When we realized it was going to be possible to head back to Europe again this year, first on our list was a tiny little fishing village in the west of Scotland, named Tarbert. Unassuming, yet dripping with charm, we spent a few short days there last fall. Perched upon the rocky coast of Loch Fyne sits Stonefield Castle. Throughout our many travels there are a few special places (I could count them on one hand) that have just nailed the art of true hospitality. Places that you instantly feel welcomed and at home...a part of the family. Yet at the same time, an honored guest for whom the staff will go out of their way to spoil you like royalty.
Stonefield Castle is just such a place.
We requested, and were granted our same room (#23) which has the best view in the castle over the loch and gardens, and our preferred queen sized bed. If you're the type that needs the real estate that a king affords, #24 right next door will oblige. The rooms have been recently renovated, but still maintain rich Highland charm with their plaid woolen chairs and bed scarves. The bathrooms are modern and well appointed, though as with much of Europe, you will not find washcloths as standard fare, so if you need one in order to feel actually clean (raising hand), bring a few along. #freetip
We spent the day today enjoying a leisurely breakfast in the dining room which overlooks the loch through a full wall of windows. A hybrid cook-to-order and buffet, it will fill you up for the first two-thirds of the day, easy. We recommend the Full Scottish, Haddock, and Kippers (with poached egg added). The fish are caught daily from the loch, and the eggs come from a farmer down the road. Can't beat the freshness! Our room rate had breakfast included in the tarrif.
After our repast, we went for a wee walk down to the shore, explored a positively enchanted forest complete with babbling brook, and then veered off to cross the causeway and hike around a nearby uninhabited island. Springtime has really been a lovely time to visit - the grounds are positively overflowing with blooms! Rhododendrons are the shrub du jour and not just any old rhododendrons, but 30 foot high specimens! Cedars, wood hyacinths, shamrocks, daffodils, candy tuft, daisies, moss, late blooming heather, and all manner of rock flowers pepper the path. A highlight of our walk was crawling out on a craggy rock just overlooking the loch and enjoying the afternoon tea we brought along (when in Rome...).
Back at the hotel, we spent some time reading, blogging, bird-watching, boat-watching, and chatting with other guests. The atmosphere among patrons and staff alike, is delightfully family-ish. It's so easy to strike up a conversation! Adding to the homey feel is the fact that it is a dog friendly hotel, complete with resident chocolate lab that greets you happily at the front door.
For dinner we opted for the bar menu, which carries some of the same five-star dishes as the dining room, but for a fraction of the price. Service has always been exemplary at Stonefield...with Sean being a special favorite standout who truly gives the whole establishment's staff a fantastic face.
After a leisurely meal enjoyed overlooking the loch, we retired to our room and declared it a nearly perfect pleasure of a day here on the shores of Loch Fyne!
Can't wait to do it again tomorrow.