Chief Sub-Editor Rosie Morton visits the Isle of Skye ahead of Kinloch Lodge’s 50th anniversary…
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be talking about it for weeks. You’ll tell family over breakfast, colleagues by the water cooler, and perfect strangers on the train. In truth, you’ll advise anyone who allows you five minutes of non-stop gushing that they must immediately book a holiday to the Isle of Skye. Since my first visit in 2020, I have unashamedly assumed this role on a daily basis. Today, dear readers, is no exception.
This time, I returned to the Misty Isle’s Sleat Peninsula to explore Kinloch Lodge – an historic family-run hotel and restaurant that is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022. Overlooking the shores of Loch na Dal and hugged by towering mountains, this place has long been revered as a destination for top notch Scottish hospitality and world-class fare. Run by Isabella Macdonald – who took over from her parents Lord Godfrey, High Chief of Clan Donald, and Lady Claire, world-renowned chef – this destination hotel promises renewed focus on seasonal menus and new outdoor experiences to mark its golden year.
So, what can guests expect?
THE KINLOCH EXPERIENCE
‘It is somewhere to escape the noise and speed of modern life.’
Rolling up the driveway beneath star-studded skies to find a roaring fire pit and sea loch views fit for a romance novel is only the beginning. (This backdrop was made for s’mores by the way. But more on that later).
Put simply, Kinloch Lodge is discreetly (and superbly) luxurious. Built in 1676 as a farmhouse and converted into a shooting lodge in the 18th century, it oozes historical charm with ‘family memorabilia’ – including portraits of Isabella and her sister Merial, and a letter from Churchill appointing Lord Godfrey’s father as Lord Lieutenant of Inverness-shire – in every nook and cranny. And yet, this is no sleepy country house hotel. The Macdonalds’ exceptional warmth and the Kinloch team’s charisma make this country abode feel like a home away from home.
This is a place for chasing island sunsets, partaking in fireside drams, and indulging in post-hike feasts that could feed the five thousand. We stayed in the beautiful Luxury rooms overlooking Loch na Dal. (After three nights of deafening peace and quiet, a member of our party took note of the pillowcases so they could recreate such luxury at home. If that’s not a sign of approval, I’m not sure what is).
‘Feeding you well at every opportunity is something we take extremely seriously.’
‘Challenge accepted,’ I hear you say. But believe me when I say that even I – a self-confessed chocoholic who believes life should be planned around your next meal – was bowled over by the sheer volume of extraordinary offerings. Two-course breakfasts, three-course lunches, and three-course dinners are available, so be sure to plan a few pre-lunch yomps up The Cuillin to balance things out.
Stepping away from tasting menus, new head chef Jordan Webb is creating modern adaptations of Lady Claire’s old recipes, using local, seasonal, foraged ingredients as well as home-grown produce from the hotel’s poly-tunnel. ‘Isabella, Lady Claire, and Lord Macdonald all have great belief in what I’m doing,’ says Jordan. ‘They continue to support my ideas and what I want to do. They’re looking to the future.’
So, how does this whet the appetite? North Skye venison loin with port, redcurrant jelly and green peppercorn sauce (inspired by Lady Claire’s legendary port reduction); Tain cheddar and roast vegetable Wellington (veggies rejoice, meat-free meals are far from an afterthought); and deconstructed s’mores (an absolute revelation). That’s before we mention the Lochalsh crab tagliatelle with truffle crumb which was condemned-man’s-last-meal-good, and the exhaustive whisky and drinks menus, looked after by in-house expert Jamie Williams.
But one of the simplest pleasures for me was Kinloch’s award-winning porridge with cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. Alas, having tried to recreate this at home every day since, it appears pinhead porridge perfection is an art that should be left to the masters.
Mitchell Partridge, Skye Ghillie: ‘My father gave me my first knife at seven. My surname means that I come from a long line of gamekeepers.’
Fire-making is not exactly a forte of mine, and my hunter-gatherer skills could definitely use some work, so spending an afternoon with Mitchell Partridge, Kinloch’s ghillie, was a chance to channel my inner Bear Grylls. (I’ve now added fire flint and char cloth to my Christmas wish-list. You heard it here first).
On hand with a variety of immersive outdoor experiences, including Island Culinary Adventures, Golden Eagle Encounters, and Otter Spotting Escapes, Mitch lives and breathes for the outdoors. (Just seconds after we had left the front door, Mitch’s eyes flitted to the skies where a pair of golden eagles were in search of a spot of breakfast. Half an hour later, he was pointing out porpoises playing in the distance). What’s more, there’s never a dull moment with Mitch. Just ask him about his Kate Winslet, Sir Alex Ferguson, Sean Connery, or Harry Styles stories…
Keen to make these experiences as accessible for families as possible, bespoke packages are available on request.
Travelling back over the Skye Bridge in the morning light, I was reminded what a remarkable corner of the world this is. Rich autumn colours mirrored on flat calm waters as we passed the iconic Eilean Donan Castle, and a lone stag stared across at us by the River Shiel.
A magical place that has captured the hearts of many – and with these views, it’s no wonder.
Price: Kinloch Lodge (Kinloch-lodge.co.uk, 01471 833333) offers a Golden Anniversary package from £899pp sharing, including three nights’ half-board accommodation in a cosy double with sea view, welcome cocktail on arrival, Golden Eagle and wildlife walk, shoreline foraging, tour of Torabhaig Distillery, walk around Clan Donald lands and brand apron.
The Sleat Peninsula and surrounding area is a veritable playground with plenty to offer for all ages. Why not pay a visit one of these nearby attractions?
Armadale Castle & Museum. Once the seat of the Macdonalds of Sleat, part of the mighty Clan Donald. Now a ruin, it sits in a dramatic position overlooking the Sound of Sleat and is surrounded by 40 acres of magnificent woodland gardens.
Torabhaig Distillery. The second ever licenced Single Malt Scotch Whisky distillery on the Isle of Skye. The Excise Act of 1823 first sanctioned legal whisky distilling in Scotland almost 200 years ago, with the first licence on Skye being granted not long thereafter.
Eilean Donan Castle. Although first inhabited around the 6th century, the first fortified castle was built in the mid-13th century and stood guard over the lands of Kintail. Since then, at least four different versions of the castle have been built and re-built as the feudal history of Scotland unfolded through the centuries.
Eilean Iarmain. Cosy up by the open fires, try one of their Gaelic Whiskies in Am Praban bar, bustling with good cheer and traditional music, or enjoy a more formal dining experience in the wood-panelled dining-room and brasserie, Birlinn.
Dunscaith Castle. The castle stands on a rock about 40 feet high, some 20 feet from the mainland. There was once a walled bridge connecting the castle to the mainland.