I love Christmas but find the run up to it frantic to say the least. There’s a festive feast to order, presents to choose for my nearest and dearest, gifts to wrap, the house to decorate, then a rush to finish my ‘to do’ list before switching my ‘out of office’ on for two weeks. This year, to ramp the pressure up, I’ve had a kitchen fitted too – because Christmas isn’t stressful enough. I’d been surviving on caffeine, adrenalin and little sleep, so was delighted when we were invited to the Scottish Highlands for a pre-Christmas break at the Whitebridge Hotel Loch Ness.
Day one: a festive break at the Whitebridge Hotel Loch Ness
In my head I pictured a trip of snowy Highland scenery, cosy knitwear, Christmas tunes, roaring fires, great food, mulled wine and good company. It was the kind of romanticised imagery that features heavily in Christmas music videos. But that’s not real life – is it?
When we reached Carrbridge on our journey north, it was snowing and looking decidedly Christmassy.
After heading north out of Carrbridge we drove into near white out conditions on the A9.
Leaving the A9 we travelled west in the direction of Fort Augustus and it wasn’t long before we made the first of many photo stops. It felt like we’d stepped into a scene from a Christmas card.
The weather was wild and wintry, but we were delighted to be on the road again and couldn’t resist heading to one of our favourite scenic spots, located a stone’s throw away from our weekend base.
A snowy walk from Suidhe Viewpoint to Loch Tulla viewpoint
Wearing hats, mittens and multiple layers, we parked at the Suidhe viewpoint and exited the car looking like yetis. The roadside viewpoint offers an expansive view of south Loch Ness, taking in lochs, mountains and woodland. We wanted an immersive scenic experience though, so decided to hike a trail that leads from the Suidhe viewpoint to the equally pretty Loch Tulla viewpoint.
We set off with the crunch of snow underfoot. Ahhh, it was good to hear that sound again.
Our progress was slow. Not because conditions underfoot were bad, but because the boy stopped frequently to roll in the snow. I love to see him lost in the moment and ‘living his best life’.
In between the boy’s rolling bouts, we continued along the trail, enjoying the quiet calm of our snowy surroundings. The landscape looked uncannily like the scenery in Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ music video. “Last Christmas I gave you my heart” we sang as we walked.
When we reached the Loch Tulla viewpoint we stood at a rocky vantage point and took it all in.
Lunch – Cameron’s Tea Room and Farm shop, Foyers
After finishing our walk we travelled a handful of miles to Foyers and swapped winter wonderland for marshmallow world at Camerons Tea Room and Farm Shop.
It was the perfect choice for comfort food on a cold winter’s day. I ordered a hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows, while Mr G opted for a refined pot of tea.
For lunch I tucked into nachos with salsa, sour cream, cheese and a generous helping of jalapeños to warm the cockles. Mr G stuck with his lunchtime staple of soup and sandwich (cheese and haggis).
The tea room was nice and cosy, so we were in no rush to leave and sat chatting for a while. Before leaving I perused the goodies in the farm shop. I left with a gorgeous pair of locally knitted lilac Fair-isle gloves. Happy Christmas to me.
Outside, we stopped to say hello to a pair of red deer hinds who live at Camerons Tea Room & Farm Shop. They’re rescue deer and usually greet visitors, on the lookout for food. They rushed over to see us when we approached the fence, but one took exception to the boy (possibly viewing him as a food rival). She stamped in a puddle splattering his face and mine with mud.
Visiting the Falls of Foyers
Seeing as we were in Foyers we couldn’t resist visiting the famous Falls of Foyers – a lovely beauty spot that caused Robert Burns to wax lyrical when he visited. He was some man for a waterfall was oor Rabbie.
We last visited the falls in the spring after a prolonged dry spell and were disappointed to find them reduced to a trickle. This time we witnessed them in all their splendour – a thundering torrent of water.
We’d spent a fun few hours exploring south Loch Ness, now it was time to coorie in a Highland inn.
Whitebridge Hotel, Loch Ness
The Whitebridge Hotel stands by the roadside in the village of Whitebridge, which is home to a famous 18th century bridge built by General Wade during his military road building frenzy. It’s a corner of Scotland we love, so it was great to be back.
The hotel’s owners Lesley and Bella fell in love with the building, which dates to 1899 when they visited the village on a snowy day in December 2017. By the time summer arrived the couple had bought the hotel, relocated to the Highlands from Glasgow and set about putting their stamp on the twelve bedroom hostelry.
The end result of their labour of love is a charming, homely, quirky and relaxing haven that envelops you like a snuggly blanket as soon as you set foot over the threshold.
We immediately loved The Whitebridge Hotel and its delightfully unique decor.
And when we met Lesley, Bella and their dedicated team we found them to be every bit as charming as the hotel.
Our room at Whitebridge Hotel
Our first floor room had a view of woodland, fields and distant mountains. It had a large sleigh bed, a chaise longue to loaf on and antique furniture that suited the age and style of the building perfectly. Blankets, throws and heavy curtains ensured the room stayed snug regardless of the weather outside.
The bathroom was spacious, bright and airy and had a bath/shower and a plentiful supply of fluffy towels.
It was perfect.
After unpacking I settled on the chaise longue with the boy.
Mr G was hopeful of catching a snowy sunset, so rushed off to gaze in a westerly direction. When he returned an hour later and showed me the photos he’d taken back at the Suidhe Viewpoint, I instantly regretted my laziness.
The ultimate afternoon coorie
After changing out of our outdoor wear, we headed downstairs to the hotel bar for a drink.
With wine and beer in hand we found seats by the fireplace in the residents lounge. Decorated in muted tones and with subdued lighting and plenty of books and games to while away the time, it was a great place to unwind.
There was a record player and selection of albums in the lounge too. It’s been a long time since I’ve played a vinyl disc. My teenage years were spent buying them and listening to them. I loved music and still do. There were some absolute bangers amongst the hotel’s record collection. Vintage Elton John, Sinatra, Wings, Bruce Springsteen, Grease and an album of sing-along Christmas songs. I popped the Christmas album on the turntable and placed the needle on the record. Whoosh – off I went on a nostalgia filled trip down memory lane.
We spent several hours in the lounge singing Christmas songs, belting out Rocket Man and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, playing table football and chatting. It was one of the loveliest afternoons we’ve ever spent together.
Dinner at Whitebridge Hotel, Loch Ness
At 7pm we headed to the bar for dinner. We were seated at a table by a fireplace decorated with Christmas stockings. The boy was given a doggy bed to snooze on (such a thoughtful idea) and a bowl of water.
The hotel bar is a traditional Scottish bar where you’ll find a warm Highland welcome, a toasty fire, comfy nooks to coorie in and local refreshments to sample. The toilets are a particular highlight and have to be seen to be believed.
After ordering drinks, we got down to the serious business of studying the menu. It featured local produce and traditional Scottish dishes.
I started with skirlie bon bons with caramelised and crispy leeks. Skirlie is a traditional Scottish dish made with oatmeal, onions, fat and seasoning. This skirlie was awfy guid (awful good).
Mr G had braised venison and haggis sausage rolls with plum ketchup. He said they were awesome.
I had the pie of the day for my main course. It was chicken, bacon and leek and was served with fluffy mash, seasonal veg and gravy. It was full of flavour and extremely tasty.
Mr G had chicken Kiev with garlic butter, glazed cauliflower cheese, parsley mayonnaise and roast chicken sauce for his main course. He loved it, especially the cauliflower cheese. The boy got to try the cauliflower, as he’s cauliflower daft.
For pudding I had a chocolate mousse with whipped coffee custard and almond brittle. The mouse was gooey, rich and very moreish and the almond brittle was mouth-wateringly good.
Mr G finished with treacle tart, served with whipped orange crème fraiche, honeycomb and ale caramel. It was another winning sweet course.
After dinner we took the boy out for a short walk then toddled upstairs to bed. We were tired but happy after spending a brilliant day in the Scottish Highlands.
Day two – a pre-Christmas break at the Whitebridge Hotel, Loch Ness
We slept like logs that night. So well in fact, that I almost missed breakfast. I’m an early bird, so that’s unheard of for me.
We were looking forward to spending another day outdoors, but before then we’d be having the most important meal of the day – breakfast served in the hotel restaurant at a table with a braw mountain view.
After devouring porridge, toast and warm croissants with jam, were were ready to embrace the great outdoors.
A hike up Beinn Sgurrach
Whitebridge is tiny, but there’s plenty to see and do on the doorstep, so your car can enjoy a well-earned rest too. We left ours in the hotel car park and marched over General Wade’s bridge, before turning right into a lodge park to pick up a trail that would point us in the direction we’d need to head to climb the mountain we’d been admiring from our breakfast table.
Once on the trail it led us past grazing sheep and towards snow covered mountains. We spotted a herd of red deer hinds, but they saw us too and scarpered.
The hill we’d be climbing, Beinn Sgurrach, stands only 470 metres tall, but it’s a craggy wee lump and best tackled via an indirect route that leads onto a ridge, instead of straight up the steep rocky sides. Given half a chance Mr G would’ve dashed up the treacherous route. We were out for a walk not a race though. Plus, as we gained height the snow got deeper, making the walk more arduous.
The higher we climbed the more spectacular the view got. It was gorgeous. There were lochs, mountains, forests and tiny cottages sitting isolated in quiet glens.
Being a mountain goat and snow affictionadoe the boy enjoyed the hike – even when his wee leggies disappeared in snow up to his oxters on a couple of occasions.
Near the summit, we had a very minor scramble to reach the ridge, then it was plain sailing all the way to the summit cairn. From the cairn we were treated to a bonnie view of Whitebridge below.
By the time we’d hiked back to ground level, our happy hormones were pumping and we were high on the great outdoors.
Lunch – The Waterfall cafe, Foyers
We paid Foyers another visit for lunch. This time to eat at the village’s Waterfall Cafe.
Inside, we found a free table beside a couple of sofas. We sank into them and ordered hot drinks, soup (minestrone), sandwiches and a slice of banana loaf to share. It was all tasty, especially the soup, which was wholesome, chunky and just the tonic after an icy hike.
Another afternoon coorie session at Whitebridge Hotel Loch Ness
We’d planned to do a short walk near the hotel after lunch, but decided to spend another afternoon in the residents lounge instead. The lure of the record player and golden oldie albums was too strong.
After changing into cheery winter knitwear, we headed to the bar for some mulled cider, before returning to the residents lounge to spin more discs.
Another brilliant afternoon was spent cooried in that lovely room. Vinyls were spun, songs sung and a couple of shandies sunk.
Dinner at the Whitebridge Hotel Loch Ness
At 6pm we returned to our fireside table in the bar for a treat. It was Sunday, which meant Sunday roast was on the menu. You can’t beat a Sunday roast.
I started with skirlie bon bons again, because they were so blooming awesome. Mr G had Scottish smoked salmon served with lemon, dill capers and oatcakes. A favourite of his.
For my roast I picked the veggie nut loaf option, while Mr G had roast pork with crackling. Our roasts arrived with a platter of trimmings to share. There was cauliflower cheese, roast tatties, root vegetables and gravy.
We ate like we hadn’t seen food in a week. Lesley had promised the Sunday roast was legendary and boy was she right. We both agreed it was hands down the best Sunday roast we’ve ever had.
We finished with warm chocolate fudge cake, served with ice cream and more of the delicious almond brittle I’d had the night before.
It’d been another superb dining experience at the Whitebridge Hotel.
Time to say goodbye to the wonderful Whitebridge Hotel Loch Ness
We slept soundly again that night but woke the next morning with time to spare before breakfast – phew. I felt a twinge of sadness that we’d be leaving the relaxing Highland haven that is the Whitebridge Hotel.
This time we ate breakfast in the bar so the boy could join us. I had a cooked breakfast to set me up for our journey home and Mr G had smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. The boy had a sausage, because mountain goats deserve a naughty treat now and then.
Breakfast eaten, it was time to pack and say farewell to Lesley, Bella and their brilliant team.
We’ll be returning to the Whitebridge Hotel for another stay in June. So watch this space for endless hours of daylight, al fresco dining, swimming and more.
We stayed at The Whitebridge Hotel on a complimentary dinner, bed and breakfast basis, however all opinions are my own.
Until next time …