The Taynuilt Hotel stands beside the A85 in the heart of the scattered village of Taynuilt, which itself lies near the southern shore of Loch Etive some 12 miles inland from Oban. It's a hotel we had driven past many, many times and we were therefore very keen to take up the invitation to go and see what it had to offer. All the more so as it has fairly recently been taken over by a new team comprising chef-patron John McNulty and general manager David Lapsley, with the result that the hotel has been given the care, enthusiasm and investment it had always seemed to be crying out for.
What we found was a revelation. A superb historic coaching inn is at last living up to its potential and now offers comfortable and stylish accommodation, amazing food, and friendly and very effective service. You can read our dining review for the Taynuilt Hotel here.
The origins of the inn date back to the 1700s, and Dorothy Wordsworth was enthusiastic about the welcome she received here when she visited with her brother William, the poet, during their tour of Scotland in 1803. Some of the comments she made over two centuries ago have a remarkable resonance today: "...it rejoiced me to see kind looks on the landlady's face, and that she was willing to put herself in a bustle for our comfort." Some aspects of hospitality are timeless and the Taynuilt Hotel has been a feature in the lives of many generations of travellers across Argyll. It is good to see it fulfilling that role so ably once again.
There is ample parking to the rear of the building. You enter the hotel through the main door under the impressive columned porch, beyond which is the reception area. Off to one side is a room which doubles as the breakfast room in the mornings and the guest lounge throughout the day. There are few more relaxing ways of whiling away an hour or two in an afternoon than occupying one of the large leather sofas at the front of the room, and watching the world go by while enjoying your choice from the hotel's excellent selection of wines and beers. Moving the other way, west, from the reception, brings you to the hotel's dining room, which is divided by a change in level from the extremely attractive and superbly stocked lounge bar. Beyond the lounge bar is the hotel's public bar, which offers a nice contrast in look and feel.
The hotel has 10 letting rooms. They are divided across the first and second floors of the hotel, and the majority look out to the front. We found the main road past the front of the Taynuilt Hotel to be much quieter than we had expected, and it certainly didn't intrude in the guests' lounge or dining room. A rolling program of renovation is under way across the rooms, and the result is comfortable accommodation furnished in an antique style that is very much in keeping with the character of the hotel. Guest rooms are doubles or twins, and one has a four-poster bed. All are named after Scottish Lochs, and include Loch Ness, Loch Creran, Loch Awe and Loch Fyne. There are photographs of all the bedrooms on the hotel's website, see the link on the right. An inevitable consequence of an old building is that the rooms tend to be very individual in character, and we suspect that this will in time lead to guests evolving favorites.
The guest lounge/breakfast room can be transformed for use as a function room, which can seat up to 60 and has a dance floor. At the other end of the building, the public bar offers live music throughout the year. The constraints of the building have meant that disabled access is problematic.
The Taynuilt Hotel is one of those all-too-rare places where it is easy just to put your feet up and relax. Informal in style and laid-back in approach, the choice of different areas means it is easy to find somewhere to suit your mood. We've already mentioned the quality of the service, but everything from the greeting on arrival to the food service and the high standards of the housekeeping appeared to us to be outstanding. At the end of the day, the real measure of a hotel is this: would we recommend it to friends, and would we return ourselves? The answer to both parts of that question is an unqualified "yes". You can read our dining review for the Taynuilt Hotel here.