When I picture my perfect escape, I always conjure up a remote corner of Scotland with beautiful beaches, rugged mountains and blissful isolation. A place where worries drift away, leaving the ‘real world’ far behind. Recently, I found that perfect escape when we spent the weekend at Inver Lodge Hotel in Lochinver.
Day one – Lochinver here we come
After a five hour drive north (spotting golden eagles, red kites and stags en route), we entered a world of calm.
Soaring eagles, majestic stags and mountains
Before check-in at the Inver Lodge Hotel we decided to fill our lungs with clean Highland air.
Stopping at the Stac Pollaidh car park for a potter, we spotted a pair of Golden Eagles soaring high overhead (our second pair of the day). Mr G wandered off to snap photos, while I watched the birds, gliding and swooping until they vanished out of sight.
Soon my attention turned to a patch of warm light sweeping across the slopes of Cùl Beag. The amber hue contrasted beautifully with the mountain’s snow-dusted summit. At that moment in time, there’s nowhere in the world I’d rather have been.
Leaving Stac Pollaidh, we continued north towards Lochinver. It doesn’t matter how many times I visit this part of Scotland, the landscape always leaves me awestruck.
Passing Inchnadamph, we saw hundreds of red deer. I’ve never seen so many of them in one place before. Every few seconds we were shouting “over there… and there, and there”.
It was raining heavily when we reached Lochinver, so it was time to coorie in our Highland home.
Winding our way uphill to reach the hotel, we were met by a welcoming committee of stags.
Inver Lodge Hotel, Lochinver
In 2019, the family-owned Inver Lodge Hotel parted with its management company and went back to its traditional Scottish roots. Think a warm Highland welcome, relaxing ambiance, roaring log fire and delicious, locally sourced food served in an informal setting. Sounds like heaven doesn’t it?
Janet, the hotel’s General Manager greeted us at check-in with the aforementioned warm Highland welcome. After a good blether, it was time to settle in our room.
Our superior sea view room
The Inver Lodge Hotel has twenty one guest bedrooms, located over two floors. All rooms boast views across Loch Inver. Our room, ‘crochan’ was a superior sea view room on the ground floor.
It was spacious with a large bed, sofa, armchair, coffee table, dressing table, desk and TV unit. The furnishings were traditional, but the decor light, which gave the room a nice airy feel. Tweed curtains added a chic Scottish touch.
A large wardrobe, provided loads of storage space – peeping inside I found fluffy robes and slippers waiting for us. I could feel a loaf coming on.
The en suite had a bath and shower cubicle. The complimentary toiletries were by Arran Aromatics – one of my favourites. I’d definitely be indulging in a sumptuous soak or two during our stay.
After unpacking, Mr G nipped to the bar to get us an alcoholic beverage each. Robes and slippers on, we settled on the sofa to chill. Even with it raining cats and dogs outside, we could see the view was stunning.
Oh, to witness a sunset from our comfy vantage point.
And then as if by magic, the rain stopped and the sun appeared, just in time to set.
Dinner at Inver Lodge Hotel, Lochinver
At 7:30pm with glad rags on, we headed to the hotel restaurant for dinner. The Inver Lodge Hotel recently appointed Stuart Blake as their new Head Chef. Glasgow-born Blake, trained under Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White. With such an illustrious background, it’s safe we were looking forward to dinner.
We were seated by the restaurant window, which gave us a view of the lights of Lochinver twinkling below. We ordered drinks and perused the menu. The menu was simple and unpretentious, with plenty of quality Scottish ingredients represented.
For starter Mr G chose home smoked trout, with horseradish potato salad and melba toast. I couldn’t resist twice baked cheese soufflé, topped with Mull cheddar sauce and fresh chives.
Mr G loved his starter and went into raptures about the melba toast, deeming it the best thing he had ever tasted. Intrigued, I tried a piece – it was phenomenal and had a lovely olive flavour.
My souffle was heavenly. It was light and full of flavour.
For main, fish lover Mr G had oven roast fillet of hake, clam and muscle chowder and sautéed potatoes. I stuck with the veggie option and had winter vegetable tagliatelle with tomato concasse sauce.
Another two superb courses were devoured.
For dessert Mr G went old school with a sticky toffee pudding, while I chose some palate cleansing sorbet – passion fruit and strawberry. One word – amazing.
After dinner we grabbed a Scottish G&T (The Thomson Brothers, Experimental Batch No 9 Highland Gin) from the bar and a cosy seat by the fire.
It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
Breakfast at Inver Lodge Hotel, Lochinver
We woke the next morning, refreshed after a great night’s sleep and looking forward to breakfast, followed by a day spent exploring the local area.
Breakfast was even better than expected.
Between us we feasted on croissants and muffins fresh from the oven, Scottish cheeses, homemade jams, eggs royale (Mr G) and a mini Scottish breakfast (me).
It was a dreich day outside, but eating breakfast with a view of Loch Inver was a real treat, regardless of the weather.
Day two – Lochinver and beyond
Dressed head to toe in waterproof jackets, trousers, bobble hats and hiking boots, we were ready to explore.
A short drive from the hotel, our first stop of the day was at one of our favourite beaches in Scotland. We have many, but Achmelvich is that wee bit special. The colours are sublime, come rain or shine.
We arrived to find Achmelvich was ours and ours alone – bar the ever present seabirds and sheep. Oh, joy.
After running around on the sand, we found a vantage point and watched the sea, calmed by the hypnotic sound of the waves – nature’s Prozac.
On days when it’s not pouring down and blowing a hoolie, the beach is a lovely place for a dip in the sea, or a wee ramble to see if you can find the Hermit’s Castle hidden nearby.
Clachtoll Beach and broch
Leaving Achmelvich Bay we headed north, stopping briefly at Clachtoll Beach.
More exposed than Achmelvich, Clachtoll was a tad wilder, weather wise. We pose for pretend blowing away photos by the beach, before retreating back to the car.
On a nicer day, we’d have walked along the coast to visit Clachtoll Broch.
It’s an exposed walk, boggy in parts. With the memory of an extremely wet July 2019 visit still fresh in our minds (our shoes and socks have only just dried out), we decided this was not the day for a return visit.
The 2,000-year-old tower would once have stood around 14 metres high. Incredible, when you consider it was dry built, with no mortar to hold it together. Today, the lower level of the outer wall. entrance way, a guard cell, staircase and quern stone still survive.
Further round the coast, we braved a wind and rain lashing to visit Stoer Lighthouse. I love lighthouses, especially when they’re withstanding a battering from wild weather.
Stoer Lighthouse stands on an exposed rocky point known as Stoer Head. Like many of Scotland’s lighthouses it was built by the Stevenson family. It stands 14 metres high (the height of an ancient broch). It’s short by lighthouse standards, but its clifftop perch gives it a much higher elevation.
In high season, a snack van in the car park makes Stoer Head a nice spot to pause for coffee with a view.
A coastal walk also starts at the car park and leads to a sea stack called the Old Man of Stoer. During the summer months, dolphins and whales are often spotted off the coast.
Elevenses at The Jammery
Drookit – it was time to shelter indoors for a while. Fortunately, we were close to a favourite coffee and cake stop of ours.
The Jammery at Culkein is a fab wee shop that sells homemade jams, chutneys, cooking sauces and local arts and crafts. They also serve delicious homemade cakes and a decent cup of coffee.
Dogs aren’t allowed inside the shop, but are welcome in The Barn, which is shabby chic and super cute.
Warm, dry and with stomachs full of cake, we left The Jammery with a jar of marmalade and a new table lamp with a Harris Gin bottle base.
A scenic drive and wildlife spotting
Keen to stay dry, we left Culkein and took a scenic drive to the iconic Kylesku bridge, stopping to watch wildlife along the way. We spotted lots more red deer and birds of prey too.
After reaching Kylesku, we turned and headed back towards Lochinver, detouring slightly to see the dramatic ruins of Ardvreck Castle on the shore of Loch Assynt.
Pies and pottery in Lochinver
Back in Lochinver it was time for a late lunch.
And when in Lochinver a pie is obligatory, because the best pies EVER are sold at Lochinver Larder.
You can eat in, but having the boy with us we had takeaway. Their legendary pies come in many flavours. We both chose steak and ale, with mash, onion gravy and peas.
Perfect pastry, tender steak and fluffy mash – they were fan-bloomin’-tastic.
I let the boy try a little steak. Who could resist those eyes?
Lunch eaten, we wandered up to Highland Stoneware on the edge of the village. The pottery was closed as it only opens on week days out of season, but we were still able to enjoy the quirky artworks dotted around outside.
And we’ll really shake them up when we win the World Cup, cause’ Scotland are the greatest football team 🎶
We’d had a brilliant day out, despite the yucky weather.
Unwinding at Inver Lodge Hotel, Lochinver
Back at the hotel, Mr G wanted to pay the billiard room a visit to wow me with his snooker skills. My knowledge of snooker is zilch, so his showmanship was wasted on me.
Once he’d tired of hitting wee balls with a stick, it was time to don our hotel robes and slippers to spend a lazy night, relaxing in our room with a view.
Mr G settled in front of the TV to watch some Six Nations rugby, while I soaked in a bubble bath with a book.
I do love a hotel room with a bath tub.
Now that’s what I call room service
When hunger set in we ordered room service.
Wowzer – best room service ever. A whole table, complete with a white table cloth and food (soup and sandwiches) covered by silver cloches arrived.
Not only was the presentation streets ahead of any room service I’ve had before, but the food was fantastic too.
I can highly recommend formal dining wearing robes and slippers.
Day three – farewell to Inver Lodge Hotel
Day three in Lochinver dawned and it was time for us to head home, but not before tucking into another fantastic breakfast with a view.
This time we had porridge topped with honey – scrumptious.
After breakfast we said our goodbyes to Janet and her wonderful team and left promising to return (and we will, as I’ve booked a stay for the end of July).
Outside, it was dry and bright so we went for a wander round the hotel grounds, then up to the top of the hill it sits on.
What a place. Fantastic food, the warmest of Highland welcomes, a peaceful, cosy haven where you can completely switch off AND it’s surrounded by this …
Easaidh All-Abilities path, Little Assynt
We had a long drive home ahead of us, but were in no rush to leave this stunning corner of Scotland. Keen to ramble, we decided to stretch our legs on the Leitir Easaidh All-Abilities path, not far from the hotel.
The wheelchair accessible path meanders past two small lochs (loch Leitir Easaidh and Loch na h-Innse Fraoich) and is surrounded by breathtaking scenery. There are a couple of eco loos en route, plus picnic tables and shelters.
It’s a beautiful spot for a walk, especially if you enjoy spotting native flora and fauna. We saw frogs, heron, swans, ducks and some red deer tracks but no deer. Heather was abundant, which must make the trail spectacular when it’s in bloom.
To get our heart rates up, we detoured off the path and along a rougher, hill track. It led to a spot with a fantastic view of Loch na h-Innse Fraoich and the formidable looking mountain Quinag.
It was a fitting place to end another fantastic Scottish road trip.
We stayed at the Inver Lodge Hotel on a complimentary dinner, bed and breakfast basis, however all opinions are my own.
Until next time…..