If roaring fires, good food and an award-winning range of Scottish whisky and gin is your idea of an ideal break then the Knockomie Inn in Forres is the place to book. Purchased in the late 1800s by the Frasers, who made their fortune in the tea plantations in India (look out for the elephant skull at the base of the Copper Beech tree at the front of the inn), the Ellis family bought it in 1987 and added ten bedrooms, giving the inn the layout it has today.
The inn has been decorated in a style in keeping with the period of the home, with a deep palette of red, blue and cream, and dark wooden furniture, and traditional style sofas and chairs. Arts and crafts beamed ceilings and original windows have been lovingly restored and add to the pervasive romance of the setting.
There are nods to the Highlands, such as wall-mounted antlers and cosy logs, but without twee hints of tartan.
Budget or boutique?
The grand looking property has only 15 rooms, giving it a real boutique feel.
All rooms, whether in the main building or the new wing, are named after distilleries, and some have recently been modernised. Ours was The Glenlivet, a spacious double room decorated in the same warming colours as the public rooms, with a canopied bed, comfy sofa and chairs and a modern en-suite complete with Green & Spring toiletries.
The rooms come under categories of doubles (in the main house), grand masters and four-posters (in the new wing) and are all individually styled with their own character. One of the four-poster rooms has a more modern feel with iron four-poster beds, brightly patterned pillows, cream walls and light wood furniture. It’s called the colonial room, another nod to the Fraser family’s tea plantation roots.
Wining and dining
Whisky lovers can enjoy a wee dram or two in the cosy Malt Library Bar, a member of the prestigious Whisky Bars of the World with over 80 single malts to choose from.
We relaxed in front of a roaring fire with a G&T before dinner, an excellent way to end a day of exploring the area.
Dinner is served in the neighbouring Grill Room. With a focus on seasonal and local produce, diners can also tuck into daily deals such as Fish and Fizz Fridays or a traditional Sunday roast.
The menu showcases Moray’s wealth of produce, from fish and shellfish to game, including duck, pheasant and venison. There’s also 28-day dry-hung Aberdeen Angus beef.
Veggies need not despair though as there are seasonal vegetarian dishes, including the delicious butternut squash and spinach strudel served with puy lentils and a mango yogurt dressing.
We tucked into starters of salt and pepper squid served with a crisp crab doughnut, chilli mayo and tropical relish; and chicken liver and brandy paté followed by a huge portion of Speyside Ale fish and chips.
Worth getting out of bed for
We spent a lovely morning exploring Brodie Castle, which is only a five-minute drive away, as is the popular Brodie Countryfare shop, where you can pick up everything from kitchenware and cakes to clothes and kids’ toys. Knockomie is also an ideal base for setting off on the Malt Whisky Trail.
Elgin is only a 25-minute drive away and offers great shopping, including Johnstons of Elgin Cashmere and the Gordon and MacPhail whisky emporium. For outdoor lovers there’s Loch Ness and the beautiful hills and glens of Speyside.
The hotel welcomes dogs, and four-legged friends can look forward to complimentary biscuits on arrival in the room while human guests tuck into their own tea, coffee and biscuits.
With comfortable accommodation, welcoming staff and a fine restaurant, Knockomie is a great place to spend a weekend, or longer, while exploring the area’s scenery and whisky heritage.
Doubles rooms are from £130 per night, with a four-poster room starting at £215 per night, both including a full Scottish breakfast. Knockomie Inn, Grantown Road, Forres IV36 2SG (01309 673146, www.knockomie.co.uk)