WITH its jaw-dropping rock formations, jagged Cuillin mountain range and miles of rugged coastline, Skye is a true jewel of the west.
And the 14-bedroom Skeabost Hotel, near Portree, is an ideal base when spending time on the island. A former hunting lodge dating from 1870, it has been cleverly and sympathetically refurbished to provide modern facilities while retaining a Victorian feeling of solid grandeur and luxury.
Wining and dining
Skeabost owners are proud of their head chef, James Dickson, with good reason. The dining room offers a lovely view out of the large windows towards the shores of Loch Snizort but perhaps the best sight is what comes on the plates.
I started our meal with a salmon and scallop roulade, beautifully presented on a rectangular white platter, while my partner, Emma, kicked off with the Skeabost salad with whipped cheese, which went down well. Both our main courses were delicious. I opted for pan-seared loin of Skye venison with sweet potato, onion purée, black pudding and blueberry jus. Emma chose West Coast cod, served with a red pepper, sweet potato, spinach and puy lentil cassoulet and a light curry sauce. Sweets were just as good, my dark chocolate and Talisker whisky tart was wonderfully intense, though in truth I couldn’t taste the Talisker. Emma made short work of her classic crème brûlée.
At breakfast there was a choice of cereals, porridge, cold meats and cheeses, and a full Scottish cooked breakfast or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.
Skeabost was built on a grand scale and the rooms and suites reflect that. Our suite – a hall, huge bathroom and big, big bedroom – was one of four four-poster rooms. All but one of the 14 rooms have baths as well as showers.
Skeabost was bought by Anne Gracie and Ken Gunn in April, and the couple, who own two other Skye hotels, have wasted no time in refurbishing the rooms, with luxurious fabrics used throughout.
Our room had a TV and DVD player, though channels appeared so limited that it seemed best to find something else to do. Wi-fi was patchy in the room but worked well in the public rooms.
There’s a small bar beside the hotel’s two lounges, where wood fires burn in the grates, and a snooker room with a full-size table.
Worth getting out of bed for
Don’t miss Trotternish, one of the most spectacular landscapes in Britain. The ridge that forms its backbone is the longest on Skye and its eastern escarpment has been broken by Europe’s largest landslides into remarkable features, such as The Old Man of Storr. This free-standing monolith is reached by a leg-stretching but perfectly achievable walk up a good path from parking beside the road. There are more amazing rock formations at the Quiraing, further along the road.
Skye also has plenty of castles – the ruins of Armadale have well-tended gardens and woodland, Knock Castle on the Sleat Peninsula dates from the 14th century, and Dunvegan Castle is built on a rocky spur where seals can frequently be seen.
Talisker Distillery, at Carbost, offers tours all year round, though it gets very busy on a rainy day, so it’s best to book.
If you don’t want to travel far, try a round of golf at Skeabost’s own course – nine relatively short holes and 18 tees. Another close-to-home activity is fishing on the River Snizort with ghillie Derek Dowsett, who will show beginners how to fly-fish and also sells day licences to those with their own rods.
If you want to push the boat out, take a trip on the Solus a Chuain (Light of the Ocean), a 50-foot luxury yacht belonging to Anne and Ken. An all-day trip costs £145 per person, including lunch.
Budget or boutique?
Boutique: thick-carpeted, wood-panelled, laidback luxury.
Free toiletries, tea and coffee facilities, iron/board, bath robes.
A lovely place to spend two or three days.
• Skeabost House Hotel, Skeabost Bridge, Isle of Skye IV51 9NP, from £89 per person per night B&B (off season), two-night autumn breaks from £130 pppn B&B, £196 DBB. (01470 532202, www.skeabosthotel.com)