Travel

Greener pastures

The renewal of a once dilapidated hotel on the Queen of the Hebrides has married the ambience of a luxury resort with a historic and ruggedly beautiful location

 By Alison Donnell

First impressions

Credit: Phil Inglis

From the moment we arrived on the isle of acclaimed whiskies and sweeping landscapes, the wonderful service we received throughout our stay began. A new opening last year conceived by Scots-born hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray, the Machrie Hotel and Links offers a pick-up service for guests, who won’t miss the hotel’s logo on their white Range Rover or luxury mini-bus. A long private driveway leads up to the hotel between the peat plains, which, along with being a feature of the whiskies distilled in Islay, is a necessary fuel source for the island. The drive presented a taste of what was to come, with the golf links enticingly rising up behind the hotel.

The great indoors

Stepping into the internal reception there is a quirky stone sheep with yellow wellies, a nod to the art collection throughout the hotel. Inside, the Courtyard Lounge has original artwork adorning the walls. It is reminiscent of a Grand Hall, with views right out to the golf links. The sweeping staircase leading up to the Stag Lounge – which gets its name from the stag’s head sculpture above the incredible open fireplace – has a vista which stretches beyond the links to the ocean. The lounge frames the amazing sunsets the coastline is famous for.

Golfers’ paradise

Credit: Phil Inglis

Golf has been played at The Machrie since 1891. Designed by Willie Campbell (incidentally, Willie’s wife Georgina Campbell was documented as the first ladies golf professional in the USA) and more recently updated by former European Ryder Cup Vice Captain DJ Russell, the course combines the best of a traditional, historic links with modernity. With a dramatic setting across the sand dunes, it offers both enjoyment and a challenge for golfers, and along with the stunning 18-hole links, there is also the ‘Wee Course’ which offers six par-3 holes which can be played from a multitude of tees, a 5-bay covered driving range as well as the spectacular Hebrides putting course. The resident pro, David Foley, is extremely personable and knowledgeable.

Eat, sleep, relax

The hotel’s impressive ‘18’ restaurant has an outdoor terrace overlooking the 18th green and Laggan Bay. The menu draws on the best of local produce, with lunchtime and dinner menus which cater for you if you’re gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian, and of course, include the amazing fish and meat that Scotland is famous for

The 47 bedrooms within the hotel are contemporary and comfortable, with hints of Scandi-Scottish décor. The crisp white linen gives a luxurious feel and the underfloor heating in the bathrooms ensures the cosiest experience. All rooms (some with their own outdoor terraces) have unobstructed views of the island’s peat plains, the Mull of Oa or the golf links and the Atlantic Ocean.

PureGray is Islay’s only spa. A sanctuary within the hotel partnered with Aromatherapy Associates, it provides a wide range of mind and body treatments. “The best massage she has ever had” was quoted to me by one of the satisfied guests. If whisky tasting and sightseeing is on the agenda, the hotel is a perfect base for exploring the island, with tailored tours that include visits to any one (or more) of the nine distilleries and Islay’s many famous historical sites.

Winter rates start from £145 per room, per night and summer rates from £235 per room, per night, including breakfast.

There are daily flights with Loganair from Glasgow and Edinburgh airports to Islay as well as local inter-island flights and several daily ferries from the mainland, connecting with other Islands. The Machrie also has its own Islander aircraft which is available for private hire. More info at campbellgrayhotels.com/machrie-islay-scotland

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