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Autumn Reflections in Loch Awe
Loch Awe is one of the secret treasures of Scotland. And October is one of the best months to visit for brilliant autumn color.
The loch is tucked between the deceptively gentle mountains of Argyll, in a a quiet and relatively underpopulated area of the Western Highlands. Ardanaiseig Hotel, a luxurious and romantic country house hotel, makes the most of this beautiful, loch-side setting.
If you can, go in autumn when the hills are covered with shades of russet and gold, And travel slowly by car or - if you're hardy - by cycle to enjoy the unfolding heather and bracken covered hills, the stands of evergreen and the ever changing moods of the loch itself.
Enjoying the landscape en route sets the scene for the warm and quirky, yet luxurious, personality of this hidden gem of a hotel.Continue to 2 of 10 below.
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Kilchurn Castle on a Mirror Loch
On a still, October afternoon, Loch Awe was a giant reflecting mirror. As we emerged from the steep sided River Orchy valley on the A85, the brilliant gold bars of a spectacular sunset seemed to appear. But it was only 2 pm and we were looking toward the east. The vision was just an equally spectacular mirage.
It was only when Loch Awe came into view between the trees that we realized the loch itself was so mirror calm it was perfectly reflecting the sunlight from above, throwing a buttery yellow haze into the air.
We stopped in the village of Loch Awe, near the train station, to get a better look. Across the loch, the crumbling ruin of Kilchurn Castle was ghostly in the golden light. Built by the Campbell's of Glenorchy in 1440 and extended by Black Duncan of the Seven Castles in the 16th and 17th centuries, it is a major landmark on Loch Awe. Guests of Ardanaiseig Hotel can visit in good weather in the hotel's 19th century steam launch, the Gertrude Mathilda.
The Hollow Mountain
But why such an undisturbed mirror-like lake? Locals told me the effect happens at least twice a day, regardless of the weather, though the reflection of the sun was just a happy coincidence. The reason Loch Awe swings between a glassy calm and a stormy looking roughness is Ben Cruachan, The Hollow Mountain.
Deep within the mountain which rises beside the loch is a hydroelectric plant. When demand is low and the cost of electricity cheap, water is pumped from Loch Awe to another loch on the top of the mountain. That's when the surface of the loch is still and mirror-like.
Later, water is released from the mountain top loch to flow down through the power plant back to Loch Awe, generating electricity and churning up the surface of the loch on its way.
If you stay at Ardanaiseig Hotel, plan a visit Cruachan to take a guided tour deep into the heart of the mountain.Continue to 3 of 10 below.
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Ardanaiseig is a Grade II listed house, built in the early 19th century in the then popular Scottish baronial style. The architect, William Burn, was one of four who was called upon to complete Robert Adam's plans for Edinburgh New Town when that architect died in 1793.
Later Burn became one of the leading Scottish architects of his day and was responsible for many substantial country homes and estates around Scotland.
Although the house has passed through several families since it was built for the Campbell clan, its exterior is relatively unchanged since it was built. Today the 16-room hotel is owned by Benny Gray, owner of London's Grays Antiques Market. In addition to the main house, there are two outbuildings - a fabulous Boat House and Rose Cottage.Continue to 4 of 10 below.
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Antique Bechstein Piano in the Long Drawing Room
The public spaces in the main house at Ardanaiseig are glamorous yet relaxed and comfortable. Guests can play the exquisite antique Bechstein piano in Ardanaiseig's drawing room. The owner, Benny Gray, liked the piano so much, he bought another just like it for his London home.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Windows Frame the Mountain Views in the Long Drawing Room
The original architects of Ardanaiseig House positioned the house well to take advantage of the splendid views of mountains and loch. Every room in this hotel seems to overlook lovely and constantly changing views. During the day, the splendor of the golden Long Drawing Room takes second place to the views.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
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Wallace Investigates at Dog-Friendly Ardanaiseig Hotel
Ardanaiseig Hotel grows its own fruit, vegetables and herbs in a hidden walled garden that venturesome guests can find.
On the way there, Wallace the Westie checked out some of the local wildlife - alive and otherwise. The hotel is completely dog-friendly and Wallace also enjoyed lounging in pockets of sunlight on the carpets of the Long Drawing Room and swimming in the loch.Continue to 7 of 10 below.
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The Boat House
The restored Victorian Boat House may be one reason why Ardanaiseig has been named most romantic hotel and best for weddings, several times over.
This self-contained accommodation, a few hundred yards from the main hotel, features an open plan living, dining, sitting room with a galley kitchen, a glass wall overlooking Loch Awe and a cathedral ceiling. The spacious, galleried sitting room is filled with shimmering reflections off the loch.
Furnishings are 60 and 70s modern in feel - very different from the main house - with Murano glass ornaments, lucite tables and chairs.
Full-size Molton Brown toiletries, fluffy towels and robes add to the feeling of modern luxe.Continue to 8 of 10 below.
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The Wake-up View from the Boat House Gallery Bedroom
Leave the curtains of the sleeping gallery open wide to wake up to a glorious view of Loch Awe and the distant mountains.The room, painted a deep blue and decorated with white satin bedding, is Marilyn Monroe glamorous. Wear your slinkiest, naughtiest satin nighty. Then linger a while to enjoy the view on the next page.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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A View of Ben Lui From the Boat House
Ben Lui, one of Scotland's "Munros" - mountains of more than 3,000 feet - is among the views you can enjoy from the Boat House at Ardanaiseig Hotel and the beach beside it. From the Boat House you will rarely see another soul and it feels like the mountains of Argyll and Bute are your private playground.Continue to 10 of 10 below.
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How to Get There
Take the A85 from Tyndrum, driving east toward the coast, around Loch Awe. Then turn left onto the B845. The road is signposted for Kilchrenan and Ardanaiseig Hotel. The distance to the hotel from the intersection of the A82 and the A85 in Tyndrum is about. 36 miles.
Using SatNav can be a bit of a problem in Scotland because you can occasionally find that you are being directed over mountains on logging roads. But for general guidance, aim for Kilchrenan, Taynuilt PA35 1HE.
The nearest train station is in the village of Loch Awe, about 18 miles from the hotel. Taxis are available but you'd be wise to ask the hotel to arrange one to meet your train. Check National Rail Enquiries for schedules and fares.
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