When most think about a Scottish holiday, Port Appin might not immediately come to mind. “It’s a small hamlet on the north west coast, situated on a small peninsular in Loch Linnhe. It offers stunning panoramic views across the loch towards the Morvern mountains,” explains Shaun McKivragan, owner of The Airds Hotel and Restaurant. “Guests love it for the spectacular scenery with exciting day tour opportunities and many outdoor activities, particularly cycling and walking but also kayaking and boat trips,” he adds.
As the owner of a Pride of Britain hotel, McKivragan knows a thing or two about luxury hospitality. Guests return again and again for the cosy environment, the three-rosette restaurant, the unparalleled views, and the warm welcome from the team. We speak to McKivragan about the challenges of running a business and how he makes sure all of his guests leave with a good knowledge of true Scottish hospitality.
When did you realise you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
I’ve always wanted to work for myself from a young age. I was always a doer, setting up enterprises since school. I gained experience working for others and then started my own business in my early thirties. I always liked the idea of being in control of profit.
Many owners and CEOs struggle with being able to delegate once they scale their businesses. Do you have any tips for this?
I feel it’s important to be ready to step back and look at the bigger picture. Is your time better spent doing something else? Also, I recommend empowering people as generally they respond well to this.
In what ways have you been able to introduce guests to Scottish culture and traditions?
We offer tours of the Oban Whisky Distillery which include a wee dram at the end. There is also the opportunity, in Oban, to have a gin making class so you can go home with your own gin. Lismore Safari Tours conducts Land Rover Tours of the island visiting areas off the beaten track. And, of course, we have our annual Hogmanay three-night package which includes a good old Scottish Ceilidh and a piper welcoming guests to dinner.
If a guest asked you to recommend an itinerary for a day trip, where would you send them?
There are numerous possibilities, but how about driving through Glencoe and its spectacular scenery, perhaps taking in a short walk and a stop at the visitor centre? Head back to Glencoe village and stop for a light lunch at Crafts and Things which also has a small typically Scottish gift shop including Scottish artwork. After lunch, drive up to the Nevis Range just north of Fort William and take the gondola up the mountain for some truly spectacular views along the Great Glen. It’s then a 50-minute drive back to Airds.
What makes the food and beverage offerings at Airds so unique?
We always use local produce as much as we can and this, of course, means especially delicious fresh fish and shellfish. We also use the very best Scottish beef and fruit and veg. We have our own kitchen garden and poly tunnel where we grow our own vegetables and herbs. All this is served in our romantic fine dining restaurant with friendly service and stunning views across the loch.
In your opinion, what is the best thing about living in Scotland?
The scenery is without parallel and in our area the roads are so much less busy than virtually any other area in Britain making for ideal touring territory. The air is also so much cleaner than the rest of Britain. Also, the sense of history is powerful with seemingly a castle round every corner.
There has been an increased demand for local holidays. How is the hotel preparing for this?
We are initially holding back occupancy levels and allocating lounge space and restaurant tables to guests for the duration of their stay. Staff will be wearing visors and/or masks depending on their department plus gloves and guests will be given the choice of how often they wish their room cleaned. All bedrooms will be given a much deeper clean prior to arrivals including sanitising all touch points (light switches, wardrobe/door handles, TV remotes, etc). This is only a summary, full procedures are much more detailed.
What are some of the travel essentials we can always find in your suitcase?
A torch, a travel magazine, heartburn tablets!
Which bottle of wine are you currently enjoying?
Cabernet Franc Rose from Delaire Graff in Stellenbosch 2018. Superb!
Once the lockdown is over, what is the first restaurant you’ll be heading to and what will you order?
Andrew Fairly at Gleneagles. I don’t mind what I have as it all tastes so good but black truffle and orzo risotto sounds really good.
Address: Port Appin, Appin PA38 4DF
Phone: 01631 730236
The hotel will be taking bookings from July 22nd 2020