ONCE upon a time, Sarah Winnington-Ingram had her wedding night at Arisaig House, a romantic, grey stone mansion on the Road to the Isles – a place so swish it even has its own railway station.
It was truly a magical place, surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery in the world and overlooking the tranquil bay of Loch na Ceall. She adored the property and returned often. Then, when it came up for sale last year, it was an opportunity she couldn’t miss. Her sister bought the house and its land and Winnington-Ingram lives in it with her family while running it as an intimate bed and breakfast – where visitors feel less like paying customers and more like privileged guests in a private home.
Wining and dining?
The house has its own gardens, growing seasonal produce, while lobster, scallops, crabs and oysters come from the waterways nearby and venison, game and lamb are also sourced locally. Sample warm terrine of wood pigeon with Stornoway black pudding and wild mushrooms, followed by vanilla and bay leaf pannacotta with strawberries macerated in balsamic syrup. Then retire to the private bar and its sumptuous sofas, perhaps toy with a game of chess or backgammon, and slowly roast yourself by the open fire.
Breakfast is the usual array of fruit and cereals, plus a feast of freshly laid eggs cooked however you like them, and crispy bacon from local pigs, kippers from Mallaig plus wonderful home-made bread, yoghurt, marmalade and jams. Take your time with cup after cup of tea from a gigantic pot and gaze out the window watching the ever-changing scenery. There’s no hurry.
Big, high, Princess and the Pea beds offer superlative comfort, while my bedroom had a picture-postcard view across the bay. There’s a small TV but, let’s face it, you’re not here to catch up on the latest episode of River City. Power showers, fluffy towels and lovely locally made toiletries complete the bathroom picture.
Worth getting out of bed for?
Just because you are languishing in splendid isolation doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. Fishing, stalking and kayaking can be arranged, while the house has its own tennis courts and croquet lawn. Wander the sandy beaches just a few steps away or bag a Munro, catch the ferry to one of the Small Isles (Rhum, Eigg, Muck and Canna), spot whales or take the Harry Potter train across the Glenfinnan viaduct for an unforgettable flight of fancy. Even if it rains – which I’m told never happens in this part of the world – the games room boasts a full-size billiards table, fusbol and all the board games you could think of.
Budget or boutique?
There is a definite exclusive boutique feel about the place – indeed, some of us would like to keep it as their own secret hideaway. So don’t go telling too many people, will you?
Apart from the wonderfully warm welcome, the dog can come too. If you prefer, you can hire the house for your own exclusive use. And when it comes time to party, give Angus MacPhail of Skippinish (www.skipinnish.com) a call. His award-winning ceilidh band will have you reeling into the wee small hours, while two rooms can be opened up to provide the perfect spot for an unforgettable Strip the Willow.
A magical stay in wonderful company and fabulous food in a home from home (only better).
• Arisaig House, Beasdale, Arisaig, Invernessshire (01687 450730, www.arisaighouse.co.uk), B&B costs £130 for a standard en-suite room and £150 for a superior en-suite room. Dinner starts at £25.