Arriving at Port Appin from the sea is the closest we’ll get in life to a James Bond moment.
Given that our approach had passed the family seat of the real-life James Bond, Fitzroy Maclean, thought to have been the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s 007, it seemed a fitting way to arrive at the Pierhouse Hotel.
Pulling up by the slipway after our tour of islands in the area, taking in Duart Castle, Lismore Lighthouse, Glesander Castle and the quarry at Movern from which the foundations of HS2 and the Shard were built, as well as spotting a couple of sea eagles, we were deposited for our stay at the much-loved Pierhouse Hotel, where everyone is given the star treatment.
Sitting almost at the end of the peninsula, on the shore of Loch Linnhe, the hotel is a little slice of luxury contained in 12 rooms and a beautiful seafood restaurant.
It stands guard at the end of the pier where an hourly ferry makes its way across the water to Lismore. In its past life, the hotel building was once the residence of the pier master, responsible for overseeing cargo and passengers on to the 19th Century steamers.
Sitting down for gin cocktails – shaken not stirred of course – we were blessed with a west coast sunset, drinking in the views across to Mull, with the mountains of Morven and coastline of Ardnamurchan in the distance.
The Pierhouse, sister to The Three Chimneys on Skye, is as known for its seafood restaurant as it is for its stunning location.
Food and its sourcing is at the heart of the hotel, says chef Michael, as we joined him at the end of the pier to discover the treasures making up that day’s menu – lobsters, crab and langoustines left in creels by local fishermen.
Every dish on the menu has the name and business of the supplier, the offering changes daily depending on the catch, and as a diner, this is clearly a restaurant at one with the environment it serves.
With a menu full of delicious seafood and vegetarian options to choose from, I opted for langoustines followed by moules marinere, while my daughter selected salmon mousse and coconut chilli potato gratin.
The food was delicious, best eaten slowly with wine and chatter, which flowed freely in the relaxed and happy ambience created by the Pierhouse staff.
The restaurant is in the waiting room of the former pierhouse, and windows on every side give the impression of eating in a conservatory, with the best seat in the house for the spectacular sunset which accompanied our shared dessert of whisky apple tart tatin and cocktail aptly named the Last Ferry.
Feeling very sleepy, we made the short journey upstairs to our room, with another view across the water to Lismore and beyond. We slept with the curtains and window open – the flash of the Stevenson lighthouse at Ballachulish and the moon on the water our nightlight, and the lapping waves our lullaby.
Although The Pierhouse lies at the end of the road, a track takes you to the end of the peninsula. Lined on one side by a rock face, with plants growing from fissures high above our heads, and on the other, the deep, dark water of Loch Linnhe, it felt like we’d arrived in a Jurassic world.
Seals and otters are often seen around that area, if you are lucky and keep a lookout.
Following the path round we arrived back in Port Appin where we looked around a tiny art gallery before buying coffee and sitting in the sun, enjoying the outlook, the peace and our new books, bought for a pound each from a book exchange in an old red phonebox. This must be the world’s most scenic – and smallest – library.
Another walk from the hotel took us along the coast to the 16th Century Castle Stalker. It is reached across the impressively long and rickety Jubilee Bridge, designed to access the Free Church from Portnacroish.
Cattle graze side by side with seabirds as the ancient castle forms a looming backdrop, rising from the dark loch.
The bridge leads to a cycle track, once the old Ballachulish to Oban railway line. If you’ve built up an appetite, Castle Stalker View offers food and coffee.
Fort William and Oban are also within easy driving (or cycling) distance – Emma and I enjoyed drinks at the Highland Cinema in Fort William, along with coffee and a browse of the new Highland Soap Company base, and we wandered in the sunshine along the pier at Oban.
We were very happy to return for a final night of peace and pampering as the sun set on The Pierhouse, before heading back to the hustle and bustle of city life.