Like many people with boats large or small we were very aware of Portavadie Marina’s growing reputation as one of the top places to visit. We had already heard from others that it was in a great location because it is perfect for small boats who wanted to go no further than 1-30 miles and for large boats that had a much longer range.
As we were taking our smallish boat at only 6m long we towed her up from her mooring in Balloch which is based 20 minutes from Glasgow and is at the most southerly end of Loch Lomond we did not have far to go. This took just over 1.15 hours with a few steepish hills but nothing that a family car could not pull even with the boat being 1.2 tonnes.
Obviously by water there are many places within a short trip that you could arrive from e.g. The Crinan Canal to Aran etc. and for those of you who are more adventurous or have bigger boats the list is huge.
Having been to lots of marinas in the past the first thing you will notice is how new and pristine the whole place looks whilst still having a nice welcoming feeling.
Also like many marinas on the West Coast there are some great views that just increase your desire to get out on the water and these get even better just a meters outside the protective marina walls.
At Portavadie Marina you also get a strong sense that the people who built it actually cared about what they were doing as the whole place is finished to a very high standard. It is also sensibly laid out with slipway, berthing, and facilities all being very user friendly for experience levels.
Well here the marina is, in our opinion, at a standard that others should aspire to and this goes from staff in the bar area to the general management all of whom could simply could not have been more helpful and friendly every time we met them.
Yes other marinas have some great staff but it is very rare that everyone comes up to such a high standard of being knowledgeable and attentive without being intrusive.
The marina has the usual cranes for larger boats and they offer to help launch boats that are small enough to have their own trailer. Though the slip is nothing spectacular it does do the job and if you have launched more than a few times I suspect you will refuse their kind offer of help.
The first thing you notice here is the depth. This marina is built on an old sight where oil rigs were going to be made and hence the moorings sit in the middle of this deep basin which is full of fish. All berths have the usual mains hook up points and there is a refuelling station.
The size of the berths seem to be standard and like other good marinas the outside berths and the ones closest to the entrance are reserved for the larger craft with the smaller boats berthed at the inner end.
Shelter and Protection
Portavadie Marina is fully enclosed in what feels like a deep bowl with manmade harbour walls that we noticed are a popular fishing spot. This simply could not be better and when added to their attentive staff you would have no concerns about leaving your boat there all year round.
Bar & Restaurant
The food here has a growing reputation, with many people both with and without boats coming to the marina to enjoy a good meal.
Prices for the bar menu are about right for the area and excellent quality so those who need to eat outside normal restaurant times will not be left wanting.
The restaurant is a good as the rumours with a good variety of mains from £9-16.00 of superb quality and the staff keep the high standards set by the other parts of the marina.
The only downside of the evening restaurant is that its reputation has grown far and wide and hence you would be advised to book a table.
Where to go
I have focused this bit of the revue on small motor boats up to 24 feet long as other boat owners will be able to travel a lot further and to include all these locations is simply not practical. I am also aware that even some of the smaller boats they have a long range is long for a day on the sea but I hope this at least gives an idea of what is very local to this marina.
Tarbet : 2.5 miles
A great place to pick up food for dinner, including best Scottish shell fish to a very cheap and good old style fishmonger s who you will need to ask a local to find. . There are also small food shops, good cafes with 2 coffees and cakes being around £7.00 etc.
Heading up the loch 1.5 miles to 20+
There are lots of amazing bays to explore and even a few good mooring at piers like Otter ferry (no otters or ferry) but a good pub that serves good bar food and has a few specials i.e. squat lobster tails. Other interesting places include Crinan Canal or visit Inveraray.
Heading down the loch : 1-20 miles
This has been my favourite area, as the Kyles of Bute, Arran, Campbell town are all within easy reach. There are also some amazing beeches along the way especially Kilbride Bay which should not be missed.
Pricing / Value for money
This is an amazing marina in a stunning location and is probably the best in Scotland (please let us know if you feel differently) and is suitable for small and large boats with lots of places to visit.
Pricing is cheaper or on par with its competitors i.e. Tarbet Marina and local bar food restaurants and is better quality and the attention to detail stunning.
Sample Prices (taken May 2012)
10m boat for 1 week Tarbet £140.50 Portavadie Marina £129.50
Rating: 5 out of 10 9.5 out of 10
Fish and Chips Otter Ferry pub £10.50 Portavadie Marina £9.95
Rating: 7 out of 10 10 out of 10
Tips and Notes
Remember to book the superb restaurant as this is popular for lunch and dinner as it now attracts people visiting by car and an is stunning value for money.
The fishmonger in Tarbet is well worth a visit if you enjoy high quality round or flat fish to cook on your boat. It is also great value for money, but you will need to ask locals to find it as it is hidden away even though it is just behind a few of the shops.
If you don’t like sleeping on your boat or own a rib etc. the accommodation here starts from £18.00 per person B&B (accurate as of May 2012) and is of the same high standard as the rest of the marina.
They are also thinking of building a leisure complex in 2013 close to the marina which if done to the same high standard as everywhere else it will be fantastic.
In our opinion Portavadie Marina sets a new standard marina’s in Scotland and is by far the best we have every visited.
Tel: 01700 811075