Not only did I find myself in the extremely fortunate position of visiting Eriska, secreted away on its own private island off Scotland’s stunning West Coast; but on the day following hugely acclaimed success in achieving “Best Hotel Restaurant 2011” at the prestigious Scottish Restaurant Awards ceremony in Glasgow – I was truly privileged.
Relatively rarely are 5 star expectations met with ease ; almost never are those expectations exceeded, Eriska, however, luxuriates in subtly exploiting each and every attribute of the hotel and calls forth exemplary service; staff display an unobtrusive demeanor, yet friendly attentiveness; arduous traits to clinch.
In spite of their well earned stars, Eriska offers a surprisingly homely ambience, apparent from the first viewing through the mature tree- lined driveway, to arriving to the smell of wood burning fires in the cosy interior to the wild badgers who wait for dusk to fall to partake of their supper around the place, they also call home. Reception is a surprisingly small corner of the welcoming entrance hall at Eriska, which is thoughtfully decked with wellingtons of every size imaginable, should the unpredictable Scottish weather catch any guests ill-prepared.
There is an inherent sense of belonging at Eriska, from the house staff to tradesmen working on maintenance projects, to the family who made Eriska their home; all united in one task – the love of Eriska.
As with any old property, Eriska carries its history within its walls; in the architecture of the building. Of course the rooms are large with traditionally high ceilings and wonderfully interesting architraves and panelling, complemented by classic furnishings blending the old and the new, delivering relaxed comfort within a house with many stories from many eras.
Bedrooms are named, rather appropriately for a beautiful haven surrounded by water, after Scottish islands, the history and geographical location of which, detailed within each room. Additional reading material was expansive; factual, fiction, informative – a very welcome addition for whiling away an hour or two in front of the wonderful open fires.
A walk around (partially) the Estate allowed me to find my bearings and pinpoint my location on the wonderfully rugged west coast; looking out from the hotel’s jetty, I was able to identify familiar landmarks, whilst recalling why this is one of my favourite spots in the world, where, time allowing, I would choose to be far more often than life currently dictates.
Eriska delights in offering a host of accessible water based activities which some of the land-locked competitors may not afford, along with the more traditional country sports and abundant, beautiful countryside walks and nature trails. Croquet, throughout Eriska’s history, has also proved a popular pastime and seems somewhat fitting with a stay on the island.
The 9 hole golf course, although undergoing work during my stay, will boast some of the most beautiful views of land and sea, the ideal proposition for a relaxed round or two before dinner. Complimenting the golf rather well is the Stables Spa with a fully equipped gym, indoor pool and informal dining taking full advantage of the stunning location via a well appointed balcony. A full range of spa packages are available and the welcome I received at the spa, a short walk from the hotel, was warm and extremely informative.
Returning to the hotel, another pleasant revelation was the heart-warming tradition of afternoon-tea served in the lounge, where I also discovered that leaving my earthen soled walking boots outside my room, would result in the thoughtful return of said boots, virtually unrecognisable, having been cleaned and prepared for further use – a wonderful touch.
Wishing to spend at least some time in the comfort of my own room, I returned to Shuna to relax and prepare for dinner. Eriska manages to capture a perfect balance of traditional features and modern touches; my bathroom was immaculately well prepared and endowed with luxurious toiletries; details of Molton Brown and Jasper Conran and of course the all-important white fluffy robe, which, had I managed to pull myself away from the magnificent view my room windows afforded, I would have had time to revel in.
Fresh from success of the previous night, the kitchen and restaurant staff excelled in producing a diverse selection of courses, using, wherever possible, locally sourced, seasonal products, served within ambient surroundings by professional and gracious waiting staff. The dining experience was, as expected, a revelation in culinary proficiency.
Possibly, no editorial piece can really provide Eriska with the sincerity it rightly deserves; speaking with absolute candor, the area is beautiful, the island is unique and Eriska is a dream, earning its place in history; it is so much more than a hotel; it truly is “The story of an Island”