With autumn in full bloom our travels took us north to the pretty Highland village of Fort Augustus. We’d been invited to stay at The Lovat Loch Ness. The Lovat is a four-star, eco-conscious hotel with a reputation for being a bit of a foodie’s paradise. We love Fort Augustus and we love good food, so I had a hunch we’d love The Lovat too.
With the Scottish countryside rocking the russet hues of autumn, we decided to take the scenic route to Fort Augustus. It took us through the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Glen Coe and past the mighty Ben Nevis, before reaching the shores of Loch Ness.
My last visit to Fort Augustus had been fleeting, so I was looking forward to spending some quality time there, pottering around the quieter, southern side of the loch.
Foyers, Loch Ness
After spending several hours in the car, we were desperate to stretch our legs before lunch. We decided to stop at the lochside village of Foyers. There’s a short walking trail in the village that takes in an impressive waterfall, plus a fab wee cafe. A scenic ramble followed by lunch – perfect.
The Falls of Falls of Foyers
The Falls of Foyers are reached via a woodland path that twists and turns its way into a steep-sided gorge.
We set off along the path and soon arrived at a viewing platform. The falls weren’t in full flow, but they still looked bonnie.
Further on, we reached a second viewing platform. We stood and watched the falls tumbling into an inky, black pool. It looked like the kind of pool you wouldn’t get close to for fear of being eaten by a kelpie. It’s no wonder Highland folklore is full of tales of mythical beasties lurking in water.
Robert Burns visited the Falls of Foyer in 1787 and the Highland beauty spot inspired him so much that he stopped to write some verse.
Among the heathy hills and ragged woods
The roaring Fyers pours his mossy floods;
Till full he dashes on the rocky mounds,
Where, thro’ a shapeless break his stream resounds.
Despite the creepy pool, It’s easy to see why the falls made Burns put pen to paper. They’re lovely, especially on a sunny, autumn afternoon when you get them all to yourself – yay.
Leaving the falls, we climbed back uphill to the village.
The Waterfall Cafe sits opposite the entrance to the Falls of Foyers, which is great if you fancy combining a visit to the falls with cake and coffee or lunch.
The boy was chuffed with our choice of lunch venue, as he was given a biscuit to eat by a roaring log fire.
Soup and cake seemed like a good balanced lunch, so we ordered both and milkshakes too.
My mouth is watering at the thought of the coconut macaroon I had at the Waterfall Cafe. If I lived in Foyers I’d have a serious macaroon addiction.
The soup and milkshakes were tasty too.
Leaving Foyers we enjoyed a scenic drive to Fort Augustus.
Fort Augustus is a popular Highland village with gift shops, eateries and plenty to see and do. It’s touristy, but is more tasteful tweed than tartan tat.
The village lies at the south-west end of Loch Ness where the loch flows into Thomas Telford’s Caledonian Canal. The canal is an incredible feat of Georgian engineering that created a navigable waterway linking Scotland’s east and west coast. Meaning a long, treacherous journey around the north coast could be avoided.
After a wander round the village it was time for Nessie spotting.
Cruise Loch Ness
As guests of the Lovat Loch Ness we got 10% discount on Cruise Loch Ness tickets. I’d been on one of their cruises a few weeks earlier and had raved about it, so Mr G was keen to find out what all the fuss was about.
A heavy shower started as we were boarding, which made choosing a seat onboard easy.
Inside, by the bar and sonar screens it was then.
We weren’t the only ones with that idea. The bar area was hooching and Cruise Loch Ness were doing a roaring trade on nips of whisky to warm the cockles. We ordered a beer and wine and settled by the window to look for Nessie.
We admired the Highland scenery, whilst listening to tales about the Loch Ness Monster. From St Columba vanquishing the monster in the 6th century after she rather rudely ate one of his party, to wacky schemes to catch Nessie in baited traps – the commentary was both interesting and entertaining.
With sonar equipment onboard, we had no need for dredging equipment and nets in our hunt for Nessie.
Monster hunting proved to be too much for the boy, who slept through much of the cruise.
Our Loch Ness cruise ended with a talk from crew member Marcus. In 2011 he’d captured a sonar image of an unidentified, living creature in the loch at a depth of 75 ft. The creature was long and measured an estimated 5ft across. Marcus told us he’d never seen anything like it before and hasn’t since. He’s no idea what it was, but he’d love to find out.
Oh come on Marcus, really? It was obviously Nessie.
The Lovat Loch Ness
Monster hunt over, it was time to check-in at the Lovat Loch Ness.
The hotel stands on the outskirts of Fort Augustus on a site once occupied by a fort. The fort was built in the Jacobite era when the Highlands were considered to be a hotbed of rebellion.
We were given a warm Highland welcome on arrival and shown to our room in an annexe next to the main hotel building.
Our room had a private gated yard (which the boy loved), an outside seating area and its own front door.
It was like staying in a self-contained holiday chalet, but with the luxury of hotel dining and staff on the doorstep.
The room was bright and modern with a big comfy bed and a large en-suite bathroom with a bath/shower, underfloor heating and luxurious toiletries.
The boy found bowls, a towel for wiping muddy paws and treats waiting for him. The way to his heart is through his stomach, so he was a happy laddie.
We spent some time in our room chilling, before getting ready for dinner.
Dogs are welcome in The Lovat’s bar and restaurant, but we decided to dine in peace. We left the boy crunching on kibble and headed over to the Brasserie for dinner.
Dinner at The Brasserie
We were seated at a candlelit table for two and given menus to peruse.
After much humming and hawing we ordered. Three courses and a nice bottle of champagne to accompany dinner.
It was the weekend after all.
As we waited for our starters, we were offered bread with roasted tomato butter.
The tomato was warm to the touch and appeared to be completely sealed. When we cut into it, we discovered it was filled with butter. To say it’s the most delicious butter I have ever tasted would be an understatement.
The champagne was slipping down nicely when our starters arrived.
I’d chosen a crispy free-range egg with wild mushrooms and cauliflower, while Mr G had opted for celeriac velouté with a goats cheese pancake.
Mine was lovely, but one taste of Mr G’s velouté and I had starter envy. It was incredible. He thought so too and went into raptures about it.
For main I had potato gnocchi with mushrooms, celeriac and parmesan, while Mr G chose a fish dish. Halibut with a salt cod croquette, shrimps, salsify and savoy cabbage to be precise.
My main was bursting with flavour and the gnocchi was as light as a feather. I was pleased with my choice.
Mr G devoured his fish with as much relish as he had his starter.
Two delicious courses down, one to go.
For dessert I had chocolate and hazelnut tart with honey custard and chocolate ice cream. I don’t even like chocolate ice cream but this stuff was good. The flavour was subtle and not at all overpowering. The honey custard was sweet without being sickly and the tart – that was out of this world. Perfection on a plate.
And talking of perfection on a plate, Mr G’s lemon cheesecake with polenta and raspberry sorbet arrived looking like a work of art. Heston Blumenthal eat your heart out. It looked too good to eat and tasted as good as it looked.
After dinner drinks with the boy
Food eaten, we collected the boy from our room to join us for drinks. He was a little put out to discover two Scottish Terriers in The Brassiere.
He got over it though and was soon making friends with the diners at the next table. We enjoyed a nice chat about hiking and travel before they left and we retired to the bar to slump on a comfy sofa with French Martinis.
Breakfast at The Brasserie
We woke the next morning, looking forward to breakfast. Still feeling guilty after Scottiegate we let the boy join us. He was delighted and strutted into The Brassiere like he owned the place.
For breakfast we had a choice of cooked, or Continental with a Scottish twist. It’s not every day you’ll find venison salami on a breakfast menu. The ethos at the Lovat Loch Ness is eco, so local produce is favoured as it travels fewer road miles from supplier to table.
I ordered some cooked items and Mr G stuck with his old favourite of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.
I shared my sausage (from the village butcher) with the boy to make up for Scottiegate. He wolfed it down greedily, without taking time to savour the quality of his artisan breakfast treat.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye to The Lovat Loch Ness and Fort Augustus.
The Lovat Loch Ness was everything we hoped it would be and more. It’s a wonderful, eco-conscious hotel in a pretty Highland village. The staff are friendly and helpful, the ambiance relaxed and the food incredible. The hotel epitomises Highland hospitality at its best.
We were waved off with wishes for a safe journey home, clutching a bag of home baked raisin cookies (they were delicious).
We were in no rush to leave Loch Ness. With a long drive ahead of us, were keen to ramble in the great outdoors before being cooped up in the car for hours.
We’d find miles of scenic path at the South Loch Ness Trail a short distance from Fort Augustus, but first a short stop to take in a last view of the village.
Walk – South Loch Ness Trail
We parked the car at the Suidhe Viewpoint and followed a trail uphill. The landscape was vast and rugged. We were surrounded by heather covered mountains and moorland. It was a gorgeous, still morning and we had the trail all to ourselves. The only sound we could hear was the occasional baaing of sheep grazing on the moor and the mooing of cows we could hear but not see.
We continued along the path until we reached a rocky knoll with a spectacular view of Loch Tarff below. We had a birds eye view of the tiny islands on the loch known as crannogs. Ancient dwellings once stood on the man made islands, which were built to keep their occupiers safe from attack. Over the hilltops we could see a cloud inversion hovering above Loch Ness.
I could’ve stood there all morning taking in the view. These are the moments I cherish most on our travels. When you’re surrounded by dramatic Scottish scenery, all your cares float away.
Standing there savouring the moment, the penny dropped. The invisible cows weren’t cows at all. It was October and what we were hearing was the sound of the rut. The bellow of stags was ringing out through the hills. And as soon as I recognise the sound I spotted them in the distance. Galloping across the russet coloured landscape, a herd of majestic, roaring stags.
What a joy to see. Even the boy stopped to watch and seemed to be lost in the moment.
I could have rambled around those hills for days, but Edinburgh was calling and it was time to head home.
But not before one last attempt to spot Nessie.
Our dinner, bed and breakfast at The Lovat Loch Ness were provided on a complimentary basis. However all opinions are my own.
Until next time ……