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Issue 66 - Isles to Wander

Scotland Magazine Issue 66
December 2012

 

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Isles to Wander

Unquestionably, among Scotland’s most wonderful assets can be counted her islands; the country has more than 700 of them and around 100 or so are populated. Some, like Skye, Mull, Arran or the Mainlands of Shetland and Orkney, are large and bustling and famous; others, like St. Kilda or Fair Isle, are astonishingly remote. It’s not easy to stay on all of them and yet we’re surprised that a form of ‘island bagging, something akin perhaps to Munro-bagging, has not emerged as a challenge. But for now we’ll highlight a few superb places to stay on a select few fascinating yet easier-to-get-to Scots isles.

1 - Glenisle Hotel
Isle of Arran
Arran is reached by a lovely, under-an-hour ferry journey from Ayrshire. The island offers several fine and distinct hotels: Auchrannie Resort with its family-friendly and activities slant, contemporary Douglas Hotel with boutique flair and designer feel, and deluxe, seasonal Kilmichael – the island’s oldest house. But here in Lamlash, facing Holy Isle and a wide bay, is Scotland’s Island Hotel of the Year 2012. First opened in 1849 the Glenisle Hotel & Bistro is a delightful, fresh and extremely well-run small hotel offering a wide range of surprisingly stylish bedroom types. Art and a sense of place lift the hotel cleverly and guests love the terrace in summer, beautifully done with good seating and tubs of flowers, the library and bar, quiet lounge with flickering fire, and the local, seasonal ingredients used in the airy restaurant. It’s a happy choice.
www.glenislehotel.com
Telephone +44 (0)1770 600599


2 - Balfour Castle
Isle of Shapinsay
In our decade of researching Scottish hotels for The Scottish Hotel Awards we have come across few places as striking and memorable as this dramatic, early-Victorian creation by the 4th Laird of Balfour and the leading Scots architect of the day, David Bryce. Getting to Orkney is pretty straightforward – ferries and flights depart daily.
Balfour Castle is on Shapinsay, a green isle reached by boat from Orkney’s capital Kirkwall. As the island is approached the features of this rare ‘calendar house’ rise: 7 turrets, 12 doors, 52 rooms and 365 window sections. The surrounding woodlands are the largest in Orkney; the walled gardens provide produce for award-winning, Michelin-star background head chef Jean-Baptiste Bady’s superb cuisine. Gracious public rooms and curious corridors, fascinating nooks and crannies, luxury and nature all await your exploration.
www.balfourcastle.co.uk
Telephone +44 (0)1856 711282


3 - Kinloch Lodge
Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is arguably Scotland’s most famous island. The Sleat peninsula in the isle’s south hosts a clutch of acclaimed hotels including Duisdale House and sister business Toravaig House (they share a marvellous hotel yacht, Solus na Mara) and Gaelic inn Hotel Eilean Iarmain.
Then there is Kinloch Lodge, famed for its long good food pedigree as the base of irrepressible food writer and cook Lady Claire Macdonald.
Today the established and outstanding head chef is Marcello Tully and the lodge holds an array of awards including a Michelin star, renewed again for 2013. Dinner can be paired superbly with wine ‘flights’ and the hotel won our Breakfast of the Year 2012 title. It’s the home of the chief of Clan Macdonald, today managed by daughter Isabella and husband Tom Eveling. It’s a gem – and you’ll know you’re in Scotland.
www.kinloch-lodge.co.uk
Telephone +44 (0)1471 833333


4 - Colonsay Hotel
Isle of Colonsay
One of our more further-flung islands, Colonsay is reached in a few hours from Oban (we watched porpoises en route) and has a loyal following – visitors love the stunning Kiloran bay, the winding island roads, tranquillity and sense of escape.
They also rate the dapper and surprisingly stylish, sole island hotel. Tasteful, classy décor and design touches combine with rusticity; fresh food includes island shellfish and organic vegetables.
www.colonsayestate.co.uk
Telephone +44 (0)1951 200316


5 - Douglas Hotel
Isle of Arran
Hoving into view as the ferry docks at Brodick pier is the current New Hotel of the Year; until last year’s full rebuild and remarkable restoration was completed, the sight had become a sorry one. But not now: this brilliant island boutique hotel offers a sense of vibrancy, class-leading bedrooms and suites (the best of which are superb romantic escapes); and an urbane bistro which features flavoursome steaks cooked on a Vapo grill.
www.thedouglashotel.co.uk
Telephone +44 (0)1770 302968


6 - Highland Cottage
Isle of Mull
The AA has consistently rated Highland Cottage as one of the best places to eat in the Scottish islands and has also for some time awarded this charming and pretty small hotel red stars. Award-winning chef Jo Currie produces beautiful fine dining and the delightful, almost quaint atmosphere of the dining room makes for a fine island experience. Two bedrooms are four-posters; an inviting guest lounge upstairs offers an honesty bar.
www.highlandcottage.co.uk
Telephone +44 (0)1688 302030


7 - Busta House
Shetland Isles One of the most historic of country hotels on Shetland. Sitting on a slope, fronted by walled gardens, on the secluded shores of Busta Voe on the mainland of Shetland, this large white-painted house goes back to 1588. A wide range of rooms are available; Muckle Roe is possibly the best with its extra space and canopied bed.
Friendly service is notable; food includes jumpingly fresh Shetland produce and 160 whiskies in the bar.
www.bustahouse.com
Telephone +44 (0)1806 522506