Lochs so fine!
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Lochs so fine!

Stephen Oryszczuk enjoys a Highland fling through Scotland's most dramatic landscapes

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

Sunset over Torridon
Sunset over Torridon

Bidding farewell to England, we cross over the border with anticipation and cleave our way through Glasgow and Edinburgh on the M9, to Stirling, Scotland’s former capital and the brooch clasping the Highlands and Lowlands together.

Stirling’s famed castle charges £29 per couple entry, but the city also offers its ancient walls free-of-charge. Meandering through 900-year old stone buildings, listening to the bagpipers playing in the squares, I come to realise there are few more pleasant ways to spend an afternoon.

Just up the road, beyond Dunblane, is Andy Murray’s hotel Cromlix and Chez Roux, our first stop.

At this time of year, the Perthshire colours of its 34 acres are dazzling beautiful and slow time down all by themselves, as the sweeping tree-lined drive up to this old baronial mansion beckons you in. Once there, you’ll see Virginia creeper painting the turrets red.

The hotel’s interior is duck-egg blue and (tasteful) hand-painted gold, the handiwork of the tennis star’s mum Judy.

Murray gave his new luxury hotel a lick of paint in 2014, and it shows. With five suites and ten bedrooms, Cromlix is characterful, homely and spacious.

Furnishings are top-quality, beds are dangerously comfy and bathrooms are bigger than most London apartments.

Downstairs, there’s billiards and beams, leather and local whiskeys sampled in the old gun room, alongside a chapel adorned with century-old Highland drums.

Outside, there are tennis courts (of course), a croquet lawn, a lake, grounds that include one of Britain’s best climbing trees, and what Mrs O describes as “very impressive lichen”.

Mr and Mrs O at Glen Afric
Mr and Mrs O at Glen Afric

A happy wife makes for a happy stay, so my delight equalled hers when she saw the bath products, including bergamot and ginger bath salts, which I’m told is ‘a thing’.

After breakfast (which may include Loch Fyne kippers, or Pain Perdu – a delicious sweet bread with cream), strike out west for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, a glorious national park resplendent in copper and yellow.

Glen Finglas offers the Brig O’Turk Loop, a gentle but fascinating three to four mile wildlife stroll along good paths through oak, self-sown birch, willow, alder, Scots pine, hazel and the red-berried Rowan (aka Mountain Ash), my favourite.

Start at the Woodland Trust office on the A821 and keep an eye out for golden eagles, red squirrels and pine marten. Finish off with lunch and something warming by the fire at the Byre Inn, before heading north, with a minor detour to Killin and the spectacular (and free) Falls of Dochart.

However big your car, you’ll feel dwarfed by the dramatic mountains of Glen Coe, closing in on you from both sides of the road, as you follow signs for Fort William, where Ben Nevis looms into view.

Five miles beyond Britain’s highest peak is our next overnight stop: Inverlochy Castle Hotel.

Once Queen Victoria’s Highland retreat, this Relais & Chateau masterpiece is widely regarded as Scotland’s best hotel, with fabulous frescos and a Rolls Royce Phantom to whisk you in.

The romantic setting amid lochs backed by giant Canadian Redwood help this stunning venue to top most lists. Check out the snooker room and its walls of antlers, where one measures ten feet across or treat yourself to the playful six-course evening taster menu, which delights the palate at every turn.

In the morning, climb the big Ben (peak), or – if you’d prefer something less strenuous – explore Glen Affric, a national treasure whose stunning scenery and gentle walks win hearts.

If you have kids, opt for Rothiemurchas, in the whisky-rich, snow-topped Cairngorm Mountains, where Segways, quad bikes and horses whizz young and not-so-young around the estate.

Bidding goodbye to Inverlochy, we climb further north, aiming for pretty Ullapool and Scotland’s breath-taking west coast. We cruise down the A832 and find ourselves stopping every few minutes to jump out the car, cameras at the ready, as each new corner offers a new “best view ever”.

However big your car, you’ll feel dwarfed by the dramatic mountains of Glen Coe, closing in on you from both sides of the road, as you follow signs for Fort William, where Ben Nevis looms into view.

If the weather’s with you, the light, colour and contrasts of this area reward with award-winning snaps – and Mrs O feels sure her sunset shot near Torridon is a definite shoe-in.

Our trip was drawing to a close, but we couldn’t leave Scotland without driving to Applecross, up the kind of road you’d usually find in the Alps, featuring Jeremy Clarkson and a Ferrari.

From here you can opt for the Isles of Mull or Skye (the latter easier accessed because of the bridge linking it to the mainland) or the justly-famed Loch Lomond, which points down towards Glasgow. Incidentally, the latter is where the majority of Scotland’s Jewish community lives today.

Heading south of Scotland’s biggest city, we arrive in Lanarkshire to spend our last night, in the newly-opened Crossbasket Castle Hotel.

Once owned by the inventor of the waterproof raincoat (Charles Mackintosh), the hotel was bought in 2011 by smart-meter millionaire Steve Timoney. The building had fallen into disrepair, and £9 million later, it reopened in May.

Featuring only nine bedrooms, it is immaculate, impeccable and faultless. Everything about it exudes effortless class, and is sure to win awards, not least for its four-storey tower suite. Get in while you can and ask to stay in the Mackintosh room, with its show-stopper bathroom.

Stephen stayed as a guest of ICMI at Cromlix, Inverlochy Castle and Crossbasket Castle. For more details visit icmi.co.uk

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments