Right on the shore of Loch Linnhe, the loch and mountain views are stunning, whether from a well-placed table in the restaurant, an armchair in the cosy lounge or, if you’re lucky, sitting up in bed in one of the best rooms.
Budget or Boutique
While part of the larger Crieff Hydro group of hotels, Ballachulish has an independent feel, with plenty of character. With its three stars it describes itself as “a little frayed around the edges”, and this is certainly true of some of the windows and exterior. The main staircase can only be described as charming: It creaks so loudly with every step you can hear people coming from several corridors away. I later learn it is original, from 1877, and divides opinion among guests. But the staff seem to love its character, and so do I.
The hotel is right on the A828, but the traffic is sparse. It’s worth it to be beside the loch, and the views are without a doubt this hotel’s selling point. It rained almost non-stop during our stay, and it was a blessing to be able to retreat after a few hours of damp walking to an armchair in the room and still be able to enjoy the highland scenery we came for.
The hotel has 53 rooms, all refurbished in the last two years. The 29 “feature” and four “signature” rooms boast views of the loch, while the remaining are “standard”. My signature room was comfortable, in muted brown and gold with plenty of light. The dreamy touch of thick, heavy curtains made for an excellent night’s sleep. It was well-equipped too, and guests in these rooms are welcomed by a gin and tonic on arrival – best enjoyed in an armchair pulled up to the window.
Worth Getting Out of Bed For
There’s no end to the opportunities to see beautiful places and enjoy exciting outdoor pursuits from Ballachulish Hotel – you are five minutes from Glencoe village and twenty from Fort William, with the Pap of Glencoe, Glencoe Lochan and Hidden Valley of Coire Gabhail on your doorstep. Ballachulish village, a four-minute drive away, boasts excellent walks and interesting history. Explore the Brecklet trail for good views and still forest beauty, and a look at the slate quarries central to the village’s history. Cross the A82 for a view of Eilean Munde, or the Isle of the Dead, where the Stewarts of Ballachulish, the MacDonalds of Glencoe and the Camerons of Callart used to bury their dead.
Wining and Dining
Along with gorgeous views, the hotel’s FISH restaurant offers a wealth of fish and seafood, with oysters, squid, lobster, mussels and langoustines among the treats on the menu, as well as sea bass, salmon, plaice and hake. We did not attempt it, but the hot shells platter (£95) promising “the works” for two people sounds like a dream. There are plenty of options for the carnivore or vegetarian as well, and the Scotch Sirloin steak (£27) was divine. Clementine posset with pineapple salsa (£7) rounded off a wonderful first meal nicely.
The common spaces of the hotel are very welcoming – from the lounge with its impressive décor and views of the loch, to the library, where a flickering fire is perfect for a cosy evening. Dogs are welcome at an extra £20 per night, and there were plenty around during our stay. Guests have the use of the swimming pool, sauna and jacuzzi at the Isles of Glencoe hotel, owned by the same group and less than a five-minute drive away. This is probably a good distraction for children on a rainy day, but with showers, changing rooms and lockers all crowded into the same room as a very busy pool, it wasn’t quite so relaxing for adults.
A great stay, defined by stunning views and made all the better by welcoming and helpful staff.
Ballachulish Hotel, Nr Fort William, Glencoe PH49 4JY (https://www.ballachulish-hotel.co.uk). Prices depend on availability, sample price £200 per night for a standard room.