HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Creating memories that last a lifetime while discovering Scotland’s rich past is sure to make for an enjoyable break
Reviewing accommodation where you can brush up on Scotland's history makes for a fabulous break
Having left on a chilly morning we enjoyed the warm welcome at the Sheiling Bed and Breakfast on Seil Island. Here the weather was warmer so we acclimatised over refreshments and homemade cake served by Caroline. Husband George, an archivist, joined us and they gave us a brief history of the 200 year old farm cottage, much altered over the years with the guest wing modernised to a high standard. Our accommodation was bright and tastefully decorated throughout the three rooms we had to ourselves. Our own sitting room looked over the famous 1792 Clachan bridge (Bridge over the Atlantic) festooned with its famed fairy foxgloves. Breakfast was delicious and well thought out – fresh berries, local products and homemade bread. We were here for the history and we certainly packed in a lot. A two-minute ferry took us over to Easdale, which started producing slate in 1746. We visited the small museum where we learnt the incredible story of human endeavour and hardship involved in mining the slate and battling the elements until the sea eventually won, flooding the quarries in the great 1881 storm. We also visited the small museum in Ellenabeich. The scenery on these slate islands is incredible – high peaks, wonderful seascapes and road-side verges bursting with life. We heartily recommend staying at the Sheiling both for its situation and comfort – so handy for exploring all the mainland attractions and the historic Slate islands. Normally we like an international holiday, choosing the sun over Scotland, but our stay at Atholl Estates has definitely given us food for thought. Our lodge had only just been completed at the time of our visit, and was magnificent – two spacious bedrooms, a large welcoming living area, and a good space for cooking. We were provided with meals, with delicious chicken and beef, preprepared and very tasty. Even better was the breakfast, with some fantastic sausages. Katy had never been to Blair Castle before, and was enchanted by its beautiful surroundings. She declined the chance to go pony trekking, so instead we went for a wander through the castle grounds, and were taken aback by how scenic it was. The walled garden was fantastic, especially when we spotted a mother duck with ten ducklings walking around, without a care in the world. The real highlight was Blair Castle itself, as our tour guide gave us a detailed insight into its proud history, growing from a tower to the wonderful structure that it is today. Of particular interest was the Victoria exhibition, featuring costumes from the television programme, and the real life story of Queen Victoria’s visit to the castle. Our visit finished with a Segway trip – a real highlight, especially for Katy – with a bit of mountain biking to conclude. A fantastic weekend, with so much to see and do.
Uniquely placed for a tour of Outlander series sites, the four-star, three-rosette Lovat stands on the site of Kilwhimen Barracks, one of four built by the Hanoverian Government after the 1715 rising. Used by the Jacobite forces in the 1745 rising to bombard and reduce Fort Augustus, the only surviving part of this monument – the west curtain wall – stands in the hotel grounds. Reception was speedily conducted in an elegantly wooden panelled hallway and we were shown to our room via two flights of stairs, the walls being hung with paintings that evoked the hunting, shooting and cattle rearing of days gone by. Our room was spacious and spotless. Furnishings and fabrics were of the highest quality. The headboard and the throw were fashioned from tweed, as were the curtains, which when opened revealed a view of the Fort Augustus locks. Further exploration of the property revealed the well-appointed brasserie and two elegantly furnished lounges where one could indulge in a decadent afternoon tea by a log fire. An a la carte three-course dinner was served in the aforementioned brasserie by attentive and polite staff. The drinks list was comprehensive and attractively priced. After our meal, the highlight of which was the roast halibut, crab tart, cauliflower textures and grapes, we repaired to the lounge where we lingered by the fire. After a comfy sleep in our cosy and well sound-proofed room, we enjoyed a relaxed breakfast, the menu featuring an excellent choice. We arrived in the preserved mill town of New Lanark with low expectations, but we were blown away by this remarkable historical experience. If you’re unaware of Victorian socialist Robert Owen’s experiment in enlightened captalism, this is definitely worth a trip (if that sounds dull, it’s not – there are also shops, food, an ice cream parlour, a bar and stunning views). At the heart of the village in an old mill sits the New Lanark Mill Hotel. It’s literally a stone’s throw from most exhibits, so it’s the most sensible place to stay if you plan to spend two days looking at New Lanark (which it easily justifies) although there is also a hostel and some self-catering cottages. The four-star New Lanark Mill Hotel is right on the river, so if you’re on the water side the views are amazing (I’d suggest requesting a river view). Even if you’re not, all the rooms are large, comfortable and clean. I’d characterise the rooms and en suites as more like an upgrade on a city centre Premier Inn-style hotel, rather than a traditional country house hotel. The food in the Mill One restaurant, whether it was a starter of homemade pigeon pie or a main course of lamb shoulder, was good and sensibly priced with mains between £10-20, while breakfast was also substantial. However, there was also a more informal, cheaper bar menu featuring pub grub classics. The hotel staff were excellent and very giving of their time. The hotel also has a small spa, and with winter offers starting from £45pp for dinner, bed and breakfast, it’s incredible value.
Atholl Estates Highland Lodges
Clachan Seil, by Oban PA34 4QZ www. seilislandbnb.com Prices from £75 per night.
Blair Atholl, Pitlochry PH18 5TH www.athollestates.co.uk Prices start from £280 for a Friday to Monday break.
Mill No 1, New Lanark Mills, ML11 9DB www.newlanark hotel.co.uk Prices from £79 per room.
Loch Ness, Fort Augustus, Inverness-shire PH32 4DU www.thelovat. com Prices from £100 per night.