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Scotland: something for everyone

The UK’s northernmost country has enjoyed a popularity peak this year, and no wonder. From hill hikes and golf greens to picturesque sunsets and top-class tipples, the land of the brave really does have universal appeal. High Life takes a look at some of the best spots for experiencing Caledonian allure from every angle


01/11/2021

The Duke’s Course by the Old Course Hotel, St Andrews

For the... sporty

Old Course Hotel, St Andrews

You only need to look at the country’s contributions to football, rugby and curling to know that sport is embedded in Scotland’s DNA. But golf reigns supreme. In fact, you’ll be hard pushed to find a hotel without its own green. For the best golfing experience in the land, head to St Andrews and the historic Old Course Hotel. Overlooking the iconic West Sand Beach, this five-star property is surrounded by 11 courses (including the oldest in the world), which have seen some of the sport’s most memorable moments. Walls are adorned with milestone memories, from pictures of Tiger Woods claiming the youngest ever Grand Slam win to sepia shots of players in the 1800s.

Head for the renovated Millennium Wing, which boasts 31 new luxurious bedrooms and a stunning penthouse suite – both complete with views of the 17th Road Hole and featuring marble Kohler bathrooms, sports-channel-equipped TVs and an office area overlooking the fairways. Tighten up your game by practising in The Swing Studio, a simulator equipped with more than 60 courses and a PGA-qualified instructor. Ready for the real thing? Leave booking courses and club transportation to the concierge, who’ll also regale you with anecdotes about illustrious visitors. If the Old Course itself seems a bit punchy, try out any of the other courses on the Fife coastland, including the championship Dukes Course. Relieve tired muscles after a session with a Golfer’s Recovery Massage in the on-site Kohler Water Spa, where a therapist will stretch and soothe aching muscles.

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View from the Sheraton Grand of the Usher Hall and Edinburgh Castle

For the… culture vulture

Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa, Edinburgh

Every night out needs a Michael. At One Square, Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa’s flagship bistro, Michael J Brown is the resident juniper expert and a man with but one mission: to find you your ultimate gin love match. His ‘Ginnasium’ experience (which roughly distils to four tailor-made gins, a theatrical look back at the history of the spirit, and the chance to wax-seal your very own miniature) is the perfect start – or indeed, finale – to any Edinburgh night out. Just as the Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa is the perfect base. Come night-time, the city’s enchanting castle glimmers from the guest room windows, the indoor-outdoor hydropool (swan neck showers pouring and jets rumbling till 10pm) glows a neon-blue, and One Square buzzes with out-of-towners, chatty locals and whoever Michael happens to be plying with gin (much to the envy and intrigue of everyone else).

The postcode is sublime, with walkable proximity – no more than ten minutes – to the Old Town and Princes Street, so you won’t be reaching for taxis (though the courteous staff will certainly grab you one, should you wish it). A piping hot breakfast soaks up the booze with Scottish touches such as potato cakes and haggis, while the restaurant fare spans bao buns to burgers, catering to the hotel’s global crowd. Fancy spoiling yourself? Ask to upgrade for access to the Club Lounge, where ice-cold Champers and light bites are served from 5pm-7pm.

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Fonab Castle nestles in the Highlands (also opening image)

For the... outdoor enthusiast

Fonab Castle, Pitlochry

With its stunning glens, moorlands and munros, it’s no secret that Scotland is the UK’s adventure playground, and the glorious Fonab Castle is a great place to kick off an escapade. Not only is it quintessentially Scottish – here’s a lochside castle boasting 200 types of whisky – but it’s also just 90 minutes from Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, and just down the road from the Cairngorms National Park. Fonab overlooks the River Tummel (which runs all the way to tourist hotspot Glencoe) so watersports are a focus here. Charming staff are primed to arrange any and all water-based excursions, from high-octane white-water rafting, tubing and canyoning to more serene kayaking, paddleboarding and fishing trips. Cycling paths, hiking trails, guided area tours, nearby distillery visits and golf games are also available, not forgetting the property’s long-standing partnership with Land Rover Experience Scotland: hire a 4x4 of your own and head into the highlands, or jump behind the wheel of the latest Discovery to tackle an assault course.

Indoors, Fonab is equally tantalising, thanks to lockdown renovations that have created a modern Scottish stronghold – think purple tartan carpets, orange feather light shades and vast, mirrored wine racks. Garden pods accommodate intimate outdoor dining experiences, while the first-floor veranda offers stunning sunset views alongside decadent five-star dining. There’s also a top-of-the-turret penthouse, generous spa and outdoor pool. But what Fonab does best is get you out into the wilderness and then wrap you in a warm, never-want-to-leave hug on your return.

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Auld House suite with views of the loch at Cameron House

For the… family

Cameron House, Loch Lomond

When a welcome pack greets you with both a Lego set and a bottle of local artisan gin, you know you’ve checked in somewhere that has guests of every age in mind. Cameron House, only 30 minutes from Glasgow Airport, is full of these little touches: mini robes and slippers in the rooms, an afternoon tea that includes a sweet kids’ version, plus children’s menus in its excellent Cameron Grill and Boathouse restaurants that offer good variety for a multi-day stay while keeping picky palates happy. Plus, there are activities galore. The leisure club has two pools and its own water slide, while Loch tours on the Celtic Warrior, remote-control boating, falconry lessons and trips in the sea plane (which is parked right outside – watching it take off and land is an activity in its own right) can be arranged.

Having reopened in September following a full refurb, Cameron House also pulls off the feat of having beautifully designed public areas – velvet and leather textures, tartan carpets, gold-leaf wallpaper in the library – that seems robust enough not to spark parental terror that your children will wreck something, while helpful and friendly service takes all the stress from holiday parenting. Your future self will thank you for choosing a room with a loch view – it is right there, waiting to dazzle when you wake up. While the large family suites come with cosy bunk bedrooms (the ladder is fixed and the top bunk includes a roll barrier) with their own TV. Happy kids = happy parents.

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Kinloch Lodge on Sleat, Skye’s southern peninsula 

For the… introvert

Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye

Getting away from it all means more than shutting a laptop. It’s a chance to recharge, reset and reawaken the senses – and nowhere is better for this than the breathtaking Isle of Skye. Drive just 100 miles west of Inverness Airport, along the famous Loch Ness, and escape to The Misty Isle’s majestic mountains, rolling hills and magnificent coastal views. Admire the famous Fairy Pools, trek up to the epic Old Man of Storr and blast yourself in the face with cold sea air from the spectacular Neist Point. 

An introvert’s holiday also calls for quiet relaxation, good food and a crackling log fire to cosy up to. You’ll find all of that and more at Kinloch Lodge, a family-run luxury hotel tucked away in the south of the island. This former 16th-century hunting lodge is home to the Macdonald clan, previously run by cookery writer Lady Claire Macdonald. Daughter Isabella is now at the helm, and she warmly welcomes guests into her childhood home, which has just 18 bedrooms (including three suites) across the North and South lodges. Food remains very much at the heart of Kinloch, with comforting dishes expertly crafted from seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. In fact, some are sourced right from the grounds, and you can go foraging for wild mushrooms in nearby woodland with Kinloch’s own gillie. For the ultimate down-time, nothing beats curling up with a book in one of the lodge’s three peaceful drawing rooms, with plush sofas, log fires and beautiful views of Loch na Dal beyond.

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The playful morning room at Glenmorangie House

For the... whisky lover

Glenmorangie House, Tain

The world of whisky can seem a bit of an unfriendly club, where membership requires knowledge of blends and barrels and having strong opinions on ice. The only entry requirement for Glenmorangie House, owned by the venerable whisky producer, is a willingness to have a good time. An hour from Inverness airport, the boutique hotel sits in splendid isolation between the North Sea and the Highland mountains. Nearby is the Glenmorangie distillery, a must for a tasting session, and you can book a foraging walk through the wild surroundings with head chef John Wilson, or a sea safari to spot whales and dolphins. Whisky connoisseurs will love a bar stocked with rare bottles and exclusive editions, while whisky sceptics will find staff only too happy to help them find a cocktail they love.

It may look grand, but the house has just nine rooms, giving it the feel more of an opulent home than a hotel. All the rooms have been designed in a spirit of ‘luxurious fun’ by Russell Sage Studio, with inventive plays on the whisky theme. Giraffe motifs nod to the height of the distillery’s copper stills. There’s furniture (and surfboards) made of old barrels. The stunning morning room, with its gold ceiling and amber hues, is redolent of a warming single malt. Book the Reserve bedroom for maximum interiors oomph (expect monkeys on the wallpaper and a tiger in the wardrobe). Luxurious fun extends to dinner, served at a huge communal table to encourage mixing (of people and drinks). Expect to go home with several new friends and a bottle of your favourite tipple.

Visit Glenmorangie House

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