IF YOU’RE looking for a romantic getaway, look no further than the hotel voted Island Romantic Hotel of the Year at the Scottish Hotel Awards, 2014.
Duisdale also had the judges in the Style and Wedding venue categories swooning, and when it came to the Scottish Thistle Awards in 2013, they fell in love and declared it the Best Hotel In Scotland. Nearby sister hotel, Toravaig House, also won Island Hotel of the Year and the Hospitality Team Gold Medal.
Built in 1865 as a hunting lodge, Duisdale has been given a makeover by owners Anne Gracie and Ken Gunn to turn it into the perfect romantic retreat. For a start there’s the location on the Sound of Sleat, where the land rushes down to meet the sea and the mountains of Knoydart and the Nevis Range rush up across the water. Then there’s the 2 AA rosette food, chi-chi interiors and solicitous staff whose enquiries as to your day’s plan have a purpose – if you don’t return from your walk up the Cuillin, you can rely on them to raise the alarm.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
Boutique, from the flock wallpaper to the four posters. A card in our room bearing the William Blake quote, “exuberance is beauty” said it all.
There are 18 rooms decorated in contemporary style, some with four posters, others with king-sized beds. All have mini bars, TV and the all-important tea making facilities – romance not being fuelled by bucks fizz alone. Naturally, with romance paramount, the first thing you do on being shown your room is test the bed. My assistant took a running jump at the four poster and bounced off the other side through the open door of the en suite, from where he pronounced the mattress “springy”. So far so good. And since he was in the en suite anyway, he was able to declare the shower, sink and WC spotless and approve the complimentary toiletries.
WINING AND DINING
Head chef Peter Cullen and team are to be congratulated on food that didn’t put a foot wrong, and the restaurant was full with residents, and locals happy to brave the icy roads for dinner (£45pp, or à la carte). When a restaurant has two AA rosettes, dining is an event and from breakfast to dinner, and at afternoon tea in between, the kitchen rose to the occasion. The food was one explosion of flavour after another. Meals can also be eaten in the Chart Room bar, but with Narnia outside, we were drawn like moths to the candlelit dining room.
Canapés served on sofas in front of the fire included salmon mousse, curd cheese and chives, ham and marmalade on soda bread. Through in the dining room a flirty little amuse bouche heralded irresistible appetisers of slivers of duck, venison and beef, before starters of fishcakes and soup. Mains of hake and sea bass came with sublime pea risotto and winter vegetables, all washed down with an Australian Shiraz McHenry Hohnen, Margaret River. Crumble and custard had a Drambuie kick and the cheese board of Isle of Mull Cheddar, Dunsyre Blue, Inverlochy Goat’s Cheese and Morangie Brie made this caseophile melt.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
Head for the southernmost tip of Skye and walk to the lighthouse for stunning views of Eigg and Rum. Detour to the sheltered, sandy beach at Camas Daraich, where you can lie like seals on the rocks and let the pale winter sun and a nip of single malt warm you while you gaze. An easier stroll is the Fairy Pools in Glen Brittle, and when weather allows, The Quirang for its Lord Of The Rings landscape can’t be beaten. If distilleries are your thing, go to Talisker, Skye’s oldest working example at Carbost (adults £8/children from eight years up, £3).
With snow on the ground no-one braved the hot tub, but the biggest little extra is the house yacht, Solus a Chuain (trips available from April to September from £145 per person including lunch). If you really want to push the boat out, you can get married on board too. Oh go on.
Duisdale is like wrapping yourself in a fur throw and luxuriating in front of a log fire. Which could be arranged. n
Duisdale House Hotel, Isle Ornsay, Sleat, Isle of Skye IV43 8QW (01471 833202, www.duisdale.com)
Doubles from £79pp for b&b, £128 for dinner, b&b until 31 March. Two-night Valentine breaks, doubles from £209, four posters from £268, including dinner, b&b, plus Champagne in your room and free use of hot tub. Winter Special Offer, three nights for the price of two, b&b, from £147. See website for full details of rates