Pretty in Peat
The Machrie Hotel sits on grass-covered peat fields, a low-slung array of modern buildings that sprawl across the landscape like an apparition. Just completed last year, the newest addition to the Campbell Gray luxury hotel chain is on the Isle of Islay, home to some of the best scotches in the world.
A farm-to-table vibe infuses the hotel with a relaxed country feeling. Touches of the rustic abound, from an abundance of plants in bark-covered pots to a courtyard filled with wicker seating and tomato vines. A selection of Wellies waits at the door—pretty much standard at better Scottish hotels—and warm colors in the lobby lounge with its welcoming fireplace combat the cold and wet. But make no mistake—the Machrie is quietly sophisticated, with 47 simple but luxurious guest rooms, a vast living room filled with down sofas from which to view the links and a bar in the dining room that makes you want to linger even when your table is ready.
But don’t. The food is exquisite and sourced primarily from the island. A glazed, smoked haddock omelette or an Isle of Mull souffle with mustard sauce might join a pea, mint and goat cheese risotto. The Aberdeen Angus steaks are served with a creamy garlic sauce and the hand-cut fries are not to be missed. Neither is the warm chocolate pot de crème with hazelnut cream.
Save the gym for the next day, with its small, adjoining spa. Better yet, take a drive down the road—the one road there is—to the Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Bowmore and Bunnahabhain distilleries. They give tours and tastings (Laphroaig, now owned by the Japanese company Suntori, has a good one) and you can walk between several of them. Or you can pop over to the nearby Bowmore Hotel, which boasts more than 2,000 bottles of local scotch—every year, every special batch. For example, you could try a dram of Bowmore Feis Ile 2006, 1st Fill Bourbon, 1 of 600, at $46 a shot. It gets extremely esoteric.
If you’ve had enough of drinking and driving through the zen-like scenery, you can stop by tiny Port Ellen, one of two towns on the island. It’s where the ferry docks and a word of caution—make sure you have reservations. There are only two a day with limited room for cars, and it’s easy to get stranded on either side. The macaroni and cheese on board is an unexpected delight, but so is just about everything connected with the island known as the Queen of the Hebrides.
The Machrie Hotel and Links rates begin at $188 in the winter, $305 in the summer. www.campbellgrayhotels.com/machrie-islay-scotland/