The Airds Hotel and Restaurant is, quite simply, one of the best hotels you will ever find anywhere. If you want to discover how close it is possible for a hotel to come to perfection, a stay at Airds is a good way of finding out. High praise? We've stayed twice, three years apart, and found the standards of comfort, accommodation, food and service on offer to be absolutely outstanding and utterly consistent. You can read our dining review for The Airds Hotel here.
The Airds Hotel stands beside the minor road leading into the village of Port Appin. The hotel began life some time in the 1720s or 1730s as an inn serving those travelling to or from Port Appin for the ferry to Lismore. This remains a reason to come to the village, though the terminus for the ferry is today a little further south than it was originally. Only the northern part of the building appears to date back to this era, with the remainder being added in a number of stages during the centuries since. Today the hotel offers a superb base for touring, being within half an hour's drive of either Oban or Glen Coe.
The car park is at the south end of the hotel, with its entrance just past a fascinating road sign banning "locomotives" under the terms of the Roads Act 1920. You enter the hotel itself via the attractive conservatory, complete with its collection of wellingtons for use by guests on days when the weather is not ideal. The small main hallway leads through to the reception, and towards the rear is the snug bar, offering a few seats and a lot of character.
The front of the northern half of the hotel is occupied by the restaurant, a room that makes full use of the magnificent views out over Loch Linnhe and the Island of Shuna towards Kingairloch on the far shore. You'd expect the road between the front of the hotel and its garden to intrude, but it is so quiet you barely notice it.
The southern half of the hotel's ground floor is home to two lounges, which would not look at all out of place in a comfortable Scottish country house. The smaller lounge offers an open fire on cold days, and the room is home to a fine stag's head. Beyond is the larger lounge, which is another great place to enjoy a pre or post dinner drink or afternoon tea. The garden offers outdoor seating with magnificent sea views, plus a croquet and putting area.
The Airds Hotel is classified as a small hotel and offers 8 guest rooms and 3 suites (plus a self catering cottage). Equipment levels and standards of comfort are extremely good and the main difference between the four superior rooms, two small superior rooms and two standard rooms is one of size, and the styling and decor of each is distinct. The master, loch view and junior suites each have their own layout and character, and details can be found on the hotel's own website, as can further information about the range of rooms on offer. The level of soundproofing between guest rooms appears very good and this combines with the tranquility of the setting and the comfort of the beds to ensure a restful night's stay.
Functions can be accommodated and exclusive use is an option, with functions being managed in a way that ensures as little impact on the steady stream of returning guests as possible. Accessibility is restricted by the nature of a building dating back several centuries, but two ground floor guest rooms have proved very welcome by guests with mobility difficulties.
With 4 Red Stars from the AA, the Airds Hotel raises high expectations, which on both our visits we found it significantly surpassed. What really sets it apart is the sense of a small and deeply committed team working together to ensure every guest who stays has the best possible experience. Whether it is the welcome at reception, the service in the bar and restaurant, or the unseen but incredibly effective housekeeping team, every aspect of service is pitched exactly right. You can read our dining review for The Airds Hotel here.