Ten Historic Hotels in the Highlands
by Adrian Mourby (March 2013)
The history of the Scottish Highlands has a very different narrative from the rest of Great Britain, even from the rest of Scotland. The clans ruled this rugged landscape for centuries, based around powerful families like the Mackenzies, Urquharts, Campbells and Frasers, whose names you will encounter everywhere. The other names you’ll notice - Fort Augustus and Fort William - are associated with the Hanoverian troops who built garrisons and military roads across the Highlands after the rebellions of 1715, 1719 and 1745. The third great influence on the landscape is whisky, where whole communities have grown up around a distillery of which there are nearly a hundred in Scotland today.
Showing below are all 10 records in "Ten Historic Hotels in the Highlands"
In The Hills Above Contin, Strathpeffer
Sir George Steuart (SIC) Mackenzie, seventh baronet of Coul, built this remarkable house in 1821. The design is based on a central octagon, an idea fashionable in Scotland, and North America in the early nineteenth century. Mackenzie’s octagon is now the hotel’s august dining room with two diamond-shaped bedrooms on the floor above. Sir George was a noted mineralogist while his son, Robert went on to be governor general of Queensland.
This imposing Palladian mansion was built on an earlier house that had played host to Bonnie Prince Charlie just before the disastrous defeat of his Jacobite army in 1745. General Wolfe of Quebec also visited Culloden and was very taken with the wife of the laird. In 1787 the poet Robbie Burns was given lunch here while visiting Inverness. He would have enjoyed the splendid fireplaces created for Culloden by John Adams.
Port Appin, Appin
The earliest reference to this harbour hotel goes back to 1720 when there were 24 rooms and the customers were drovers en route to market in Glasgow. The years have been kind to Airds and today it revels in its Relais & Chateau status and sumptuous decor. The Airds House nearby in Appin was built in 1738 for Donald Campbell of Airds who commanded a pro-Hanoverian militia at the Battle of Culloden. Campbell of Airds is remembered for his leniency to the defeated Jacobites.
This mock Gothic house on the Firth of Moray dates back to 1621 when the eighth Lord Lovat converted an old basic “black house” for his bride. The Lovats sold the house to the Forbes family who supported the Hanoverians at the Battle of Culloden. They in turn sold Buncrew to the Fraser-Mackenzie family whose portraits still adorn the dining room. Along the way a moat and drawbridge were lost, and Victorian central heating installed but Buncrew remains a delightful piece of history.
Brachla, Loch Ness-side, Inverness
This modern hotel in the style of a Scots hunting lodge is built in the grounds of a crofter’s cottage known as Brachla. At the end of the nineteenth century the owner of Brachla played an on-going game of cat and mouse with the excise men, getting neighbours to light decoy fires whenever he was operating his illicit still. When he grew too old for the danger the canny crofter handed in his still, claiming he’d found it, and retired on the substantial reward.
Loch Ness, Fort Augustus
Although the Lovat was constructed as a railway hotel in the mid-nineteenth century, the building itself incorporates part of the original Kilwhimen Barracks. These were built here in 1718 as part of the subjugation of the Highlands by Hanoverian troops. General Wade, who planned the fortifications, intended the town to be known as Wadesburgh but the name didn’t stick. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s troops took Fort Augustus in April 1745 during the Second Jacobite Rebellion but lost it after the Battle of Culloden.
Onich, Fort William
Onich A house has stood here on picturesque Ballachulish Bay since the eighteenth century, but it was only converted into a hotel in the 1940s. Nearby stands the monument to James of the Glen, "hanged on this spot for a crime of which he was not guilty". The killing of Campbell of Glenure, known as The Red Fox, and the framing of an innocent man for his murder inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Kidnapped.
Loch Awe, Kilchrenan
This eighteenth-century drover’s inn on the shores of Loch Awe was built for the ferry traffic which ceased only in the 1960s. Originally Taycreggan would have been a busy stopping point for Highland drovers taking their cattle to market in Glasgow. Now, sympathetically extended, it is a hotel for those who want complete peace and quiet. Dr Johnson and James Boswell probably stayed here in October 1773 on their Scottish tour and two of the best rooms are named after them.
In 1897 one of the McIver Campbells built a house on this peninsula overlooking Scotland’s western coast. The house was named Arduaine, which is Gaelic for Green Point. In the twentieth century, Brigadier Sir Bruce Campbell and Major Ian Campbell completed a fine garden alongside Arduaine and when the Campbells sold the house to become Loch Melfort Hotel, the gardens passed to the National Trust for Scotland.
William King-Noel, the first Earl of Lovelace, built this hunting lodge in 1887, Lovelace was an English landowner, Lord Lieutenant of Surrey and a distinguished scientist. He gains a footnote in history for marrying Lord Byron’s only legitimate daughter, Ada, the woman who wrote the first computer algorithm. The Torridon is a good example of the kind of Scottish holiday home that the English nobility enjoyed after Queen Victoria made the Highlands of Scotland “respectable” again.
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