Travel: The Lovat Loch Ness, Fort Augustus, Inverness-shire

The Lovat, Loch Ness, Fort Augustus
The Lovat, Loch Ness, Fort Augustus
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Scotland on Sunday’s Do Not Disturb

After a spectacular but wearying four-hour drive from Edinburgh, the Lovat Loch Ness in Fort Augustus is a welcome sight to behold. Overlooking this picturesque Highland village with views of the Caledonian Canal and the loch, the building stands on the site of a barracks built to house Hanoverian forces trying to quell rebelling Highlanders after the Jacobite uprisings of the early 18th century. However, there is no longer any trace of its military past, as it has been a hotel since at least 1869 and now has the welcoming feel of an old hunting lodge.

Contemporary meets hunting lodge at the Lovat Hotel, Loch Ness

Contemporary meets hunting lodge at the Lovat Hotel, Loch Ness

Room service

Our first room was very spacious, with a Nespresso coffee machine and a minibar. Temple Spa products were provided in the commodious bathroom, which had panoramic views far out across the loch, and a fancy bathroom mirror that de-misted at the touch of a button. The Smart TV rose from the foot of the bed – but unfortunately before we had a chance to watch it we had to move to a smaller room because of a problem with the plumbing. It was a bit of a late night palaver, but we were decamped elsewhere with the minimum of fuss. Sadly the new room was smaller and had no minibar or television built into the bed.

The hotel also includes six “garden bedrooms”, separate buildings next to the car park, which were all renovated in 2017. Each has its own gravelled garden space, ideal for pets.

Budget or boutique?

With its wood panelling, grand piano and open fires, this feels like the sort of boutique-style place locals would take themselves for a treat, or where the Rotary Club might regularly meet. Clientele appeared to be a mix of continental Europeans exploring the Highlands, older couples and young families.

Wining and dining

The Brasserie was a cut above. Chef Sean Kelly has a passion for foraging for ingredients and boasts an impressive CV, with five years in Paris under his belt working for the likes of Albert Roux, as well as kitchens in Italy and Corsica. That experience shows.

I had juniper cured smoked salmon with horseradish, salted cucumber and dill, followed by mallard with salt-baked green lentils and brambles. My wife had duck parfait with beetroot and hazelnuts, and saddle of lamb with a mini lamb pie, smoked potatoes and cabbage. Everything sang in beautiful harmony and with a Highland accent.

The house red was a Romanian pinot noir, something I had never tried before but would be more than willing to try again. And, as someone with an abiding affection for smoked salmon, I can’t remember a salmon dish I have enjoyed more.

My wife’s Eton mess was eye-catchingly neat and tidy, clever and, of course, delicious. And the kitchen even threw in a delicious bangers and mash for our less than discerning two-year-old daughter, which was a real hit. The service was excellent and the room buzzed with the sound of happy diners with sated appetites and slaked thirsts. This is a seriously good restaurant.

Worth getting out of bed for

Straddling the Caledonian Canal at the foot of Loch Ness, there is no shortage of beautiful walks in the area to take in the scenery. A very gentle saunter to the loch side to feed the many ducks and skim stones is a perfect way to pass the time with a toddler. For non-toddlers, there are routes such as the three lochs circuit, and the Falls of Foyers.

The centrepiece of the village is obviously the canal created by Thomas Telford in the early 19th century. It is such an impressive feat of engineering it would be remiss not to spend some time marvelling at the system of locks still in operation today.

Little extras

Whether the day has been spent walking, canoeing, boating, hunting, shooting or fishing, the hotel bar is an ideal place to kick back and relax. It serves craft beer, champagne by the glass, more than 50 Scottish gins and more than 100 single malts. By day it serves morning coffee and afternoon tea.

Guest book comments

The Lovat Loch Ness is ideal for a luxury weekend away in a Highland playground. The journey would be worth it for the restaurant alone.

Paul Wilson

Prices range from £92 per night to £238. The Lovat Loch Ness, Fort Augustus, Inverness-shire PH32 4DU (01456 490000, www.thelovat.com)