tow. Tres romantique I hear you cry.
En route to Lochgoilhead, we stopped in Glasgow to pick up the twenty-something’s, beau Z and a stylish Lexus RX 450h. Lexus Glasgow had offered us one of their hybrid vehicles for a road trip. Intrigued to find out more about the self-charging eco technology, we accepted.
With four adults, the dug and a mountain of luggage, it would be great having a spacious SUV with all mod cons for our trip. And, with a self-charging battery, we wouldn’t have to play a frustrating game of hunt the charging station.
Our trip was going to coincide with a storm (Storm Dennis) battering the UK, but nothing would dampen our spirits.
Day one of our Argyll Holidays Adventure
Being an Ayrshire lad, Argyll was mostly uncharted territory for Z, so we stopped to introduce him to one of the region’s finest viewpoints.
The Rest and be Thankful is somewhere I’ll never tire of. Whenever I reach the spot, I do just that.
Lunch – The Goil Inn, Lochgoilhead
After soaking up the view, we drove to Lochgoilhead for lunch at The Goil Inn. The inn is a traditional village inn, where you’ll find a roaring fire and good pub grub.
Mr G and Z chose scampi and chips (very tasty), while The Twenty-something opted for burger and chips (really nice). I had a delicious Thai veggie curry with rice and nan.
The Tinkers Heart
After lunch, we went for a drive, stopping briefly at The Tinkers Heart by the shore of Loch Fyne.
The heart is a protected monument and significant to the travelling community. Historically, it was used as a meeting place and wedding ceremonies are known to have taken place there too.
It was bitterly cold, but what better day to visit than Valentine’s Day.
Back in the car, four heated seats were switched on to thaw us out.
Drimsynie Estate Holiday Village
On our last visit the Drimsynie Estate, building work was underway. This time we arrived to find a lovely new reception, bar and restaurant had been built.
Check-in was friendly and efficient, as always when we stay with Argyll Holidays. We left reception with our key, doggy treats and Rover Passes, which would give us access to lots of on site activities.
Our accommodation – ptarmigan hot tub lodge
Our lodge was located on an elevated spot with a fab view of Loch Goil and the snow dusted mountains flanking it. It was quiet, but close to all amenities.
The refurbished interior was modern, comfortable and well-equipped.
There was an open plan kitchen, lounge and dining area, with patio doors leading to enclosed decking and a hot tub.
We had two en suite bedrooms – a double and a twin that could be configured as a double.
Champagne and hail in the hot tub
It was a miserable night, but Mr G and I planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a bottle of fizz in the hot tub, come hell or high water.
In we climbed and clinked (plastic) glasses. We had each other, champagne and a hot tub with a view – could it get any more blissful?
Apparently not. Thirty seconds later we were pelted by hail – ouch. Hearing our shrieks and hoots of laughter, the students appeared to find out what the noise was about. They watched delighted, as ice rained down on us.
Once the hail stopped, they joined us and we spent a relaxing evening chatting in the tub.
Day two – how to spend a rainy day in Argyll
The forecast for our first full day in Argyll suggested we’d have no respite from Dennis the Menace.
Luckily, we had indoor activities planned, so our day wouldn’t be a washout.
A visit to Inveraray Jail
Our first stop was Inveraray Jail.
The 19th century jail gives visitors a fascinating insight into the lives of the men, women and children who were once inmates.
From harsh punishments, to heartbreaking tales of destitution and mental illness, all aspects of crime and punishment in 19th century Scotland are brought vividly to life.
We met a stern-faced guard patrolling the Old Prison block – he was lovely really.
He told us how the Penal Reform Bill in 1838 had led to Scotland’s prison inmates living in better conditions than many on the outside. At a time when poverty was rife, prisoners were guaranteed meals, heating and hot and cold running water.
Many reoffended as soon as they were released.
A tasting at Fyne Ales
Our next stop was Fyne Ales for a tasting.
The award-winning micro brewery is located on a working farm. It’s a great example of the Scottish farming community diversifying to survive. Milk has made way for ale, brewed using rainwater – genius.
The Fyne Ales tap room is a real surprise. It’s smart, modern and looks more like a city bar than a converted barn on a farm.
As designated driver Mr G was skipping the tasting. He consoled himself with the fact he’d sacrificed beer to drive around in a top of the range SUV.
We congregated at the bar and watched as our samples were poured. There were pale ales, red ales, dark ales, bitters and lagers. I’m not a fan of any of those things, but I love the whole process of a tasting.
I picked up the first glass and took a sip. I liked it. Passing the glass to the twenty-something, I watched as she took a swig (another thumbs up). Z tried it last and ‘Calypso’, a single-hop session pale ale scored a full-house of appreciation from our tasting panel.
We sampled nine ales in total – Calypso, Vital Spark, Jarl, Maverick, Perfect Silence, Easy Trail, Fyne Lager and Workbench. I can honestly say there weren’t any we didn’t like.
After our tasting, we sat down with Stewart, the Brewery Tap Supervisor to learn more about the brand and their brewing process. He was an absolute hoot and really passionate about the business.
And rightly so. Fyne Ales make mighty fine ales.
We left Fyne Ales, three of us with a boozy glow and Mr G and the boy with a carry out each. The boy’s contained doggy beer and treats, Mr G’s just beer.
Driving into a dry spell
After a fab lunch at The George, Inveraray, we drove towards Kilmartin Glen. There was standing water on the road, but it was passable. I was glad we were travelling in a SUV, instead of our trusty wee A1.
The students, worn out from exploring, eating and supping ale had flaked out in the back – aww, wee souls.
As luck would have it, we arrived in Kilmartin Glen during a lull in the storm.
We seized the opportunity to hike up Dunadd (my favourite historic site in Scotland).
An Iron age fort once stood on the rocky summit of the hill. It’s also where the Gaelic speaking kings of Dal Riata were inaugurated, by placing their foot into a carved footprint.
It’s a perfect fit for a UK size 4 Berghaus boot.
And since we were in the area, I took the opportunity to visit Kilmartin churchyard to say hello to some of my favourite medieval knights.
Later, back at Drimsynie Estate we spent another relaxing night chilling in the lodge and gazing at the stars from our hot tub.
Day three – exploring Argyll’s Secret Coast, shhh
Day three in Argyll and the students, decided to hang out in the lodge for a pressing engagement with ‘Dungeons & Dragons’.
Mr G, the boy and I headed off to explore Argyll’s Secret Coast.
Despite more stormy weather being forecast, it was a beautiful day with ethereal light.
Thanks to the Lexus having Apple CarPlay, we were able to listen to my Scottish road trip playlist. The sound system was awesome and fortunately able to drown us out as we sang along in thick Scottish accents.
“Lochaber no more, Sutherland no more, Lewis no more, Skye no more”.
Old Castle Lachlan & Kilmorie Chapel
The last time we visited Old Castle Lachlan it was a miserable July morning. I love castles (as you know), but the stronghold of the Clan MacLachlan chiefs (and a cheeky resident brownie called Harry) did little to excite me.
This visit couldn’t have been more different. From the icy blue waves of Loch Fyne, to the golden glow dappling the Argyll hills and the 600 year old ivy-clad ruin – it was dramatic and atmospheric.
After visiting the castle we followed a path which led us to the ruins of Kilmorie Chapel. Clan MacLachlan have been laying their chiefs to rest in Kilmorie Chapel and cemetery for 600 years. Only one, Lachlan MacLachlan is buried elsewhere. He lies on the battlefield at Culloden, where he fell in 1746, fighting for the Jacobite cause.
Leaving the chapel we continued on our way. We didn’t get far, before pulling over to admire Old Castle Lachlan from another angle.
Driving along the pretty coastal route, it was hard to believe a storm was raging throughout the UK.
My love of medieval stones led us to our next stop. The hamlet of Kilfinan is home to an amazing collection of carved stones, including a couple of Lamont Chief graveslabs.
It doesn’t matter how many stones I see on my travels, I’m always left awestruck by them.
The Celtic cross in the photo of the boy below dates to the 9th century. And the stone just visible on the right to the 6th century. How incredible is that?
Lunch – The Marine Restaurant, Portavadie
After a morning spent exploring, we were ready for lunch.
Sitting by the window of the Marina Restaurant, Portavadie as the sun streamed in, it felt like summer.
Having missed elevenses, coffee was our first priority, then food.
Coffee was served with a smile – quite literally.
It was Sunday, so I decided to have a traditional roast dinner. Mr G chose mushroom soup and fishcakes – all were delicious.
We finished with a bowl of ice cream and honeycomb. It was tasty, but floored us completely.
Tighnabruaich – a giant’s chair with a view
The rain was holding off, so we decided to squeeze in a short, scenic hike.
The Big Chair, or Giant’s Chair at Tighnabruaich is a little-known gem.
Parking the car on the outskirts of the village we climbed some steps into thick foliage, then carried on up a steep little hill.
Mini Everest conquered, we claimed our reward. A seat on a huge wooden chair with an incredible view across the Kyles of Bute.
We left the hill, euphoric.
I’d worked up a sweat and resembled a beetroot, so switched my air conditioned seat on when we got back to the car. Until this trip I didn’t even know that was a thing. Now I covet it, like Gollum does the ring.
Once I’d cooled down, the boy and I hopped into the back of the car to check it out for comfort. Mr G is always telling me he’s Scotland with the Wee White Dug’s chauffeur, so it was time for him to earn his stripes.
Back at Drimsynie Estate Holiday Village
By the time we arrived back at Drimsynie Estate the run of good weather was over.
No matter, we had Rover Passes and a dinner reservation.
Relaxing with a swim, sauna, steam room
While Storm Dennis raged outside, we slipped into a nice heated pool for a swim.
After our swim we cooried in the steam room. Mood lighting, atomic oils and being enveloped in steam as we enjoyed a good blether – ahhh, the good life.
Next, we hung out in the sauna for a blast of dry heat.
Storm Dennis could sleet, hail, rain and blow a hoolie for all we cared – we were as warm as toast indoors.
Dinner – The View Restaurant
Hair dried and make-up reapplied (me, not Mr G), we headed to The View Restaurant for dinner.
The restaurant interior was warm and inviting, with some fun decorative touches.
We ordered drinks to toast an amazing day, then studied the menu.
We started with a piping hot bowl of ham and lentil soup. It was the perfect winter warmer.
For his main course Mr G had sea bass. He loves fish and grades each dish like a restaurant critic. The View Restaurant passed his assessment with flying colours.
I ordered rigatoni arrabbiata with chicken. Arrabbiata is often served too mild for my taste, but not at The View. Their arrabiata kicked like a mule – I loved it. The pasta was perfectly al dente too.
We stuck to two courses, although we did have a major battle of willpower with the dessert menu.
After dinner we toddled back to our lodge to spend a final relaxing night at Drimsynie Estate.
Another fabulous stay at Drimsynie Estate
Even with the luxury of a three night stay, our time at Drimsynie Estate Holiday Village flew by. All four of us, plus the hairy-faced rascal, thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Scotland is fabulous all year round, even when it hails in your hot tub.
Our accommodation, Fyne Ales tasting and meals at The Goil Inn and The View were provided on a complimentary basis, however all opinions are my own.
Until next time ….