Travel: Glenmorangie House, near Tain

Glenmorangie House. Picture: Contributed

Glenmorangie House. Picture: Contributed

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THE nerve-jangling ordeal of heading up the A9 towards Inverness on a Friday afternoon was melting into the memory banks as we drove through the rolling Black Isle countryside and crossed the sparkling waters of the Cromarty Firth.

THE nerve-jangling ordeal of heading up the A9 towards Inverness on a Friday afternoon was melting into the memory banks as we drove through the rolling Black Isle countryside and crossed the sparkling waters of the Cromarty Firth.

It had been banished completely within minutes of our arrival at Glenmorangie House as the sun streamed in the windows of its morning room, where afternoon tea was being served, watched over by a quirky giraffe sculpture, as an open fire gently crackled away.

This oasis of calm is located around six miles from the Easter Ross town of Tain, Scotland’s oldest royal burgh, and home to the famous Glenmorangie whisky distillery. The whitewashed house at Cadboll was built for Aeneas Macleod, the town clerk of Edinburgh, in 1680. It remained in his family for the best part of three centuries until it was bought by the whisky company in 1989.

BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?

Perched above the coastline of the Moray Firth, the lavish grounds boast a ruined 16th-century castle, a walled kitchen garden and dovecot (both from the 18th century), manicured lawns and a tree-lined path leading to an unspoilt beach a few minutes’ walk away. Although still regularly used for corporate entertaining, the house operates for most of the year as both a hotel and “country house party” venue.

While it exudes exclusivity, the atmosphere cultivated by the handful of staff on duty is warm and welcoming.

ROOM SERVICE

The L-shaped house itself has been extensively restored and refurbished, with three cottages created at the back of the main house, which has six rooms individually decorated with rich tartans and local fabrics. Our bedroom overlooking the castle ruins had two huge armchairs in which to settle back with our complimentary whisky. The dark oak bed (probably the biggest I’ve slept in) added to the feeling of luxury.

WINING AND DINING

Guests are invited to meet in the morning room for pre-dinner drinks and canapés before gathering around the huge communal dining table, watched over by the Macleod family’s portraits. Highlights of the menu included hand-dived Arisaig scallops, monkfish caught in the port of Ness, off the Isle of Lewis, and Scrabster cod. For dessert we enjoyed mango soufflé one evening and iced honey and oatmeal parfait the next.

WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR

The area has a number of renowned golf courses, including those at Tain, Alness, Invergordon and Royal Dornoch. We took a private fishing lesson on the banks of the River Alness, in the 20,000-acre Novar Estate, a popular draw for trout 
and salmon fishing. A must-see attraction nearby is the modern-day recreation of the Hilton of Cadboll Stone and its mysterious carvings, which date back to 800, when the area was a heartland of the Picts. Sculptor Barry George was on hand to provide the inside track on the stone’s enigmatic origins. What remains of the original can be seen in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Our visit to Glenmorangie House would not have been complete without a tour of the town’s iconic distillery, which has the tallest whisky stills in the country – the inspiration for “Jeffrey the Giraffe” back at the house. A highlight was to be given the chance to drink from the nearby Tarlogie Spring, the crystal-clear water source for the distillery.

LITTLE EXTRAS

…or perhaps not so little. We were presented with a cool box to accompany our fishing trip laden with chef-prepared lunchtime goodies. Later we were spirited into whisky heaven with a special candlelit “sonic tasting” of Glenmorangie Signet to an evocative soundtrack designed to awaken the senses.

GUESTBOOK COMMENTS

The fact you are on first-name terms with the staff and your fellow guests almost as soon as you’ve met them says it all.

• Overnight room rates at Glenmorangie House include afternoon tea, pre-dinner canapés, a four-course dinner, a full Scottish breakfast and a small decanter of Glenmorangie Original. Prices start from £185 per person. Glenmorangie House, Cadboll, Fearn, near Tain, Ross-shire IV20 IXP, 
www.theglenmorangiehouse.com

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