January trip to Portavadie
When driving the winding roads to get to Portavadie, you will be stunned by the breathtaking Scottish scenery that surrounds you. Snow-topped hills like iced buns proudly protect the hidden gems of nature underneath, evergreen trees stand vibrant against a sapphire sky and lochs mirror these views creating a spectacular scene. On the road up from Tighnabruaich, you come to a little parking spot beside a large cliff where a viewpoint lies – and what a viewpoint it is. We were so lucky that after being knee-deep in snow for a fortnight with blizzards and ice-cold sleet showers that on that January day, the Scottish sun was shining and although the air was fresh and nippy, with temperatures of 3 degrees, the drive was beautiful and there was not a cloud for miles. Cold, crisp winter days have always been my favourite.
Once you turn onto the last stretch before the destination, you can see brown fields with twigs, tree stumps and overgrown grass and in the middle is the long, thin and twisting single track road. After driving for a mile or two with a few blind summits, the sign for Portavadie Marina greets you. Turning down the road, it’s like you have entered another little world.
Situated on the beautiful shores of Loch Fyne in Argyll, Portavadie used to be the home of only a few houses, until the little resort complete with cottages, townhouses and a lodge was built in 2010. I was there with my boyfriend, Callum for his birthday and we stayed in one of the Superior Lodge rooms, complete with a little balcony overlooking Loch Fyne, porthole windows, a double bed and a little sitting area with a sofa and table. It was simple yet fantastic, with plenty space for our luggage which of course included copious amounts of food and drink.
It’s a great idea to relax and unwind in the award-winning spa after unpacking. I would recommend that you book, as when I was speaking to my therapist she told me that most days are full and therefore I was glad that I had booked us in for a full body massage each and use of the facilities at the spa. The massage was invigorating and exactly what I needed, with all of my senses enhanced by the luxurious oils used on my body, scents of sweet vanilla and a faint touch of what smelt like mandarin underneath. I felt relaxed on the bed as I felt the knots in my back and shoulders being loosened and the calming music really intensified the experience.
After the massage, we got our fluffy white robes on and headed outside to the shores of the loch to experience one of Portavadie’s greatest attractions, the sudden winter chill hitting the parts of bare skin that were visible underneath the robe, our shins, hands and faces feeling the nip in the air. Quickly pulling off our robes down to our swimwear, we ran to the edge of the glorious turquoise infinity pool. Where the Loch is probably in sub-zero temperatures causing hypothermia, the infinity pool is heated to 33 degrees and is a key feature of the spa and leisure facilities. We walked down the stairs, our bodies becoming warmer as the heat engulfed us and slowly floated over to the edge of Loch Fyne. Looking out over to jagged rocks, beautiful mountains, the still loch and the Tarbert ferry travelling from the terminal at Portavadie over to the other side, it was a magnificent view, making me truly grateful to live in such a stunning country. When your shoulders pop out of the pool, the sharp air bites them and sends a child down your spine, but when you dip them back into the thermal pool the warmth hugs them and your body is relaxed, the steam hitting the contrasting cold air clearing the cobwebs from our heads. Beside the pool is a jacuzzi, perfect for lying in the bubbles after a treatment in the spa taking in the views of the loch and the areas surrounding.
Stepping out of the water is freezing cold, but when walking back into the main building the heat from the pools inside is comforting. We stepped straight into the sauna and steam rooms and lay back on the most comfortable reclined chairs overlooking Loch Fyne in all it’s glory from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. A hydro-pool sits in the corner with relaxing pink and purple lights and showers. The whole spa experience is really relaxing, and although there is a gym with treadmills at the windows looking out onto the view, we never used it as we were just there purely to relax and consume calories, as opposed to burning them!
The Sea Kelp shampoo and conditioner in the lodge room smelled unbelievable and was exactly what my hair needed after a day with oils through it, chlorine surrounding it and a bobble holding it. After getting ready for dinner we headed down to the Marina Restaurant. We never ate in the Lodge Bar and Kitchen, but I have heard amazing reviews of the pizza! The only thing I would say, is that on the way down to the restaurant there are no lights on the road and it’s pretty hard to see whether you’re walking or driving, I think more could be made of Portavadie by adding little lights to give it a more holiday feel while walking down to the Marina.
The Marina restaurant overlooks the man-made lagoon and modern marina, but the only downside again was that at night it was not lit up, and therefore we couldn’t see any of the boats or the jetties or any of the marina at all. It is a very dark place at night in the area. The restaurant is a basic set up, with a small bar and a place to hang coats next to two glass cabinets with artwork, jewellery and accessories from local businesses. We sat on a comfortable chair by the window before dinner to have a few drinks and the French Martini’s were the best I had every tasted, and let me tell you, I am prone to a French Martini! The perfect mix of every ingredient in the refreshing cocktail. We were moved over to a seat next to the bar for dinner, which was a little cold and there wasn’t any music so it was quiet and lacking some atmosphere (we were one of four couples in), and it would have been nice to sit in their restaurant area upstairs but it was closed as that Friday night was not fully booked. The food however, was lovely. I had the crab fishcake to start which had crisp breadcrumbs on the outside and soft fish in the middle, and then the steak for my main. I enjoyed the steak, the chips were large and hand-cut and the tomatoes and mushrooms with the peppercorn sauce tasted beautiful. I was grateful that the waiters had looked at my online booking and had noticed that I had said it was Callum’s birthday, and they came with 2 glasses of prosecco along with a long white plate that read ‘happy birthday’ in chocolate sauce with two honeycomb brownies, a lovely touch to end our meal.
A full Scottish breakfast was served in the same restaurant the following morning – this time we sat upstairs which was really nice as we had a lovely view of the marina – and it’s served in a buffet style. Cereals, fruits, pastries and yoghurts are also available as well as the cooked section. The restaurant is very warm with the morning sun, so layer up so you can peel some off if it gets too hot!
I would recommend it to anyone – young and old alike. Whether you’re from the city, looking for some peace and quiet, a romantic getaway or a relaxing night away, Portavadie is a fantastic place to choose.
Amber Zoe x