Sunsets and seafood
Written by Vivien Devlin
Unforgettable sunsets, breathtaking sea views, the warmest of welcomes, exquisite cuisine, the most exhilarating journey, a luxurious oasis, the perfect retreat... a few typical comments from visitors to Scotland's coastal destinations and country house hotels.
Surrounded by high gorse-covered cliffs and a rocky cove on the wild, west coast of Wigtownshire is Knockinaam Lodge. With thirty acres of gardens and the lawns sweeping down to the seashore, this grand greystone and whitewashed Victorian house has a secluded, serene location on the water’s edge of the Irish Sea. Step inside to find a warm, welcoming country house furnished with period antiques, wood panelling, chintz, tartan, armchairs, and blazing log fires. The ten romantic bedrooms are individually designed, with many boasting vintage bathrooms and sea views. Expect homely touches, bathrobes, LCD TVs and DVD film library.
Knockinaam Lodge is steeped in history. Winston Churchill stayed here for wartime meetings with Eisenhower - the Churchill themed bedroom, furnished with books and memorabilia. By day, drive over to Portpatrick, go game fishing, golfing, hill walks, pony trekking, visit Drumlanrig and Culzean Castles and Logan botanic gardens.
Head chef Tony Pierce holds a Michelin star for his celebrated four-course menus based on seasonal local produce: Grilled Turbot, Celeriac, parsley and truffle soup, Roast Grouse (from Rannoch Moor) with spiced lentils and black pudding, Raspberry Pannacotta, Then coffee and petit fours in the drawing-room or to the Whisky bar for a nightcap or two.
You can’t eat and sleep much nearer the sea than in Crinan, the fishing village on the Argyll coastline where the Crinan Canal, Loch Crinan and the Sound of Jura meet within a sheltered bay on a corner headland.
Crinan Hotel has welcomed sailors, fishermen, yachtsmen, and travellers here for 200 years for accommodation, food and drink. If you don’t arrive by boat or barge, it’s a wonderful drive from Loch Lomond to Inverary, down the shores of Loch Fyne to Lochgilphead and then looping west along the Canal up to Crinan, or taking the A816 south from Oban
With its Panther Arms pub, the Westward restaurant, and the very popular Crinan Seafood Bar, traditional hospitality has continued since 1970 under the ownership of Nick Ryan, his wife Frances Macdonald, an acclaimed artist of magnificent seascapes, and their son Ross, also a painter.
Seafood does not get fresher than at Crinan so come here to taste jumbo prawns, crab, razor clams, scallops and mussels as well as a varied seasonal menu to suit all tastes, which includes locally sourced organic produce.
With a changing showcase of exhibitions by Scottish artists throughout the year, the Ryan’s nickname for their Hotel is “an art gallery with rooms.”
Head north from Oban towards Fort William along the tranquil coastal road to Port Appin, where the weary traveller will find the welcoming lights and blazing fires of Airds Hotel.
Owned and managed by Jenny and Shaun McKivragan for the past 10 years, this 18th century Ferry Inn beside Loch Linnhe is a place of spectacular wild scenery, ancient castles, and craggy mountains and explore further afield with day trips to the Islands of Mull and Skye. This is a supremely comfortable Country House, with two lounges ( log fires, books, soft armchairs), and all-around a gallery of artwork including landscapes from travels at home and abroad by the owner’s late father, Terry McGivragan.
Dining at Airds is one of life’s great pleasures where the Restaurant holds three rosettes from the AA. The menu by Head Chef Robert MacPherson is based on seasonal local produce, such as locally hand-dived, seared Scallops, organic Salmon, Loch Linnhe Crab, Highland Venison served with freshly picked vegetables from the Kitchen garden - courgettes, celeriac, cabbage, kale, spinach, cucumber and salad leaves, as well as a fruit orchard and garden of summer berries.
By day you can experience outdoor pursuits on land and sea – boating, canoeing, wildlife trips, mountain climbing, horse-riding. From Port Appin take the passenger ferry over to the island of Lismore, perfect for a long walk or cycle ride as well as exploring historic sights and ancient cathedral.
Forty years on since Claire and Godfrey Macdonald first opened the doors of Kinloch Lodge to guests in the early 1970s, their hotel on the Isle of Skye is today renowned for its exemplary hospitality, house party ambience and is on the foodie map for fine dining.
Located just a few miles from the ferry port along the Sleat peninsula - “the garden of Skye” - on the shores of a peaceful sea loch, the 17th century Kinloch Lodge is the ancestral Highland home of Lord and Lady Macdonald. Fourteen bedrooms offer very comfortable facilities, some with roll-top baths and views of Loch na Dal.
Marcello Tully is the Michelin starred Head Chef, who specialises in inventive dishes to show off wild and wonderful produce from the Highlands and Islands: Langoustines, Rabbit stuffed with venison and prunes, Mallaig Hake and Mussels, Chocolate Ganache. The gourmet tasting menu offers wine or whisky flights to complement each course.
The island is an outdoor adventure playground especially for hill climbing up the Cuillins, the dramatic craggy mountain range which dominates the landscape. If that sounds too energetic, there are superb nature walks near the hotel along a waymarked drovers' path through woodland and lochside to the ruins of a former village, Leitir Fura - you might spot eagles, birds and wildlife along the way.
The Boath House
Just outside Nairn and a convenient 20 minutes’ drive from Inverness Airport, Boath House is indeed the perfect place to stay to explore the beautiful Moray Firth coastline and countryside.
This Georgian Manor House has been restored and designed with artistic flair by owners Wendy and Don Matheson to create a dream Highland retreat. With comfy lounges, fabulous suites, exquisite Michelin Star dining, and gorgeous gardens, Boath House has been named the Scottish Hotel of the Year 2013 by the Good Hotel Guide.
The eight bedrooms are all distinctive in size, furnishings and outlook so that you can choose an Orangerie room with private conservatory, a lavish suite with twin Rolltop baths or Meikle Cottage in the garden where your dogs are welcome to stay too.
Eating and drinking at Boath House have long been highly renowned for Head Chef Charlie Lockley’s innovative approach to Franco-Scottish cuisine based on seasonal local produce and philosophy of Slow Food. The Kitchen team creates a six-course dinner menu including such combinations as Juniper-smoked young Grouse, Spelt, foraged Mushrooms; Mackerel, Cauliflower, Capers, Tarragon; Spiced Parfait, Brambles and Sorrel. Breakfast is also a gourmet affair, with fresh juices, organic porridge, duck eggs, smoked salmon, Peelham farm bacon, home-baked bread and jams.
Whatever your interests, history, sports, and leisure it’s all near here: Loch Ness, dolphin watching on Moray Firth, Rothiemurchas Estate for outdoor adventures, Highland whisky trail, Cawdor Castle and first-class golf courses.
You don’t have to travel to St. Andrews to experience a fine round of golf. East Lothian is equally famed for its links courses along this pretty coastline of white sand beaches.
Just a short drive from Edinburgh is the magnificent Edwardian country house Greywalls on the outskirts of Gullane. It is located beside the world-famous Muirfield championship Golf Club which in 2013 will host the British Open.
Greywalls was designed by Edwin Lutyens in 1901 as ‘a small, albeit dignified holiday home’ for the Hon. Alfred Lyttelton, a keen golfer who wanted to be within “a niblick shot of the 18th green”. Lutyens and his colleague Gertrude Jekyll were the dream team of Arts and Crafts house and garden design in the early 20th century.
Stroll around the meandering paths and herbaceous borders, play grass-court tennis, Afternoon tea with home-baked scones, a glass of champagne in the library, dinner in the intimate Chez Roux Restaurant overlooking the 10th tee and seashore beyond.
Albert Roux is the Executive Chef overseeing the Francais-Ecossais menu created by Chefs Derek Johnstone (formerly at La Gavroche, winner of Masterchef) and Neil Mackenzie who trained under Gordon Ramsay.
The menu features Scottish seafood and game complemented with the fruits of the earth from Mrs Weaver’s kitchen garden – organic vegetables, herbs and also new laid eggs from Greywalls’ own chickens.
First published 27 June 2019. Information correct at time of going to press.