If you were enchanted by the rugged backdrop of the second series of The Traitors, then you’ll love the majestic hotels in the Scottish Highlands. Nestled amongst mist-shrouded mountains and rolling moorland, these escapes bring five-star luxury to the dramatic landscape of northern Scotland, a region so beloved by the Royal Family. From an ivy-strewn grand dame at the foot of the glens to a playful reimagining of a Victorian bolthole in Braemar, here’s our edit of the best hotels in the Scottish Highlands to have on your radar.
The Fife Arms
A cool, contemporary take on Scottish heritage in Braemar, this has to be one of the best hotels in the Scottish Highlands. Owners Iwan and Manuela Wirth of the contemporary art gallery Hauser & Wirth – who not so long ago snapped up the Groucho in London – tasked interiors whizz Russell Sage with the decor. Rich velvets, tartans, tweeds and heritage-style wallpapers, quirky objets d’art and oriental rugs give an offbeat cosy-cool vibe, while the artworks, not surprisingly, are stop-in-your-tracks. Not least LA-based artist Richard Jackson’s ‘Red Deer Chandelier’, a vision of glass, steel and neon hanging over the main staircase.
After a day hill walking in the Cairngorms National Park, ‘Shocking Pinks’ at Elsa’s Bar (named after regular Braemar visitor Elsa Schiaparelli) are a must, a frivolous concoction of tequila, fizz, lychee cordial, peppercorn tincture and strawberry dust. The Flying Stag bar serves up bonhomie and beer; Bertie’s Whisky Bar is named after Queen Victoria’s hedonistic heir; while The Clunie Dining Room serves up local, seasonal dishes the likes of seared West Coast scallops, wild pheasant and Aberdeenshire beef wellington.
Mar Roadm Braemar, Aberdeenshire, Scotland AB35 5YN
‘Take a look inside the Glorious Playground’ it says on the Gleneagles website – never a truer word said. The hotel turns 100 this year, offering Scottish baronial luxury on a grand dame scale since 1924. Everything here is unashamedly five-star, from the spacious rooms and suites in the historic Main House and the newer wing Braid House, to the recently renovated spa, with its Tata Harper facials, Dr Barbara Sturm treatments and cafe menu curated by Rosemary Ferguson. Plus, you can engage in every manner of country pursuit across the 850-acre Perthshire estate, which includes a trio of championship golf courses and a nine-hole course. Little ones will love the new Kids’ Adventure programme, offering everything from zip-lining to spending time with horses at the stables.
From wild game, smoked fish and oysters to Strathdon Blue cheese and raspberries covered in thick cream, the Highlands are a bountiful larder, and you can feast like a king or queen at Gleneagles. Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles is the only two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Scotland where head chef Stephen McLaughlin bowls guests over with his cooking, many of the ingredients sourced from the restaurant’s own Victorian Walled ‘Secret Garden’. The Strathearn serves a Modern-Scottish menu, plus there’s an Italian-American grill and afternoon tea is served in The Glendevon.
Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland PH3 1NF
Inverness is the capital of the Highlands and the five-star Ness Walk is right in the centre, nestled on the banks of the river Ness. Once a private Victorian home, it has been sympathetically converted into a hotel. While the period features of the original sandstone building remain, the owners have added a modern glass-and-zinc wing taking the total number of rooms to 47, all of them spacious and bright as befits this tranquil, riverside location.
You won’t fail to notice how polished the service is – nothing is too much trouble for the smiling staff, who radiate warmth. The restaurant, Torrish, is a real draw – here guests feast on a menu comprising ingredients from local small-scale artisan and craft producers, farmers and growers. Walk it off afterwards. With the Highlands, one of the wildest and most beautiful landscapes on earth, on the doorstep, why wouldn’t you?
12 Ness Walk, Inverness, Scotland IV3 5SQ
There can be no more pleasing sight on a still day than Inverlochy Castle reflected in the calm waters of its own loch, with Ben Nevis as its backdrop. This is a castle-turned-hotel with a storied past – Queen Victoria escaped to this magical spot when she needed respite from running the British Empire famously saying she “never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot.”
While the location and its environs may not have changed much since the 19th century, the castle’s interiors have. The 17 rooms and suites located in the main castle, and the eight walled garden rooms and suites, are that welcome combination of comfortable and characterful. Expect all the five-star mod cons – crisp cotton sheets, thick carpets, Penhaligon’s amenities (if you can, get a room with a four-poster for the full staying-in-a-castle effect). Many come here for the food alone. The Seasgair by Michel Roux Jr experience is very special – Champagne and canapes in the Great Hall followed by a five-course menu. You can, if you choose, dine at a long wooden table in the snug Library with other guests – or stick to the main dining room. Either way, expect to be served with a side of Scottish charm.
Torlundy, Fort William, Scotland PH33 6SN
Unlike many of its five-star neighbours, Glencoe House is relatively small but it more than deserves its spot as one of the best hotels in the Scottish Highlands. Originally built by Lord Strathcona in 1896 as his home – the architect was Sir Robert Rowand Anderson, also responsible for Balmoral – it has stunning views of the Glencoe ( you’ll recognise the landscape from films including Skyfall and Mary Queen of Scots). The remote setting is teeming with wildlife – keep your eyes open for golden eagles, otters, dolphins, whales and the monarch of the glen aka the red deer; there’s also walking, hiking, fishing and mountain biking.
The eight suites in the main house are spacious, with lavish bathrooms and sea and mountain vistas – but the USP must be that each suite has its own private dining and drawing room, where breakfast and a seasonal three-course dinner are served in-room. Just 50 metres down the road, the Strathcona Lodges contain a further six one-bedroom suites. Again, each has its own bathroom, sitting-room with wood-burning stove, a private walled garden with a hot tub (stargazing from a bubbling whirlpool in Scotland is surely on life’s bucketlist) and a fully-equipped kitchen. Breakfasts are supplied, as are pre-prepared gourmet meals. For the ultimate in privacy, this is it.
Glencoe, West Highlands, Scotland PH49 4HT