Glenfinnan House, Scottish Highlands
The story: Superbly situated on the shores of Loch Shiel overlooking the monument to Bonnie Prince Charlie's final uprising in 1745, Glenfinnan House was built in the 1750s and later converted into a Victorian Mansion. It's now an award-winning independent hotel whose management strives to maintain a homely atmosphere - blazing log fires, fine old paintings and an abundance of wood panelling all help to achieve this. The peaceful drawing room and bar, well-stocked with 26 types of whisky and loquacious locals including the odd kilted Jacobite, are ideal places to relax after a day in the great outdoors.
The bedchamber: Like the rest of the hotel and retaining the character of the original house, bedrooms and bathrooms are traditional with Victorian style furniture and fittings and in our case a gorgeous view across the loch. Though not huge it's comfortable, and fresh flowers and chocolates (70 per cent dark - our favourite) are welcome touches. There's no TV - Glenfinnan House is about enjoying yourself in old fashioned ways not watching CNN - and in keeping with the 'home from home' policy there are also no room keys. You can have one if you ask, but not wishing to seem like paranoid city-folk we don't, and though it feels weird at first I soon get used to it.
Culinary fare: Hungry after a spot of hearty hill-walking I'm hoping for a good dinner and I'm not disappointed - the food is first class without being pretentious. Head chef Duncan Gibson, who also co-manages the hotel with his German wife Manja, calls it "informal dining" and clearly knows his trade having worked in kitchens since the age of 14. The European-influenced dinner menu changes daily and features fresh, local produce including venison from the Glenfinnan Estate. My choices - poached medallions of monkfish in a lemon and chive broth, followed by pan-fried halibut with buttered cucumber (a great side dish) and crushed potatoes are both delicious, the fish clearly not long out the water. Husband Mike raves about his Scottish beef fillet and selection of local cheeses, particularly a blue one called Strathdon Blue - while I manage to squeeze in an iced nougat and praline parfait with rich chocolate sauce that's simply to die for.
Additions: Breakfast - the full monty - is included and there's a good bar menu available for lunch. Or, as we do, you can ride the Jacobite Steam Train to the fishing port of Mallaig and feast on fish and chips, then purchase a side of hot smoked salmon from the acclaimed fishmonger, Andy Race. With all this eating it's fortunate there's plenty of scope for activity. The wonderful walks around Glenfinnan are a must and will definitely clear your head after a dram too many. Close by there are eagle-watching cruises on Lock Shiel and Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis, where a gondola ride is the perfect way to gawp at the scenery and crazy mountain bikers hurtling down at top speed.
The good: We're loving the whole 'Highlands hideaway' experience of Glenfinnan House with the food, cosy, relaxed atmosphere and sublime setting being definite plus points. This is a great place to come if you like walking - boots and waterproofs are essential - and the peace and quiet is a real treat.
The not so good: The bedroom could be bigger and a king-sized bed would be preferable to the single and double on offer. For an establishment with such high culinary standards, it's disappointing the orange juice isn't freshly squeezed. Otherwise I can't fault it, but don't come to Glenfinnan House expecting somewhere posh with lots of facilities - it's not that kind of place.
The damage: There's a variety of packages available, from Spring and Autumn to Wedding and Honeymoon. A two night break for two people, including dinner, bed and breakfast, starts at £270 and for an extra £40 you get a view or Jacuzzi bath - go for the view if you can, it's worth it!
Glenfinnan House Hotel, Glenfinnan (by Fort William), PH37 4LT; 01397 722235. www.glenfinnanhouse.com (For full details about Scotland see www.visitscotland.com)
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