When we embark on a journey, most often we are eager to get to our destination. The voyage itself seems like too much of a hassle and a chore. But a trip to Portavadie is something else.
The 20-minute ferry ride from Gourock, and a drive through the Scottish Highlands to Argyll in Loch Fyne, left my jaw hanging for the most part. That was the power of nature’s beauty along this part of the west coast of Scotland.
Set in a man-made lagoon, Portavadie is one of the UK’s most modern marinas. As a result, it has long been a destination for outdoor lovers with its expanse of activities where you can engage in quad biking, sailing, high-speed rib-tours, fishing, walking, kayaking, golfing, horse-riding, cycling among many more activities. But now they’ve invested in a brand new spa and leisure facility as part of a wider £10 million development where you can pamper yourself after a strenuous active day or just purely indulge. Weather can change in an instant – the kind that blows your brolly inside out, so the spa has become the perfect escape from the razor-sharp winds.
As a result, my guest Nita and I were able to make full use of the new facilities. They include a 16-meter indoor pool, outdoor spa pools, Scandinavian sauna, a fully-equipped gym and the largest infinity pool in Scotland. The second-floor houses a hydro pool, steam room, a relaxation space all with floor-to-ceiling views across Loch Fyne to the Isle of Arran (on a clear day).
It certainly beat being cooped up in a luxury spa looking at four walls. The only time I didn’t mind being surrounded by the said walls was during my massage. I opted for the signature ishga hot poultice massage. The rebalancing massage uses sea salt and seaweed granule filled poultices to release tension and nourish the skin. I felt that I was in heaven.
There are two restaurants on site offering some of the freshest caught seafood from Loch Fyne and home grown meat like venison alongside seasonal produce.
The Marina Restaurant and Bar is more formal where you can get lost in both the huge portions of food as well as the waterfront views. The Olive oil poached Loch Duart salmon, broccoli, Romansco champ mash and a chive butter sauce was to die for while Nita insisted the fish and chips here were the best she had ever tasted.
For a more hearty home-cooked food experience, we headed to The Lodge. Here we were faced with burgers, steaks, and homemade food. And with an open fire it really did feel like a homely experience. Again despite the huge portions, I couldn’t resist the sticky toffee pudding on offer, and even though I ordered one to ‘share’, I didn’t do much sharing at all. It really was that good.
Although guests can come along for the day for food or the spa experience, I believe it’s a real treat to stay overnight for at least a few days at this five-star destination. The accommodation suits couples, families or even a group of friends. We stayed at one of the luxury apartments with ample light which came with two separate en-suite bedrooms, a sauna (very Scandinavian!), a living room and dining area and a kitchen. Other options include studio apartments, cottages and a really cute couples’ retreat for the romantics.
They are all located around the marina. The gentle clinking of metal on the masts of the boats had a calming effect, sending you to sleep at night. And come morning, it was quite frankly a refreshing view to wake up to.
As hard as it was to pull ourselves away from the spa, I’m glad we ventured out on a bike ride along the hilly roads, not least to get some exercise, but to take in those surroundings as we had on the way in. There are several walks and bike rides to be had in the area, and with so little traffic on the roads, it was a pleasure to just roam around as freely as you wish.
If you’re lucky you may even spot deer, buzzards, otters, and golden eagles. Sadly we didn’t see any, but we did stumble across a great little gem called The Barn in nearby Tighnabruaich. The cosy café in a renovated cattle byre is a great place to have a tea and cake or just to go and browse at the various knick-knacks it houses. And the fabulous wood-burning stove was the icing on the cake after the strenuous but totally worth it bike ride in nature’s playground.
Portavadie – Where and How?
Luxury apartments at Portavadie start from £228 with complimentary access to the leisure facilities and downstairs spa. Day spa rates start from £91 including one treatment, lunch and Prosecco. For more information, visit www.portavadie.com.