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Issue 13 - Hotels in the best possible taste

Scotland Magazine Issue 13
March 2004


This article is 14 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Hotels in the best possible taste

Knockinaam Bay, by Portpatrick,
Tel: +44 (0)1776 810 471
Fax: +44 (0)1776 810 435

This sparkling little hotel still bears testimony to the golden age of touring and sporting activity and has carefully retained much of the unmistakable character and personality (and many artefacts) of a bygone era. The essence of the local Galloway landscape has been captured superbly in the hotel, which sits by a private bay. You will find glorious period pieces, wood panelling, wonderfully individual bedrooms and an ambience and atmosphere exuding grace, relaxation, timelessness and tranquillity.

We found the highest standards of hospitality and comfort. A regular following of discerning guests from all over the world return again and again, to savour the hotel’s – and indeed the whole area’s – therapeutic and very enriching qualities.

Tony Price is the head chef and he has, happily, stayed on under the new owners, David and Sian Ibbotson. Rather unusually in a change of ownership situation, the hotel has retained its well-earned Michelin star for Tony’s deft and imaginative cuisine. Many guests comment that a stay at the hotel is not complete unless you enjoy and savour the hotel’s magnificent wine cellar, which has more than 450 different selections.

The Scottish country house tradition of fine food and great wine is very much the focus of Knockinaam’s delightful restaurant.

The hotel is widely recognised as a destination for lovers of good food and wine and it is the recipient of a multitude of the best wine, food and service awards. A true Scottish experience would not be complete without savouring a whisky or two in the lovely little wood panelled whisky bar with its light hearted charm and intimate character.

With a quite sensational selection of more than 120 single malts, the bar has enough to please even the greatest of connoisseurs.

And after discussing and tasting a few drams, why not visit a distillery to see just how this 'water of life' is produced? The local Bladnoch distillery has an excellent visitors’ centre.

Galloway is rich in history. Don’t miss Wigtown, Scotland’s ‘National Book Town’, or Whithorn, the cradle of Christianity in Scotland, where Candida Casa was founded in 397AD.

Knockinaam Lodge was the scene of a secret meeting between Churchill and Eisenhower during WWII. Tucked-away like all the best gems, it now offers some of Scotland’s finest cuisine.

Ballachulish, near Fort William, Argyll
Tel: +44 (0)1855 811 266
Fax: +44 (0)1855 811 498

We visited Ballachulish House for our review on just the same day that the local Press & Journal newspaper was reporting the exciting award of a Michelin star to the country house hotel and its husband-and-wife team of head chef Allan Donald and sous chef Eileen.

Ballachulish village is within easy reach of Fort William, lnverness and Oban, and is on the route to the Isle of Skye and the Hebrides. Glencoe, with its spectacular scenery, is known for its hill walking, mountain climbing, and skiing.

The mountains rise sharply behind Ballachulish House, giving it a wonderful location.

Built in 1640, history-imbued Ballachulish House is implicated in the events surrounding the massacre of Glencoe (1692) and the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Ballachulish is also famous for the Appin murder, immortalised by Robert Louis Stevenson in Kidnapped.

This restored country house offers a rare combination of 8 luxury bedrooms with award-winning Scottish cuisine and a relaxing atmosphere.

Marie MacLaughlin is a wonderful and kindly hostess. Highly particular, on behalf of her guests, she embodies many of the best qualities we like to find.

Prior to dinner we relaxed by the crackling fire in the elegant and interesting drawing room. Quality was there but stiff formality was not. A 15-year old Glenfiddich Solera malt was sampled from the gleaming sideboard honesty bar.

We were offered three canapés: whisky-marinated salmon; lamb samosa; duck bhaji.

Then we were shown through to the dining room where tables were set with fine ivory damask linens and old cutlery. Attention to detail was excellent throughout the whole meal.

Starters of lobster tortellini and butternut velouté instantly conveyed the skill level of the chef. We loved both equally.

Roast loin of venison was utterly perfect: meltingly soft roundels of pillow-soft local red deer, roasty-edged, set off with a tower of artichoke mash.

Vanilla pannacotta was the perfect coda to an outstanding dinner.

No wonder the hotel has been awarded HotelReviewScotland’s Gold Plate distinction, and also 5+ Scottish Food Honours from – the highest possible award.


Here are five more ideas for you!

Front Road, St Margaret’s Hope, Orkney
Tel: +44 (0)1856 831 311
Incredible seafood, from the pristine waters that lap the hotel’s very walls. Informal and cheery, The Creel’s chef-proprietor Alan presents simple, elegant dishes

Balmoral Hotel, 1 Princes Street, Edinburgh
Tel: +44 (0)131 556 2414
Head chef Jeff Bland holds a Michelin star, held again for 2004. This smart restaurant offers refined, exciting modern Scottish cuisine – lunch is our tip, it’s great value!

South side of Loch Tay, by Killin, Perthshire
Tel: +44 (0)1567 820 400
Transformed by skilled restaurateurs Pete and Sara Gottgens whose South African roots have added a fascinating twist to the food at this very pretty place

129 Bath Street, City Centre, Glasgow
Tel: +44 (0)141 221 6789
The Guide calls it “the sexiest hotel in town”, and the dining experience contributes: modern, cool and chic, the restaurant serves fresh fusion fare in a style we like!

by St Boswells, Roxburghshire
Tel: +44 (0)1835 822 261
The setting, by the glorious ruins of the 12th Century abbey, is highly romantic. Head chef René Gaté has top-notch experience and we highly recommend the cuisine here.