Argyll House has been described as “probably the best party house in Scotland.” The dining hall seats 24 in style and comfort, and the rest of the house lends itself ideally to big groups for family celebrations, anniversaries, corporate bonding sessions, whatever!
Argyll House is as luxurious as a boutique hotel, but at a fraction of the cost and without any of the formality you’ll find in a hotel. There is also the option of being completely self catering if that’s what you want or fully catered if you really want to kick back during your stay. It’s not got the grandeur or intimidating historic atmosphere of a castle or a stately home proper, but as some of our first guests have said, that makes it a very comfortable place to be at home in - even with 30 people.
A river runs thorugh the grounds just 100 yards behind the main house, and shared facilities include the indoor swimming pool and a tennis court (although both of these can be privatised for certain hours in the day).
With the two other renovations now complete, there is space for an even bigger party! The Mill sleeps 20 with a fabulous open plan living area of nearly 1,000 square feet. The old barn sleeps 16 in some style and comfort. All can be hired together for groups of up to 60. All properties are entirely independent of each other so you maintain utmost privacy.
The house has been pretty luxuriously equipped and nicely furnished, mostly with antiques. The new, comfy beds feature fabulous quality goose-down and feather duvets and gorgeous bed-linen, we’ve put some original Scottish art on the walls, bought half decent crystal for the table and generally tried to ensure that it’s as comfortable and well-equipped a place to stay as you’ll find in Scotland, without having any of the formality or grandeur of a castle or stately home. The house has a lovely, relaxing feel.
With a drawing room, TV room/snug, full-size billiard room, playroom, large kitchen with AGA and breakfast room downstairs - as well as the impressive dining hall seating 22 - the house has sufficient accommodation to cater for any large house party. We have laid out the bedrooms to offer real flexibility; two rooms are set up as twins, three as king-size doubles, and one as a quadruple bunk room. The other seven bedrooms can be set up either as super-kingsize doubles, as twins, or even sometimes as triples. All bar two of the bedrooms have either an en suite bathroom or a basin. There are four further bathrooms, two separate loos, and a sauna. Altogether, the house has nine showers and ten WCs.
We also have an indoor heated swimming pool that is shared between the three houses on the estate. Each house gets their own hour of exclusive swimming time in the morning and in the afternoon – outside those six hours, it is a “free for all” in the pool. The same rules apply for the tennis court within the estate.
Set amidst the 20 acres of woodland, and enjoying lovely views across the glen and up the mountain, the gardens are mainly laid to lawn and terrace with hydrangeas, rhodedendron and azalea, as well as reputedly the tallest Grecian fir in Scotland. Our own woods feature numerous tree species and adjoin thousands of acres of forestry commission land through which guests are welcome to wander. One of our terraces features a Grade A listed sundial. A tributary of the river Ruel runs through the gardens, from the Lochen that supplies our private water supply. There is a lovely waterfall walk within the garden, and a rope-assisted climb down to a pool for outdoor bathing. It’s a fabulous location for kids.
We’ve added a trampoline, croquet set and football goal to what nature has provided as a playground, and we’ve installed two midge machines. Other facilities include the 10 person sauna, a table-tennis room, five sets of golf clubs and 10 bikes.
*Please note, locations shown on the maps are approximations only
Although just an hour and a half from Glasgow, the house sits in some of the loveliest scenery in Scotland. The Kyles of Bute are renowned amongst both walkers and sailors as amongst the most stunning bits of coast in Scotland. Whatever the weather in Argyll – and we do enjoy a remarkably mild micro-climate - this is great country for site seeing, with every corner revealing a new variation on the theme of mountain, loch, valley, sky, woodland, sea, rock, beach. The Cowal peninsula is a fabulous base for an active holiday with marvellous wildlife, numerous gardens and other tourist attractions to visit, and all sporting activities catered for.
The house has grounds of 23 acres, and sits about a mile above the head of Loch Riddon, enjoying complete privacy and lovely views down the glen to the river Ruel. The Island of Bute itself is as little as 15 minutes away from the house – accessed via a ferry from Colintraive – and was a “must visit” destination long before Stella McCartney got married there or former racing driver Johnnie Dumfries moved into Mount Stuart House as the new Marquess of Bute.
Inverary with its famous Jail and Castle, seat of Clan Campbell for the last few hundred years, is only 45 minutes away, as is Loch Lomond. Dunoon is another tourist destination in its own right, and just under half an hour away. You can get to Glen Coe in an hour and a half, to Stirling, Oban or Fort William in under two. Loch Ness and Edinburgh are easy enough day trips – reachable in less than 2 and a half hours.
As well as general site-seeing and trips to the Island of Bute, Inverary and further afield, there are a host of other activities you can undertake around Glenaruel. It’s fabulous walking country and we’ve also provided twelve mountain bikes for those who want to explore on two wheels rather than four. There are some really excellent and quite varied routes direct from the house, involving all sorts of terrain and levels of strain!
Golf – there’s a lovely 9 hole pay and play course ten minutes away above Tighnabruaich. We’ve supplied five bags of golf clubs for the house and they probably won’t be too fussed about the usual rules re golf shoes provided you don’t arrive in jeans and carve the course up. The same applies to the almost equally spectacular nine hole course at Blairmore & Strone, half an hour away. Cowal Golf Club at Dunoon and Inellan are the 18 hole courses in the area that welcome visitors.
Fishing - too many options to go into here, but you can spend anything from £9 per day to over £1,000 for river fishing in the area. You can fish for trout in our own stream for nothing or in the Lochen at the head of the river. Mackerel on a line in a boat on the Kyles is a right of passage for hundreds of West of Scotland kids every year. They swim in shoals all around these waters – the mackerel, not the kids - and there’s no permit payable.
It’s a fabulous part of the world for water-sports of all sorts. Horse-riding, climbing, canoeing, caving, archery, quad biking, paint-balling, and clay pigeon shooting are also all available either on site or in the area. It’s not our thing, and the house ain’t full of antlers, but we can help you arrange a day’s grouse or pheasant shooting, or stalking in season, if some of your party want to do that.
There is a wee shop selling all the basics at the camp-site in the Glendaruel valley, about a mile’s walk away, beside the historic Kilmodan standing stones. You get a slightly bigger choice in the Spar at Tighnabruich five miles away, and all year round opening. Dunoon is 16 miles away and is a thriving market / harbour town with award-winning bakeries, cafes and butchers, as well as a big Co-Op and a big Somerfield supermarket.
Scotland isn’t really well served by pubs in general; this area is definitely an exception. The Glendaruel Hotel is a lovely wee pub, a two mile drive away – or about a mile and a quarter as the crow staggers – and serves good pub grub or better. The Colintraive Hotel and Tighnabruich Hotel are each a tad busier and a tad more ambitious in terms of menu. Chatters in Dunoon is highly recommended, and the Whistlefield and Coylet Inns on Loch Eck are also worth a visit. Our favourite restaurant in the entire universe is on Loch Fyne, overlooking the old Castle Lachlan. (The view from the Inver Cottage terrace is one of the Robbie Innes pictures on our drawing room wall.) It’s less than half an hour away from the house. The Benmore Gardens tea room is not half bad, either, and the Otterferry Inn and Loch Fyne Oyster Bar have good reputations (on which, it might be said, they trade slightly) All in all, though, there are few areas of Scotland where you can enjoy such a variety of excellent, reasonably priced menus.
The house is available on a self-catering or fully-catered basis – or something in between. Most of the weekend parties are for big celebrations - and not everyone (even with a four oven Aga and an additional stove at their disposal) wants to take on the task of cooking for 30 of their nearest and dearest. So we are delighted to have been able to recruit Roger and Bea McKie (formerly of An Lochan and now co-proprietors of Taste Scotland) as the contracted caterers. From a wedding breakfast for 150, through a formal four course dinner for 24, to a serve it yourself home-cooked fish pie, from a buffet, to a picnic, to a barbecue, they can offer up a menu to suit at a budget that works for you.
When catering a dinner for you, as a one-off, the taste team will always leave you with some delicious fresh made bread and a vat or two of homemade soup for lunch the next day – along with your left overs. It’s a lovely touch, and effectively means that you’ve got two meals for the price of one! The default setting for the house is still self-catering but if you prefer, then Roger and Bea can work for you as live-in caterers during some or all of your stay. They can be accommodated either in one of the en suite bedrooms, in the wee Garden cottage we are renovating in early 2010, or in a local B&B.
The financial arrangements are between yourselves and the caterers, and they will design a menu or series of menus for you that works to your budget. Ingredients costs obviously vary by season and do make it difficult for us to give you a price now for a meal in a few months time. Depending on the style you want to go for and on your budget - on whether you want silver service on the night, on how much of the caterers' time you need, and on what sort of ingredients you specify, you could be talking as little as £9.95 per head for a two course meal from their fresh-cooked serve it yourself “Home Taste” menu exclusive to our customers – or four or five times that per head if you have a serious langoustine or fois gras habit.
On a live-in basis, you need to budget £175 per day per chef, dropping to £850 for the full week, plus the cost of ingredients. They’ll agree menu plans with you and then cook you breakfast, provide pack/picnic lunch ingredients and feed children and adults separately in the evening for that. If the big house is at full capacity and you don’t want any involvement in the prep or clearing up, then you need two members of staff. If you are talking about a party of under 20 guests, then it may be possible for a single chef to look after your party.
Other Services Scarlett Johansen’s personal trainer is going to deliver a series of fun and challenging fitness and weight-loss centred Luxury Boot camps; participants are guaranteed to lose weight or get their money back.
Unfortunately we couldn't make an equivalent offer in terms of handicap reduction in golf but why not attend the first ever gourmet golf tours hosted by the PGA Tour and coaching professional Alan Tait in April. The Feast of Golf 2012 is another cracking present and with an all-inclusive price gives golfers rounds at the Carrick, Earl of Mar and Machrahanish Dunes. Not only this but you will also get tuition from Alan.
Charles Jamieson MFA is our equally appropriate host-tutor for The Drawing Room, which is a new residential painting and drawing school taking place in March. Charles is a hugely talented and collected painter, as well as an experienced, intuitive and enthusiastic teacher. He has a fund of stories, and is a great host. The Drawing Room welcomes amateur artists of all standards.
The same applies to our new cookery school; the host and tutor of the Feast of Scotland Cookery Courses is Briton’s most successful cookery tutor, as well as being an outstanding chef. His students have won the UK-wide competition for cookery students an unprecedented three years in a row and he has been awarded an MBE as a result. On all these courses, we take a maximum of 16 participants, and the price you pay is an all-inclusive cost including all transfers, all materials, all visits, all food and drink – and all the laughter.
With 20 acres of grounds, fabulous views, and top class accommodation on site for over 60 people, we believe the estate must now be one of the most attractive venues for a wedding in Scotland. We’ve hosted some really lavish wedding parties here, with top of the range marquees, amazingly lit, vintage champagnes flowing and £60 per head breakfasts. But it can also be an incredibly cost-effective way to go about things – both for you and your guests.
You can provide your own alcohol, charge guests less than they would pay for a B&B or hotel, and end up with a fantastic day, in a stunning, private, historic setting without breaking the bank. If that means you can spend more on the honeymoon and they can spend more on the wedding presents, everyone should be happy!
Kilmodan Church is just a couple of miles away, and is a really pretty venue for those wanting a religious ceremony in a traditional setting – but Scottish law allows a minister of religion to conduct the ceremony anywhere he likes, so you have all the flexibility in the world.
Whether you take just one house, or all three, whether you want a marquee – or a giant yurt – in the garden or just to use the house itself,we can manage ceremonies and celebrations for anything from a dozen to 200 guests. We allow wedding parties for up to 66 guests in the house itself; for bigger functions we turf you out into a yurt or marquee.
Our lovely caterers at An Lochan in Tighnabruich offer a free wedding co-ordination service to any wedding party using them for catering, and they can help with any aspects of your wedding including ceremony and reception planning, piper, flowers, beauticians, stylists, masseuses, photographers, wedding cake, menu and table planning, printing, etc. They’ll help you source local favours for guests, sort out a car or horse drawn carriage, find the right musicians for each slot, and provide an organiser cum host cum event manager on the day to make sure everything goes smoothly. You might want additional local accommodation organised, or advice on activities for guests on the morning of the wedding. All that can be arranged for you.
If you aren’t using An lochan for catering, then we will provide up to 5 hours of event management and wedding co-ordination for you ourselves. Valerie is an experienced event organiser and gives you access to the same sort of service and the same sort of contact base that Bea at An Lochan provides when you are booking them as caterers.
We charge a one-off single facility fee of £1,000 for all weddings. (This applies to when you take one house or three, for a week or a weekend, for a service or just a reception). There are no other extras, apart from the cost of the houses for the period you want them.
- Capacity: The house comfortably accommodates up to 24 adults and 7 children or teenagers. - Security deposit: £1000. This is paid prior to arrival and will be refunded in full after departure subject to damage inspection. - Linen & towels: All linen and bath towels are included in the rental price. - Energy costs: Included in the rental price. - End of stay cleaning: Included. Please leave the property in the state that you found it. - Arrival time: 4pm onwards. - Departure time: 10am. - Pets: Please enquire. - Smoking: No smoking in the property. - It is recommended that all guests take out insurance to cover against potential cancellation and any accidental damage caused during your stay at the property.
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If you're planning a big get-together, Stately Escapes could have what you're looking for. Although it has cottages for two among its 150 properties across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, as the name suggests it specialises in the kind of impressive pad you might want to hire for a special occasion. Search is made easier by listing properties by facility: for example with a pool, within walking distance of a decent pub, dog-friendly places to stay and so on.
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