Highland fling

First published in Travel Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Travel writer

Iwas sitting in my own hot tub (although it was equipped to seat five), flicking through a laminated menu (very sensible, very practical) deliberating on just what to have for dinner.

Mmm... should it be the mackerel crepe or salmon from the smoke house, Highland venison or the Scottish turbot? Oh decisions, decisions.

The tub, a glorious 35 degrees, was in my own courtyard where, beyond two comfy sun loungers, the conservatory of my spa suite opened onto a set of sumptuously-furnished rooms, each bigger than any of mine at home.

And what’s more, I was on an island.

And I had it all to myself.* Okay, I may have been a little liberal in the use of the possessive pronoun and we all know that an asterisk suggests a catch, but in this instance, it was a small one.

All I needed to do, and this applied only to the island, not the tub, was share it with a handful of guests – who were charming, so that was easily done – *and my mother...

She can also be charming, especially when she wants a companion for one of ‘Her Holidays’. But no complaints this time (not even when she announced travel was by train) because the hotel was utterly delightful. Perfect for a mother and daughter mini break.

We actually stayed on the Isle of Eriska, a privately-owned island on the west coast of Scotland, about a two-hour drive from Glasgow.

At its centre is a luxurious, family-run hotel, built as a baronial manor.

Emma, its deputy manager, showed us round and I – or was it my mother? – was particularly taken by a whisky-stocked library and our personal, “whatever, whenever” phone.

Admittedly, it was an ordinary phone but I love what it represented – the Scottish take on the American dream. Whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted it, and all we had to do was lift a finger and dial.

“Is there anything else?” the deputy manager asked just before she left.

“Just one thing,” said Mum, and like daughters the world over, out in public with their mothers, I died. “Where are the otters?”

Good for her actually, since the hotel literature did indeed mention otters, but it was, understandably enough, left to me to point out that a sighting wasn’t included in the room rate.

Instead, I decided to distract Mum with a stroll along Loch Creran, through purple rhododendrons, yellow flag irises and buttercups (mums appreciate these kind of things). The isles of Mull and Lismore were in the distance and it was all rather peaceful and beautiful.

I turned our wander into a hike (I’m not good at ambling) but Mum picked up the pace admirably, determined to demonstrate that the mother-daughter relationship wasn’t under any strain, and finally we came to rest by the shore.

It’s there I’m reminded of my role as official holiday photographer, so as Mum requested this and that — “Could you just take a picture here, Karen?” and “Oh just look at that?” – I returned to my own childhood years when it was just enough that Mum asked me to help her...

Not surprisingly, wallowing in this idyllic nostalgia, we missed lunch but we made it back for tea: homemade scones, shortbread and banana cake and a review of 60 pictures of the shore.

Then it was off for a swim and a sauna (mum’s very modern too). That evening, badgers miraculously appeared on the terrace, meaning the otters got forgotten.

And as the after-glow of that treat disappeared, the fire crackled, the mood remained mellow and our bond remained strong.

We were so in love with Eriska that it seemed a shame to leave. True, it wasn’t cheap, and true it’s a long way away, but if it means you can re-kindle that magic with your mum too, trust me, it’s worth it.

ESSENTIALS Isle of Eriska: eriska-hotel.co.uk A five-star, relais-chateaux hotel with 3AA rosettes Prices from £340 per room per night, including breakfast Dinner £50 pp Getting there: Virgin Trains run regular services to Glasgow. virgintrains.com Advance tickets from £21.

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