Take the high road...

THE west coast of Scotland often reveals its finest face once most of the summer tourists have long departed.

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The Loch Melfort Hotel, just 19 miles from Oban, sits at the head of its own bay and offers some of the finest views in Scotland
The Loch Melfort Hotel, just 19 miles from Oban, sits at the head of its own bay and offers some of the finest views in Scotland

This is nowhere more true than at the award-winning Loch Melfort Hotel, 19 miles south of Oban, where an out of season break provides the perfect opportunity to relax and recharge your batteries.

Built in 1898 as a private house, this pet-friendly hotel is as sophisticated as it is laid back, and offers some of the finest sea and island views in Scotland.

On our one-night visit we stayed in a balcony room, in the main house. And even though it came equipped with a flat screen TV, it was that view which kept on drawing us back to the window; an ever-changing vista of sea and sky, all framed with warm autumn colours.

Owned by Calum and Rachel Ross, Scotland's Hoteliers of the Year 2013, their front of house staff can offer a wealth of advice on good local walking routes and nearby attractions. The historic Kilmartin Glen, with its famous collection of standing stones, is just a short ramble away, as is the Craobh Haven marina. But the real attraction is the serenity and solitude of the hotel itself.

Set within 17 acres of its own garden grounds, the hotel neighbours the National Trust for Scotland's famous Arduaine Garden, a haven for rare plant and tree specimens. We found a walk around the gardens an ideal way to work up an appetite for dinner. And what a meal it was. We chose to eat in the hotel's two AA Rosette-starred Asknish Bay Restaurant. Less formal but equally fine food is available in the cosy Chartroom Bistro.

Making the most of its surf and turf location, the hotel's chefs source the freshest local seafood, meat and game to offer up a truly mouth-watering menu. The local Clachan Seil oysters and freshly landed langoustine make diners selfish with their shellfish.

We made short work of the cracking crustaceans before tucking into a fabulous plate of lamb, from the local Airds Farm, and a fat and unctuous serving of monkfish.

And if you time dinner right, all the while you are eating, you can watch the sun set over what must be one of the most stunning restaurant views in Scotland

A nightcap back in the lounge, where a once roaring log fire had died back to a cosy glow, sent us to our beds feeling like well-fed clan chiefs.

The next morning, with the coming of the dawn, the view from our balcony was even more eye-popping, with the sun's rosy glow sending orange fingers of light over the offshore islands. If you want to see things in more detail, the hotel owners thoughtfully stock each bedroom with its own set on binoculars.

Breakfast, back in the Asknish Restaurant, provided a formidable 'full Scottish', although kippers, cereal and other, lighter, more healthy options were also available.

While just one night couldn't reveal the full magic of this place, it was certainly enough to make sure we will soon take the high road back to Loch Melfort.

Food and drink

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