Great Places to Stay
- Best Western Glenspean Lodge Hotel, Roy Bridge, Invernesshire
Deep in the magnificent Scottish Highlands, a mere hop, skip and jump from Ben Nevis, the UK's highest mountain (see illustration), nestles a jewel of a hotel. Travel writer Gilly Pickup was captivated by handsome Glenspean Lodge, a charming privately owned, small luxury hotel which started life as a private hunting lodge in the 1800s.
A Baronial Manor
This baronial manor, complete with colourful history and fairy tale turret, was built by the local Laird, Mackintosh of Mackintosh, a privileged wee man, who owned nearly all the lands from Fort William right across the Cairngorms to Inverness. Glenspean Lodge was a popular place, attracting many illustrious guests including King Edward VII.
Nowadays, most guests come here to enjoy hill climbing and mountaineering, pony trekking, clay pigeon shooting or quad biking while others simply choose to take pleasure in the more sedate pleasures of sightseeing and travelling round the area drinking in the splendour and solitude of the Scottish Highlands. During WW2, the elite commando units of the British army trained in this region - they are remembered by the memorial at Spean Bridge.
It was a sunny late summer evening when we swished up the hotel's winding drive, heartened to see plenty of other cars though there was still ample space to park. (First impressions count and I always find it slightly concerning to arrive somewhere and find the car park empty…. )
Bubbly Alexandra the owner of Glenspean Lodge, greeted us with the warmest of warm welcomes and no sooner had we completed the signing in formalities than she whisked us up to our room. For a pair of weary travellers this homely room was a comforting sight: light and airy with a separate lounge area containing two pastel coloured comfy chairs, television and coffee table with hospitality tray. I took an immediate liking to the window seat framed by pale pink and cream curtains with swags and tails and it became a favourite place to sit with a cup of tea while contemplating the mountain views and mulling over life in general.
Glenspean Lodge Hotel has 17 individually furnished and decorated en suite rooms, all of which are equipped with the usual bits and pieces including hairdryer and small supply of toiletries, though nothing elaborate. Incidentally, these goodies are not automatically 'topped up' next day, but if you require anything, you can ask at reception. One of the most quirky guest rooms has to be the spacious Turret Room where guests truly feel like King of the Castle, or if it's a romantic Scottish experience you hanker after, then you can opt for the Braveheart Suite so-called because Mel Gibson apparently paid a visit here while filming.
Wining and Dining
But we'd had a long journey and peckishness was upon us. First port of call was the Mackintosh lounge bar, an atmospheric place where stag antlers and a huge range of around 100 malt whiskies abound. Settling in a cosy corner just made for people watching - a hobby of mine - we enjoyed a glass of wine while poring over the punchy menu. Guests can choose to eat in the bar or in the Nevis View restaurant - the menu is the same.
We opted to eat in the bar that evening, we were in a cosily informal frame of mind and it suited us both. After ordering a bottle of wine to have with dinner it was time to choose a starter - homemade fishcakes with an avocado and tomato salsa for me and a tian of haggis, neeps and tatties served with buttered shallots and Macallan jus for him.
When the starters arrived they looked - and tasted - delicious. This was old-fashioned size portions and no mistake. I have stayed in hotels-which-shall-remain-nameless and been presented with a lot less for the main course. For my mains I chose Mediterranean Vegetable Wellington while my husband homed in on the sautéed breast of chicken with white wine, leek and thyme scented sauce and glazed smoked Cheddar. My Veggie Wellington arrived in a ceramic dish with a huge proper pastry topping - ooh, I do love light flaky pastry - and this was excellent. It was jam packed with chunky vegetables too - a meat eater certainly wouldn't be missing out if they chose this. We left nothing on our plates. But now our waitress was hovering with the dessert menu. My husband, as is his wont, looked woefully down at the menu and then up at the waitress before pronouncing, 'Shame I'm replete, can't eat another thing.' I was full up too but those desserts beckoned me and I settled on the pecan and whisky tart served with mascarpone cream. I could always walk it off the next morning or try out the hotel's mini gym. The waitress had just turned away from our table when my husband decided he could, after all, fit in a pudding. 'Oh go on then,' he said as if someone had just twisted his arm, "I'll try the dark chocolate fondant with white chocolate sauce and red berry compote." Good choices. Both were utterly delicious.
We stopped off in the residents' lounge before hieing off to bed. This is a great place to have pre-dinner drinks, after dinner coffee or aperitifs and in winter, the fireplace with its pair of 'wally dugs' on the mantelpiece adds to the welcoming ambiance. The bookcase is chocca with books and magazines and if you're a scrabble or chess fiend, you can have a few games here too. When dusk falls, wall lights cast a gentle glow, though there are enough of them that you don't need to peer at your reading matter. Flickering candles of varying sizes enhance the inviting atmosphere.
I had a sneak peak in the snooker room, another area reserved for guests only, decorated in typical highland style. There is a computer with internet access here which guests are welcome to use if they really can't survive without surfing the net or checking their emails for a few days.
And So To Bed
And so to bed which proved functional rather than luxurious though we both slept like a couple of pole-axed harvesters. Breakfast was served in the award winning AA Rosette Nevis View dining room with its lovely views down the Spean Valley to Aonach Mor. Besides the usual buffet table where guests help themselves to cereals, juices and fruit, there is a choice of cooked breakfasts, including smoked salmon, kippers or the full-monty Scottish breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms and black pudding.) No food for wimps this, the plates are overflowing. As a porridge fanatic, I couldn't help but wonder why there is no porridge on the menu though…..
Glenspean Lodge is also a popular wedding location for both religious and Civil Marriage ceremonies, one of the few Highland venues approved by the local registrar. Couples can tie the knot in the Nevis View Room or if the weather is kind, services can take place on the terrace with its equally expansive views.
Nearby there are plenty of attractions to ooh and aah over including Glen Roy with its parallel roads, a quirk of nature formed in the Ice Age; Fort William, where you can board the romantic Jacobite Steam Train familiar to Harry Potter fans and Loch Laggan with its white sandy beaches.
For more information or to make a reservation see the Glenspean Lodge Hotel Web site or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Postal address is Glenspean Lodge Hotel, Roy Bridge, Inverness-shire PH31 4AW,
Gilly Pickup, British Guild of Travel Writers
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