Great Places to Stay
Glengarry Castle Hotel

Glengarry Castle Hotel

Glengarry Castle Hotel stands by the green and wooded shores of Loch Oich, a solid granite sentinel in the heart of the Great Glen. There, travel writer Bruce Stannard lived like the MacDonell laird himself.

This feature and illustrations first appeared in the Scots Heritage Magazine. My thanks to the editor of that magazine for permission to create this Web version.

Getting There
After a long drive south by the rain-swept shores of Loch Ness I began to feel slightly panicky as I approached the village of Invergarry at dusk searching for a sign which would point me toward my destination, the Glengarry Castle Hotel. The hotel's discreet little roadside sign, obscured by a rampant Ponticum hedge, came up so suddenly that I was obliged to execute what my teenage daughters would mockingly describe as a "wheelie". I turned hard left, spun around a hair-pin bend and plunged down into the dark and dripping gloom of an ancient driveway just wide enough for a horse-drawn carriage. The transition from main road to country lane was so sudden and so complete that I wondered if in fact I had driven into a farmer's field. Overhead the great branches of ancient oak and beech met and intermingled forming the warp and weft of a vast natural canopy. There were no lights, no signs, nothing to reassure me as I gingerly edged forward in the dark.

It wasn't until I saw the black and forbidding ruin of Invergarry Castle that I knew I was headed in the right direction. It was to the fortress at Invergarry, the seat of the MacDonells of Glengarry, that the desperate Prince Charles Edward Stuart fled in the bloody aftermath of the Battle of Culloden. Now, a gaunt and blackened stone skeleton is all that remains. Having passed the ruin, I knew the hotel would be just around the corner and sure enough, there, winking through the trees were the warm yellow lights of a lovely late 19th century Scottish country house complete with romantic turrets and gables.

A Warm Welcome
Glengarry Castle Hotel I always find the smell of woodsmoke immensely reassuring when I'm in the Highlands and I was especially pleased when the manager, young Donald MacCallum, opened the great oak door and ushered me into the warmth of the lobby where a log fire was blazing. Donald's parents, David and Janetta MacCallum, have run the Glengarry Castle as a family hotel for 30 years and the result is an ambience of easy informality. I was shown up the pine-panelled staircase and given a huge room looking out over lovely lawns and azaleas and rhododendrons toward the waters of Loch Oich. From the steep and wooded hills across the loch came the defiant roaring of stags. The rut was in full cry and every now and again I caught the clash of antlers and the dull thud of skulls colliding.

Glengarry Castle Hotel Mr MacCallum wisely sensed that after a long and tiring drive I might like to take a good hot shower and then perhaps a predinner dram in the lounge. He was absolutely right. I would gladly pay a premium for the singular joy of a power shower and yet finding a decent bathroom in Scotland can be a bit like winning the lottery. At Glengarry Castle I struck the jackpot: plenty of high pressure hot water, good quality toiletries and huge thirsty white towels! I came down in my kilt, ordered a Talisker and stood by the fire studying the menu. I chose thinly sliced supreme of oaksmoked duck with oatcakes and a Rowanberry jelly followed by a crème of chanterelle soup and as my main course, a rumpsteak of the finest Highland beef, grilled (medium rare, please) with a spicy garlic butter and panfried mushrooms.

Glengarry Castle has a four star Scottish Tourist Board rating; three AA stars and three RAC stars - a veritable constellation - all of which pointed accurately toward what was a delightful meal. The best Scottish beef is indeed the best in the world, bar none, in my experience and I found Glengarry Castle's rump supremely tender, juicy and cooked to perfection. The service (most of the waiters were young Australian and South Africans on working holidays) was prompt and enthusiastic. Did Sir have room for dessert ? No, Sir did not, but perhaps a wee nibble at the Scottish cheeses. The Brie and a Kilbride Island Cheddar both turned out to be delicious.

Glengarry Castle Hotel The rain stopped during the night and by morning the whole of the Highlands seemed to be bathed in pale autumn sunshine. Before breakfast (excellent creamy porridge, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and strong black coffee) I walked out through the gardens and down to the shimmering waters of Loch Oich. From across the loch came the wild, triumphal roar of a single stag. How very fortunate we are that sublime places like this remain accessible to those who love wild Scottish landscapes and the civilised places like Glengarry Castle that make them so hospitable.

Return to the Index of Great Places to Stay in Scotland.

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