Sir George Steuart (SIC) Mackenzie, seventh baronet of Coul, built this remarkable house in 1821. The design is based on a central octagon, an idea fashionable in Scotland, and North America in the early nineteenth century. Mackenzie's octagon is now the hotel's august dining room with two diamond-shaped bedrooms on the floor above. Sir George was a noted mineralogist while his son, Robert went on to be governor general of Queensland.
The earliest reference to this harbour hotel goes back to 1720 when there were 24 rooms and the customers were drovers en route to market in Glasgow. The years have been kind to Airds and today it revels in its Relais & Chateau status and sumptuous decor. The Airds House nearby in Appin was built in 1738 for Donald Campbell of Airds who commanded a pro-Hanoverian militia at the Battle of Culloden. Campbell of Airds is remembered for his leniency to the defeated Jacobites.
This modern hotel in the style of a Scots hunting lodge is built in the grounds of a crofter's cottage known as Brachla. At the end of the nineteenth century the owner of Brachla played an on-going game of cat and mouse with the excise men, getting neighbours to light decoy fires whenever he was operating his illicit still. When he grew too old for the danger the canny crofter handed in his still, claiming he'd found it, and retired on the substantial reward.
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