After visiting Inverlochy Castle in the highlands of Scotland, I now have a new travel motto: If it’s good enough for Elton John, Robert Redford and Queen Elizabeth, it’s good enough for me.
The 150-year-old castle hotel, tucked away in the outdoor capital of the UK, has also attracted the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, Mel Gibson, The Duke of Edinburgh and King Hussein of Jordan, along with “regular folks” from over 20 countries, including Brazil, China, Baku, Russia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea. It is easy to see why.
Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Great Britain, overlooks the ornate castle and its 17 guest bedrooms. Entering the castle is akin to walking into a museum come to life. The Great Hall’s frescoed ceiling, Venetian crystal chandeliers and dramatic staircase are spectacular; meanwhile, all three of the dining rooms feature elaborate tables, chairs and dressers received as gifts from the King of Norway as a thank you for the castle offering him exile during World War II.
And while my wife and I may not be recorded in Inverlochy’s book of famous guests, we certainly were treated like celebrities.
“Our fine Scottish hospitality is what truly makes Inverlochy Castle unique,” said general manager Jane Watson.
The service is impeccable––in fact, there was a waiter at dinner whose sole duty was seemingly to inform us of our wine options and refill our glasse––but the history and surrounding landscape have as much as anything to do with Inverlochy’s awe-inspiring atmosphere. The castle sits on the private Loch Na Marag, and is also near Loch Garry, which local anglers who know the difference swear is the best salmon fishing in western Scotland.
Hunting in the highlands is also popular, with many Inverlochy guests targeting roe deer hinds, red deer stags, grouse and pheasants. As we discovered, a Russian foursome comes to the castle twice a year just to hunt stag––and they have the time of their lives doing it.
As for Jodie and me, our outdoor adventure awaited us on the remote Isle of Skye, where Mother Nature surprised us by displaying herself in shapes and forms we didn’t think possible.
Until recently the unspoiled island was only accessible by boat, but the construction of the Skye Bridge offers a lovely drive that will doubtlessly take you longer than MapQuest suggests, due to the frequent photo opportunities (such as the one pictured below) that demand you pull over.
We left at 5:30 on the morning of our Skye expedition and headed straight to The Old Man of Storr on the northern part of the island, known as the Trotternish Peninsula. The 19-mile long peninsula is the highest point of the island; The Old Man of Storr is a bizarre rock formation at the peninsula’s peak that stands 160-feet tall and towers over The Sound of Raasay.
Skye means “cloudy” in Old Norse, but we were blessed with a rain-free morning and made our ascent up the mountain-side with dry footing and relatively clear skies. The views were spectacular. Skye is sparsely populated––the 600-mile island is said to have more sheep than people––and our early start allowed us to have The Old Man to ourselves. We reached the summit without seeing another soul, hiking alone with the mountain goats.
Photos don’t do this natural treasure justice, but I had to try. At one point the wind nearly blew my tripod and camera over, and I leapt from my pose, several feet away, just in the nick of time to save my Nikon from a premature and rocky death.
As we were about to begin our descent I turned to my wife and said, “Wait. Let’s just stand here another few minutes in silence.”
I am so grateful we paused. Moments like that are hard to come. You only have so many instances in life when Earth’s rugged beauty knocks you over and leaves you gasping for air. When it happens, you want to soak up every ounce of it.
After conquering The Old Man of Storr, we made our way north to The Quiraing, stopping along the way at Kilt Rock waterfall. The 200-foot-tall sea cliff, so named due to its resemblance to a Scotsman’s tartan kilt, has a layer of volcanic rock with vertical lava columns that look like pleats.
The Quiraing presented us with a new hiking challenge, and while it was less vertically challenging than The Old Man of Storr, its views were equally stunning.
We peered down at the dramatic, jagged northern end of the Trotternish Peninsula and identified each of The Quiraing’s famous rock formations: The Table, The Prison and The Needle.
If I saw the terrain in a movie I’d think for sure it was made up for dramatic effect, but sometimes fact is stranger than fiction, and Mother Nature surprises me in ways I didn’t think possible.
I love it when she does.
The website for Inverlochy Castle is www.inverlochycastle.com. To contact Inverlochy Castle, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-888 424 0106.
Dinner at Inverlochy Castle is an experience unto itself. The steak and seafood was delicious, the service every bit as excellent as the food, and the view, perhaps, the best part of it all. If you catch fish during the day, the staff will clean it and prepare it for you at dinner. After stuffing ourselves with appetizers, side dishes and entrees, we decided to step outside for a few minutes before tackling dessert. During this break, we captured one of my favorite photos of our entire trip, pictured below.
The rooms at Inverlochy Castle are gorgeous, and some guests elect to have "private dining" served in their rooms to soak in the atmosphere. One well-known couple came to the castle for their honeymoom, but had all their luggage lost at the aiport. Without any decent clothes, they opted to have "private dining" in their room. Now, over a decade later, they come back to Inverlochy every year on their anniversary.