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Loch where we are!

Caron Bluestone takes in the unspoilt scenic beauty of the Scottish Highlands

A pink sunset viewed from the terrace at Airds Hotel
A pink sunset viewed from the terrace at Airds Hotel

Scotland in the autumn is a heavenly place. Exceptional scenery, hues a palette of unimaginable greens and browns, reflecting in lochs as clear as glass, set against vast blue skies. 

We were following in the footsteps of the many Jews before us, a history dating back to the 17th century.Communities are in the big cities now, with Glasgow taking second place over Edinburgh. There’s even a certified Jewish tartan, created in 2008 for a Chabad rabbi, the colours of which represent those of the Israeli and Scottish flags. 

We took the new Caledonian Sleeper train from Euston – a method of travel that boasts a small carbon footprint but is high in luxury. 

Our double Club Rooms, side by side, in a gleaming new carriage with en-suite bathrooms, proper duvet and pillows, a chic overnight bag filled with miniature toiletries and a room service menu featuring sustainably-sourced Scottish fayre, came complete with a dedicated porter.  

Breakfast at Airds Hotel

Lulled to sleep by the gentle movement of the train and awaking early to a spectacular sunrise, there was just time for a delicious cooked breakfast before alighting to pick up our hire car.  

From Glasgow, we headed north towards Inverness and the exclusive and prestigious members-only Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle. 

You’d be forgiven for taking your time to find the entrance at this understated venue. Encompassing more than 8,000 acres of enchanting forests, moors and the magnificent Dornoch Firth, many of the international members choose to arrive by helicopter.   

Caron and her family at Skibo Castle

Once inside the gates, you are home from home. The atmosphere is convivial, much like a country house party, and members and their guests are encouraged to mingle. This is most notable during the formal and very opulent hosted dinners, held in the grand dining hall. 

Commencing with cocktails in the drawing room, the bagpipes play you in to dinner and, interestingly, spouses are separated – but do not despair. Alan Grant, Skibo’s charmingly bohemian ambassador and long-time host, effortlessly brings together members and presides over the atmospheric evenings that often end in dancing or, in our case, a sing-along around the grand piano.  

Spend a few days here and you will never want to leave. A piper announces the start of the day and the huge castle organ accompanies breakfast. 

Every luxury is included in the daily charge; the facilities are unrivalled, and it’s the perfect backdrop for enjoying the great Scottish outdoors clay pigeon shooting, or riding, fishing and golf. Champagne is on tap, food is heavenly and all too plentiful and the staff anticipates your every wish.  

The 21 opulent, castle bedrooms are an adult-only affair. Families are spoilt in the luxuriously appointed hunting lodges, set in the castle grounds. 

The approach to the luxurious Skibo Castle

Characterful and cosy, guests are left wanting for nothing; hot-water bottles appear at turndown as if by magic, roll top baths and decanters of the finest whiskies await you. 

Park your car, then a buggy is yours for your stay. For journeys further afield on the estate, a simple call to your host, and a sleek, black Range Rover appears at your door.  

Then there is the Carnegie Links – a world championship golf course – that is the jewel in Skibo’s crown. Sitting beside the Dornoch Firth, it forms a hub for members. Leisurely lunches, casual dinners, drinks and whisky tastings all happen here. 

Your biggest hardship at Skibo is deciding how to spend the time. Children of all ages are welcome in the vast play barn, where they pull out all the stops, both outdoors and in. The spectacular glass-panelled pool and the serene spa are perfect finishes to a day in the fresh air. 

 Skibo sets a new standard in luxury lifestyle. Yes it’s privileged, but it’s neither showy, nor full of ostentatious people. It’s a place to escape,
to enjoy life and the countryside in a truly majestic way.   

 The second part of our Highland tour as a family took us through Glencoe to Port Appin, towards the Argyll and Airds Hotel & Restaurant. 

One can only describe it as an extraordinary boutique hotel and among Scotland’s best. 

Directly on the shores of the stunning Loch Linnhe, its accolades are many; Relais & Chateaux, 3 AA rosettes, Gold Award with Eat Scotland and most recently, Luxury Scottish Hotel of the Year 2020. The gardens extend to the water’s edge, Port Appin lighthouse and the tiny but beautiful island of Lismore in the distance. 

 There’s real warmth that greets you here, both in the décor, which is traditional with contemporary touches, and in the welcome from Robert, the softly-spoken general manager, and his team who greeted us with welcome drinks in the cosy smaller lounge by the log fire. 

 Our suite was elegantly furnished with plenty of luxurious touches, including a supremely comfortable Vi Spring bed, Bulgari toiletries, huge marble bathroom and a separate sleeping area for the children. 

The hotel also boasts the finest restaurant. While the children feasted on high tea in the conservatory, we were treated to a mouth-watering, seven course tasting menu.

Argyll itself offers some of the most exquisite scenery in Scotland. There’s plenty to do and see here, from whisky tasting in Oban, to sea safaris or day trips to Mull. Closer to the hotel is the tiny, tranquil and unspoilt isle of Lismore, strewn with ruins and a Viking castle.  

 

Travel tips

Caron stayed at Airds Hotel & Restaurant, which is offering a three-for-two winter break from £815 per room, including three nights for two sharing a double room on a half-board basis; four nights for the price of three is also available from £1,160 per room, www.airds-hotel.com 

To apply for a once-only stay at The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle, visit www.carnegieclub.co.uk 

Caron travelled on the Caledonian Sleeper from London Euston, www.sleeper.scot

 

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