IF you’re looking for “get away from it all”, you’ve struck gold with this former hunting lodge of the MacDonald clan, steeped in history and tucked away in a corner of the misty isle.
The current man in charge of the Edinburgh trams project was there for a break during our stay at the Skeabost Country House Hotel on Skye, knowing that he couldn’t be reached on his mobile with no signal available.
There’s no doubting the charm of this place, now owned by the Oxford Hotels and Inns group. But it needs some investment to bring the place up to a standard that matches the price of the rooms.
The decor – and the carpets in particular – is ragged round the edges and crying out for some TLC. The access, down a badly rutted track better suited to a 4x4, needs upgrading too. I wouldn’t recommended it if you drive a posh sports car with low suspension!
That said, there’s a lot about the place that’s good. First off, the staff could not have been more helpful – and that wasn’t just for my benefit as a reviewer. You’re made to feel welcome as soon as you arrive. A bottle of wine and some chocs in the room was a nice touch.
There’s lots of wood panelling and big open fires in the public areas, making you feel a bit like you’re living like a Scots aristocrat of a few generations ago.
We stayed in the Boudica suite. If you know your history, Boadicea – as she’s better known – was queen of the British Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.
She’d have felt like a queen in these surroundings. Our bedroom was huge, dominated by a giant four-poster. A door led to the luxurious bathroom with a rolltop bath, shower, bidet and two sinks.
The hotel is set in its own grounds on the shores of Loch Snizort Beag. It’s a beautiful location, even with the misty isle living up to its reputation on a rather dreich and drizzly weekend.
For golfers there’s a nine-hole course in the hotel grounds, while for fishermen the river has salmon and trout to catch, with the services of a ghillie on hand.
Being more of a mountain man myself, my wife Rosemary and I headed for Beinn Tianavaig south of Portree. It offers stunning views on a good day over to Raasay and south to the Red Cuillin, but we were lashed by wind and rain and glad to get back to the comfort of the hotel for an afternoon watching rugby on the telly in our room.
In the evening I tried my hand at snooker in the hotel’s snooker room, though my performance didn’t benefit as much as I’d have liked from a misspent youth. I did manage to clear the table eventually.
Dinner was a little disappointing and “nouvelle cuisine” for my part. I could have done with a side dish of veg. But cheese for dessert was very palatable and Rosemary fared better with her liver main course.
A very tasty breakfast of Mallaig smoked haddock and a poached egg set me up for the day.
Peace and quiet comes in spades at this hotel and I could imagine on a fine day sitting out in the grounds enjoying the scenery and chilling out. It’s also a wonderful location for wedding receptions and the hotel offers packages catering for up to 100 guests.
Out and about
On the way home we took a drive round the north end of the island, passing through Uig – where ferries leave for the Western Isles – and Staffin to reach Portree.
There are lovely coastal views and places of interest such as Duntuilm Castle, a former Pictish fortress; the Skye Museum of island life; a memorial to Flora Macdonald; Kilt Rock, where the rock face plunging to the sea resembles the pleats of a kilt; and the weirdly-shaped pinnacles of the Quirang, along with the Old Man of Storr.
Skye is a magical place, where life seems to move at a different pace to the mainland. While there are many tourist attractions to visit, exploring the island on foot or by bike lets you take your time and get to those “off the beaten track” areas that make for a memorable visit.
Fact fileSkeabost Country House Hotel
Location: Skeabost Bridge, Skye, signed off A850 just past Carbost. Two-and-a-half hours drive from Inverness.
Rooms: 14 standard and double rooms which include four-poster beds.
Tariff: changes according to time of year. May-June B&B: standard double £130; superior double £210. But bargains are to be had online.
Dinner: £25 for three courses, £20 for two courses. Bar meals available from £8.
Other facilities: nine-hole golf course and billiard room.
Details: call 01470 532202 or visit www.oxfordhotelsandinns.com