The 'hidden gem' North Coast 500 Highland hotel with fresh landed seafood and panoramic loch views

As we get into summer, and hopefully warm weather, surely there’s no better time to explore the Highlands.

Despite travelling Scotland a lot for work, I’ve yet to fully explore the full North Coast 500 route.

The 500-mile trail around the north east Highlands was established in 2015 to bring more tourism to the area, and has been wildly successful. The NC500 attracted 29,000 additional visitors and £9 million additional spend in its first year.

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Now on its fifth anniversary in 2020, it was estimated to have boosted the economy by £22.89m and created around 179 full-time jobs. The route starts and finishes in Inverness, and takes in Easter Ross, Caithness, Sutherland and Wester Ross. And in recent years, tourists have been encouraged to slow down and head off the ‘beaten track’ to explore more areas within the route.

One of the ways to do this would be to visit hotels and accommodation known for their food - and that gives guests the chance to really soak in the Highland scenery. One of these is the Kylesku Hotel on the NC500 in Sutherland.

The award-winning destination restaurant and outdoor terrace offers uninterrupted panoramic views over Loch Gleann Dubh by the Kylesku Bridge. The Kyleksu menu celebrates the best of the Scottish Highland larder, including fresh fish, hand-dived scallops landed on the pier in front of the hotel and lobsters from Ullapool and Oban.

The kitchen and menus are led by chef Annija Zakaite, and last year the Kylesku Hotel team created a loch-side dining experience in time for mid-summer. Complete with glass-fronted deck and space for up to 30 people, Kylesku offers a destination restaurant for people to indulge in award-winning fine dining in world-class natural scenery.

The Kylesku hotel in SutherlandThe Kylesku hotel in Sutherland
The Kylesku hotel in Sutherland | kylesku hotel

The hotel has also had a mention in the Michelin Guide, a nod of excellence for any foodie, in which the inspectors wrote: “An essential stop-off point. Fresh seafood is the way to go, with langoustines and mussels landed 200 yards away.”

Other dishes could include Kame’s Steelhead trout, fillet of halibut and Inchnadamph venison. For those that are travelling with a dog - as I usually always am - four-legged friends are welcome in the lounge, bar areas and lochside terrace, meaning all the family can sit back, relax and enjoy the tranquil view.

Of her menus and ingredients, chef Zakaite, who is from Latvia and whose father was a chef, said: “Our menu celebrates the freshest local ingredients we have on our doorstep and makes the most of the abundance of the surrounding waters. Our mussels come from the local mussel farm visible from the restaurant.

“Local fishermen catch lobsters, crabs, langoustines and dive for scallops from the loch for us, when possible, with other west coast locations varying throughout the season, always aiming to use the best seafood and most sustainable the west coast has to offer.”

It is places like these, which make the most of our amazing natural larder, that tourists will come back to again and again. Hopefully this summer I can join them.

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