The drive to Skye is one of the most amazing in the UK. After a summer rain shower, the vibrancy of the surroundings is majestic, especially in Glencoe. A word of warning though. If you’re taking the ferry to Skye, you need to book in advance – something we only discovered upon arrival and, with no spaces left on the last ferry, resulted in an additional two hours to drive. Skye itself is covered in superb driving roads, winding through the hills and with magnificent views around every corner.
At the end of a weaving dirt track off one of these roads, you’ll find Kinloch Lodge nestled between the foot of a mountain and Loch Nadal. A former hunting lodge of Clan Macdonald, today it’s run as a hotel and restaurant by the family of the current Clan Chief of Macdonald. Of course you’d expect good food given that Lady Macdonald is in fact the well-known Scottish cook, Claire Macdonald, and it doesn’t disappoint. The restaurant and its Brazilian-Scottish chef, Marcello Tully, have held a Michelin star for six consecutive years. It’s not a large property but the sea views are wonderful, there’s the log fire and the rooms are large and comfy, half with a chintz country décor and the others a modern chic Scottish look – don’t worry, that doesn’t mean the room has had tartan vomited over it. Though what you will be struck by is the water. It’s yellow! But don’t worry, its safe; the colour is from the peat that covers the island and through which the water flows.
Thankfully, the food at Kinloch Lodge doesn’t suffer as a result. Dinner each evening starts with a selection of canapés and drinks in the drawing room before continuing in the dining room with a daily changing five course set menu. Starting with a small soup as an amuse bouche, the menu is heavily weighted towards fish. Large hunks of meaty Scottish fish paired with bold Mediterranean flavours or fragrant spicing, large west coast scallops with peanuts and Parma ham, sea bass with chorizo, black olive and tomato, and hake with deep fried seafood gnocchi, local muscles and saffron cream are typical of robust yet fine dishes that are served up. In most cases they work, but I must say I wasn’t a fan of the scallop with peanuts and uncooked Parma ham, though that’s more due to the peanut sauce being not dissimilar to peanut butter, which I detest; the scallops themselves were faultless.
For a cleaner, lighter and more modern style of food The Three Chimneys calls. Famous across the UK for it’s cooking, it is well worth a visit. One note of warning: when I visited they were offering a more expensive special seafood lunch menu which I, unlike the rest of my party, opted for. It was to say the least disappointing. It wasn’t that it lacked quality, just that the seafood lacked taste, to my mind quite a crime given the location and produce available. The rest of my group had the set lunch, including a superb featherblade and tongue of Black Isle beef that I was immeasurably jealous off. Packed with flavour and delicacy, it was all that the restaurant’s reputation had promised.
Of course, when you’re surrounded by landscape like that of Skye, there is little else worth doing than taking it in. Then again, this is Scotland, so there’s always one other thing to do, visit a distillery, and Skye is the home of Talisker. You’ll find this noble distillery at the end of a narrow road along the edge of Loch Harport. The access road was almost entirely inaccessible for so long, that the water was the main way the ingredients were delivered and the whisky exported. The series of whitewashed and black roofed buildings that house the distillery and its five stills, set sandwiched between the edge of the hill and the grey windswept sea, are a wonderfully raw sight, and can be a rather wet one if the winds up and thanks to the spray coming off the water. The distillery’s store room is quite a spectacle, recalling what you imagine the hull of an old wooden cargo vessel would be like if the crew had abandoned it, only for it to be left untouched and rediscovered a century later – dark, low ceilings and covered in thick layers of dust and grime. The tasting is not a bad way to end your visit either; just remember you have to leave by car.
Isle of Skye
The Three Chimneys and The House Over-By Colbost,
Isle of Skye,