Once upon a time, in a country far far away from ours, there lived a mythical creature. Amidst the high munroes and within the depths of Loch Ness, centuries have passed searching for Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.
Quite like this story, Scotland is home to folktales, magical landscapes and fairytale castles nestled in its highlands. I was fortunate enough to travel to this beautiful country with Black Sheep Hotels designed to make travelers happier in the Scottish highlands.
I began my trip in the quaint town of Inverness staying at the Glenmoriston Town House Hotel. On Inverness’s Church Street is a lovely vintage bookshop called Leaky’s where I spent most of my day browsing across old maps, art prints and rare classic volumes. After fulfilling my art and literature soul, I made my way to Fort William and its surrounding villages that are ideal to glimpse the woodland glens with wildlife, ever-changing landscapes and striking lochs. The Black Sheep Hotels have multiple properties scattered along these villages that allow you to experience the authentic Scottish lifestyle.
It took me a short drive from Fort William to arrive at the Whispering Pine Lodge set against the spectacular natural backdrop on the banks of Loch Lochy. Once a hunting lodge, Whispering Pine has now been refurbished into a whimsical retreat with an enviable location that allow you to experience the mountains, the river flowing alongside the property and the sun setting over the landscape. The lodge is also home to the dreamy Sleeping Beauty Spa where I got to experience a luxurious hot-stone massage, a perfect start for my trip. Post my pampering, I went straight to the restaurant and bar for some soulful dishes.
The highlight for me was the Scottish Cullen Skink, a thick soup made of smoked Haddock, potatoes and onions. I couldn’t have had a more satisfying dinner on that winter night. It is no wonder Scotland has been voted the best destination in the world.
The next morning, I enjoyed a scrumptious breakfast on my personal patio and walked along the pebbled paths to sit along the private hotel lake. For me, it was the expanse of Scotland that really made me fall in love with the country. For miles, I couldn’t sight an individual but was truly surrounded by nature. I could hear the sharp gushes of wind, the rustling of leaves and the crackle of branches, it was in that moment that I realized how important grounding experiences like these are.
Imagine getting married in an expansive landscape like that? Now you can. The Whispering Pine Lodge is building a deck along the pebbled beach for intimate weddings and the likes. They also offer a private villa on the same grounds for the family.
My next stay was with Cluanie Inn, situated in the Glen Shiel Valley right in the middle of Loch Ness and the Isle of Skye. It’s been popular with travelers for over a 100 years because of its unique location that allows one to explore multiple tourist attractions. With rustic décor and cozy interiors, the Inn creates a warm and inviting atmosphere with the crackling log fires and Christmas blankets scattered across the lobby.
The Cluanie Bar & Grill spoilt me with some lovely Lamb chops & a decadent Bread Pudding by Chef Conrad. If you’re travelling with your family, Cluanie Inn offers a variety of outdoor experiences like hiking, cycling and picnicking so you can spend tons of quality time while enjoying the rugged beauty of Scotland.
To round up my staycation with the Black Sheep Hotels, I arrived at their third property; Rokeby Manor. Quite like the name, it’s an early Victorian House circa 1840 situated near Invergarry. After staying in a lodge and an inn, residing in a country house was exactly what I needed.
It was also towards the end of my trip that I began craving Indian food and their restaurant, Emily’s Byre, served some lip-smacking Indian specialties in their farmhouse ambience. The Chicken Tikka & the Dahi Puri were as good as our own, if not better. On special request, Chef Hari very sweetly accommodated my request for a warm khichdi. And nothing feels more like home than a warm bowl of Khichdi. If you’re someone who is picky about food, Rokeby Manor houses Indian chefs to deal with all your special food needs. If you’re someone with a large family, you can just rent the entire property with its 13 Victorian-style rooms.
Post the stay across the Black Sheep Hotels properties, I made a little detour on my way to Isle of Skye and visited the Eilean Donan Castle of the James Bond fame.
We made our way to Portree for dinner and drinks and then stayed in a pod at the Isle of Skye in the middle of nowhere. The closest I would ever go to camping would be in a pod with still white sheeps around me. After my night out in the pod at Isle of sky which I must say has been an experience of a lifetime, I went to the Talisker Distillery before going to Edinburgh for a couple of days as I wind up my trip staying at The Bonham and ending my trip on a sweet note with a Whiskey & Chocolate tour at the Glenklinchie Distillery.
A huge shoutout to @beesgalaxy for being ever so patient with me and shooting me over the trip and Chef Conrad D’Souza for making this trip happen.