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AWARD-WINNING NORTHWEST HIGHLAND HOTEL
Kylesku Hotel is a boutique hotel and restaurant in the northwest Scottish Highlands, specialising in ultra-local seafood, meats and produce. Whether you’re looking for relaxed dining, a light lunch or a week’s wilderness adventure in amongst Scotland’s glorious mountains and lochs, come on by!
HERE IS A REVIEW FROM ISSUE 58 OF THE DOGFRIENDLY MAGAZINE BY TRACEY RADNALL
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It’s mid March and pal Mirjam and I along with Bertie the spaniel are off on a road-trip as far north and west as it is possible to travel in Scotland, safely stopping just shy of an MOD rifle range south of Cape Wrath. Picking up Mirjam at Craigdon Mountain Sports store and cafe, just off the Edinburgh by-pass, seems like a good enough plan. Although, it is 8am and as I leave home, snow is falling on a keen easterly breeze. Approaching the car park, a full-on blizzard is playing out under leaden skies as I cajole the car to turn in, immediately sliding to a traction -less, disorganised halt in the sticky wet snow, the car wheels spinning hopelessly as I attempt to park. Failing miserably, I abandon my car along with a handful of others. Meeting up inside the store, we decide to head upstairs to enjoy a leisurely coffee in the hope that the weather eases.
Irony has it, of course, that the weather is apparently clear where we are heading in the far north. However, the Cairngorm section of the A9 and the elevated Drumochter Pass stands in the way of our ultimate destination of Assynt. We are in luck, by 10am the frozen precipitation turns to sleet and the surfaces start to melt. We decide to go for it – we can detour up the milder west coast if necessary. The sleeting continues all the way to Inverness where it turns to rain. The bonus of all this unwelcome, not untypical weather for the time of year, is that the roads are fairly quiet. Leaving Inverness and pulling into the handily located Forestry Commission car park at Contin. A delightful network of trails, rivers and lochs – an ideal spot to enjoy our second coffee break of the day, and an all-important comfort break for Bertie.
The forest is a fresh spring green, not a sign of any snow anywhere. Passing through Garve and the last stop on the mainline train network we emerge into big country. The dramatic roads reveal wilder landscapes as we venture further north and west. Sutherland has a reputation for its vast, rugged landscapes – huge, isolated mountains and, of course, scores of remote beaches. It’s a world away from the city with pristine air and a smattering of spring sunshine. Passing the iconic Stac Pollaidh (Highland’s most popular mountain), traversing the fishing town of Ullapool – and a good place to fill-up with fuel – we eventually reach a junction in the road at the popular ruin of Ardvreck Castle. Another great spot for a stretch of the legs. From here it’s just a few more miles to our destination at Kylesku. This small hamlet sits on the lochs of Loch Glendhu, featuring a slightly out-of place modern looking bridge, conveniently
(replacing a previous mini ferry crossing), a small hotel and a handful of fishing craft.
The hotel – parts of which date from the 17th century – offers stylish accommodation with the emphasis on ‘local’, fish and seafood thanks to its handy location, just metres from the slipway where local fishermen land their catches on the tiny peninsula, guarded over by the brooding hulk of Quinag. No food miles here, merely food metres! Stepping into the recently refurbished hotel we are greeted by owner and head chef Sonia, who originally hails from Lyon in France. Immediately the place feels very laid-back and friendly with its minimalist Scandinavian style decor of painted cladding and wood burning stoves. The views from the glass-fronted hotel are reminiscent of Norway’s fjords at Flåm, with which the place has a historical connection as the location where the X-Craft mini submarines were trialled. We are shown to our handy downstairs en-suite twin. Very cosy and complete with dogfriendly snacks, poo bags and a doggy towel. Behind the hotel a neat circular wooded path leads to the top of the hill affording elevated views across the loch, a waterfall and a bothy away in the distance (should the hotel be full). I enjoy a soak in a hot bath before taking dinner in the cosy bar area. We both opt for the fish options – I can throughly recommend the homemade mackerel paté and the Langoustines (seasonal) – simply the best I have ever tasted! Bang-on forecast, the following morning isa fresh spring sunny one. Breakfast is another enjoyable experience with a good selection of traditional fayre and pancakes along with at least six locally made preserves. Denise is on hand to take your order. I quickly
detect she is quite a character. Her accent is not a local one either.
“Where are you from Denise?” I enquire.
“Well I used to live in Devon before I moved here,” she replies.
“Ah! So you missed-out all the rubbish places in the middle,” I joke.
“Well, I was born in Erdington,” she laughs. I knew it, can spot a fellow Brummie twang anywhere!
She takes Mirjam’s order of pancakes and trying not to be fussy, but I’m no fan of Scottish lorne sausage.
“I know,” says Denise, “you’d like the full veggie with a slice of bacon!”
“Exactly,” I laugh.
“Oh and a sausage for Bertie, I assume?”
“Yes please,” say I on his behalf.
After our hearty breakfasts, we decide to drive a little further up the west coast to find arguably Scotland’s most remote beach, known as Sandwood Bay and part of the Cape Wrath Trail. The bay is so remote – no road leads to it – making for a ‘get away from it all’ day out. Approached via a four-and-a-half mile path from the car park at Blairmore. Bertie has a blast splashing in all the lochans along the way before a paddle in the crystal Atlantic waters. The dune grassland, shifting dunes and machair contain more than 200 different species of plant, including eight orchids. The surrounding cliffs are made from ancient Torridonian gritstone. The Sandwood Estate is maintained by the John Muir Trust and lies within a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Due to the effort required to get there, we anticipate a deserted beach, but we meet seven other people and two more spaniels. We walk north along the pristine white sand, taking in the sea-stack of Am Buachaile(The Shepherd) as it emerges into view surrounded by crystal turquoise waters. It occurs to me you could easily be forgiven for thinking you are in the Caribbean, if it were not for the amphitheatre of rock and iconic sea-stack skirting the shore.
After a long and exhilarating beach day as it’s possible to find in the British Isles, we head back to tuck into another hearty a lacarte fish supper of the highest quality. It’s easy to see why GPs in Scotland are
now prescribing the outdoors as an antidote to stress and depression. It has been the most refreshing spring break following a long Scottish winter and the perfect base to reconnect with nature. Not bad for dogs either. During our time at Kylesku, we met four other dogs staying with their owners. It is simply the most dog friendly hotel I have stayed in to date. Dogs are not simply welcomed here but positively encouraged.
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