The sweeping beauty of the Highlands is legendary. Here is where lochs meet mountains, set against the unique light of the northern skies. Visitors can choose between the miles of secluded countryside, expansive coastline, pretty towns and heritage cities both large and small. Spend your Scottish staycation in your choice of these epic castles, country houses and funky boutique hotels…
Dating back to the 18th century, this former coaching inn has taken on a new lease of life as a fine dining waterfront hotel. Just 11 rooms ensure the boutique feel remains intimate and there’s plenty of homely touches, such as bikes, free newspapers, wellies and waterproofs for guests’ use. A croquet lawn at the front provides elegant recreational opportunities, while local excur. The hotel is dog friendly and has self-catering cottages within the grounds, for those preferring a more private retreat. Or if you’re planning a large get together why not hire out the whole place to yourselves?
Perched on the edge of Loch Faskally in Pitlochry, this Baronial castle was built in 1892. Created for the port and sherry merchants, Sandeman, it has since been turned into a glamorous hotel and spa. Family owned and run (by the Clark family) the castle houses 42 bedrooms, four treatment rooms, a pool, sauna and two restaurants. Eating and drinking can be both an exquisite and unusual experience here, with mood-lit pod dining, a unique gin bar and triple AA Rosette-awarded cuisine accompanied by waterside views. And as the town’s only five-star hotel, it’s the fanciest address at which to stay in town.
One of only a handful of Scottish hotels to boast the Michelin Hotel Guide single ‘Red House’ symbol, this country house is found on the coast, an hour from Inverness. Deeply romantic in setting, Glenmorangie House is surrounded by a walled garden and located beside a ruined castle. And with just nine bedrooms, the intimate atmosphere lends itself to an exclusive couples’ escape. Award-winning menus are served in a dinner party style to provide a sociable element to your stay and camaraderie with fellow guests. As you may expect from a hotel inspired by the national beverage, whisky tastings are frequent – plus you might even be surprised by a spontaneous post-dinner ceilidh featuring local musicians.
Stroll a mere ten minutes from the centre of Inverness to discover this uber-trendy hotel – the city’s only to have five stars. The sleek, modern Rocpool Reserve, is contained in a Georgian mansion house and overlooks the River Ness. It has its own moody cocktail ‘r bar’ and Chez Roux (part of the wider Roux group) serving everything from amuse-bouche to hearty high-end fare and even special meals for your pooch. Four categories of bedroom (11 in total) offer delights such as hot tubs, cabin style saunas, balconies, oversized beds and Tassimo coffee machines, along with dark and dramatic decor. Valet services and beauty treatments are available on request.
Marcliffe Hotel Aberdeen
Accessed around 15 minutes drive from Aberdeen’s centre, Marcliffe is a family-owned traditional country house hotel in extensive gardens. Oil paintings, antiques, an open fire and a baby grand add to the air of classic elegance within, in a hotel previously graced by pop stars, political figures and royalty. The Drawing Room Bar and wine cellar are stocked with hundreds of wines and whiskies, as well as a range of locally produced artisan gins. Lunch can be taken alfresco, on the terrace, with an intimate dinner for two in the conservatory. There are 40 plush rooms in soothing palettes with contemporary touches and a full-service spa. Your dog is welcome to come along for the trip too.
Built in 1887 by the then Earl of Lovelace, this 18 bedroomed baronial hunting lodge is filled with original features. While the hotel’s design certainly harks back to the building’s former life, the decor has splashes of bright accented colour. A kitchen garden supplies a multitude of organic produce, along with local meats and fish. And Highland cows can often be spotted wandering past the grounds. If travelling with kids, or those seeking some thrills, Torridon Outdoors is conveniently located on the doorstep, providing a range of outward bound activities. Be sure to take a peek at the hotel’s drawing-room, with its unusual zodiac designed ceiling and to sample the hotel’s own Arcturus gin.
For the quintessential turreted fairytale castle experience, book a stay at Barcaldine, on the outskirts of Oban. Beams, wood panels, a great hall, turnpike staircase, a secret passage and a bottle dungeon below stairs all contribute to the sense of stepping back in time here. The decor is traditionally Highland, with plenty of tartans, tweed, brown leather and claw-footed roll-top tubs. Accommodation is offered on a bed and breakfast basis, with friendly hosts Liz and Ronnie serving a full Scottish and an optional afternoon tea. If you don’t fancy an evening picnic, dinner can be sought at the nearby restaurant.