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TRAVEL: Discovering there is much more to Skye than the Fairy Pools

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I wasn’t aware of it at the time but I was following in historic footsteps when I walked across the bridge connecting Skye to the mainland.

Having parked in Kyleakin, we took a leisurely stroll over the bridge and later learned the it had been open exactly 24 years to the day.

Walking is the best way of soaking up the spectacular views.

On one side there’s the straits of Kyle Akin and views towards Beinn Na Caillich in the distance, and on the other, there’s the Skye coastline, Raasay and rugged Applecross on the mainland.

It’s easy to see why many consider Skye to be a magical island – there are not many places that have such an immediate impact on you.

Our destination was Kinloch Lodge Hotel on the Sleat Peninsula, a former 16th Century hunting lodge on the shores of Loch Na dal, and world famous because of its fabulous food and Highland hospitality.

Owned by Lord Godfrey and cookery writer Lady Claire Macdonald, it’s now run by their daughter Isabella, with award-winning Brazilian chef Marcello Tully creating memorable dishes.

Armadale Castle, a ruin in stunning gardens with a fantastic museum and cafe

Several fine-dining experiences awaited but before we indulged we set off to visit one of Skye’s most talked about places, the Fairy Pools at Glen Brittle.

Despite this being “off-season” it was packed but we paid our £5 parking fee and joined other walkers vying for space on the fairly rough path running next to the stream and waterfalls.

It’s very scenic but I felt over-rated and too busy, so we vowed to avoid the tourist traps and visit quieter, equally scenic places – of which there are many – particularly on the Sleat peninsula.

Arriving at Kinloch Lodge, we were greeted like old friends, presented with a glass of bubbly and shown to our accommodation, a lovely top-floor suite in the South Lodge.

With a huge bedroom, lounge, luxury en suite with glamorous slipper bath and window offering unspoilt views across the loch, it was tempting to simply stay put.

But fine fare awaited in the form of Marcello’s five-course dinner which began each night with delicious canapes followed by an amuse bouche – a pea panna cotta topped with Parma ham foam, being my particular favourite.

We stayed for three nights and dinner each night exceeded our expectations.

Too many dishes to list here, but stand-out offerings included slow-roast Moray pork and Mallaig monkfish with an apple gel and Maderia jus; seared west coast scallops with Parma ham and peanut sauce; roast red pepper and black olive soup; Wester Ross salmon with a lime and coconut sauce; and Aberdeen-Angus beef fillet with Strathdon blue cheese and a rich brandy sauce.

The hotel offers lots of bespoke extras, such as a whisky tasting session with general manager Jamie Williams, a passionate whisky aficionado.

Brazilian chef Marcello Tully

Sitting in the cosy whisky bar, he talked us through the whisky-making process before leading us on a rather delightful tasting tour of malts from Scotland.

We also tried foraging in the hotel grounds with Skye ghillie Mitchell Partridge, who took us on a shoreline and river walk where we found a whole raft of edible plants that I, until that point, had no knowledge of.

All the while Mitch, who has a passion for bushcraft, walking and fishing, kept us entertained sharing stories of the local area and wildlife.

Armed with our hand-picked botanicals, we headed for Portree and joined a hands-on gin-making class at Isle of Skye Distillers.

Owners brothers Alistair and Thomas Wilson jumped through numerous hoops in order to bring back gin and vodka distilling to the island, and among the gins they produce is a rather special one, Tommy’s Gin, made using poppy seeds and dedicated to their late father, a former soldier.

Money from sales of the gin are donated to military charities.

Encouraged by chatty Alistair, we distilled our own gin using the botanicals we’d picked, had it bottled and even labelled.

Result? A souvenir to be enjoyed later.

Foodie highlights included a fun chocolate-making class with Marcello in the Kinloch kitchen – look out for these recipes in the menu later, and a kitchen-table dining experience where we ate while watching the chefs at work.

Apart from eating and drinking, we also crammed in a lot of other experiences during our stay.

These included visiting Armadale Castle, a ruin within stunning gardens with a fantastic museum and cafe.

Memorable locations included Isleornsay, a peaceful natural harbour with a great hotel, pub and high-end shop, Floraidh, which offers wonderful luxury pieces and local crafts.

Although there was a sign letting us know a bull roamed free, we walked to the Point of Sleat and were rewarded with views to the islands of Rum, Canna and Eigg.

With everything from majestic mountains to fabulous shorelines, Skye really does have it all, including – as we discovered – lots of peaceful locations on the Sleat peninsula just waiting to welcome visitors.

I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I was following in historic footsteps when I walked across the iconic bridge connecting Skye to the mainland.

Mitch the ghillie took Susan on a foraging tour of local edible plant life

Having parked in Kyelakin, we took a leisurely stroll over the bridge and later learned the bridge had been open exactly 24 years to the day.

Walking is the best way of soaking up the spectacular views.

On one side there’s the straits of Kyle Akin and views towards Beinn Na Cailliched in the distance, and on the other, there’s the Skye coastline, Raasay and rugged Applecross on the mainland.

It’s easy to see why so many consider Skye to be a magical island – there’s not many places which have such an immediate impact on you.

Our destination was Kinloch Lodge Hotel on the Sleat Peninsula, a former 16th Century hunting lodge on the shores of Loch Na dal, and world famous because of its fabulous food and Highland hospitality.

Owned by Lord Godfrey and well-known cookery writer Lady Claire Macdonald, it’s now run by their daughter Isabella, with award-winning Brazilian chef Marcello Tully creating memorable dishes.

Several fine-dining experiences awaited, but before we indulged we set off to visit one of Skye’s most talked about places, the Fairy Pools at Glen Brittle.

Despite being “off-season” it was packed, but we paid our £5 parking fee and joined other walkers vying for space on the fairly rough path running next to the stream and waterfalls.

It’s very scenic, but I felt over-rated and too busy, so we vowed to avoid the tourist traps and visit quieter, equally scenic places of which there are many, particularly on the Sleat peninsula.

Arriving at Kinloch Lodge, we were greeted like old friends, presented with a glass of bubbly and shown to our accommodation, a lovely top-floor suite in the South Lodge.

With a huge bedroom, lounge, luxury en suite with glamorous slipper bath and window offering unspoilt views across the loch, it was tempting to simply stay put.

But fine fare awaited via Marcello’s five-course dinner, which began, each night, with delicious canapes followed by an amuse bouche, a pea panna cotta topped with Parma ham foam, being my particular favourite.

We stayed for three nights and dinner each night exceeded our expectations.

Too many dishes to list here, but stand-out offerings included slow-roast Moray pork and Mallaig monkfish with an apple gel and Maderia jus; seared west-coast scallops with Parma ham and peanut sauce; roast red pepper and black olive soup; Wester Ross salmon with a lime and coconut sauce; and Aberdeen-Angus beef fillet with Strathdon blue cheese and a rich brandy sauce.

The hotel offers lots of bespoke extras, such as a whisky tasting session with general manager Jamie Williams, a passionate whisky aficionado.

Sitting in the cosy whisky bar, he talked us through the whisky-making process before leading us on a rather delightful tasting tour of malts from Scotland.

We also tried foraging within the hotel grounds with Skye ghillie Mitchell Partridge, who took us on a shoreline and river walk where we found a whole raft of edible plants that I, until that point, had no knowledge of.

All the while Mitch, who has a passion for bushcraft, walking and fishing, kept us entertained sharing stories of the local area and wildlife. Armed with our hand-picked botanicals, we headed for Portree and joined a hands-on ginmaking class at Isle of Skye Distillers.

Owners brothers Alistair and Thomas Wilson jumped through numerous hoops in order to bring back gin and vodka distilling to the island, and among the gins they produce is a rather special one, Tommy’s Gin, made using poppy seeds and dedicated to their late father, a former soldier. Money from sales of the gin are donated to military charities. Encouraged by chatty Alistair, we distilled our own gin using the botanicals we’d picked, had it bottled and even labelled. Result? A souvenir to be enjoyed later.

Foodie highlights included a fun chocolate-making class with Marcello in the Kinloch kitchen – look out for these recipes in the menu later, and a kitchen-table dining experience where we ate while watching the chefs at work.

Apart from eating and drinking, we also crammed in a lot of other experiences during our stay.

These included visiting Armadale Castle, a ruin within stunning gardens with a fantastic museum and cafe. Memorable locations included Isleornsay, a peaceful natural harbour with a great hotel, pub and high-end shop, Floraidh, which offers wonderful luxury pieces and local crafts. Although there was a sign letting us know a bull roamed free, we walked to the Point of Sleat and were rewarded with views to the islands of Rum, Canna and Eigg.

With everything from majestic mountains to fabulous shorelines, Skye really does have it all, including – as we discovered – lots of peaceful locations on the Sleat peninsula just waiting to welcome visitors.

The holiday

During November and December (excluding Christmas and New Year) Kinloch Lodge is running a golden ticket deal offering a one-night stay with prosecco on arrival, a seven-course tasting menu, breakfast and a late checkout for £150pp.

Guests also receive 10% discount on Kinloch’s Cookery and Wilderness Experiences. The Forage, Feast and Food Foray three-night package is priced from £620pp. www.kinloch-lodge.co.uk or 01471 833333.

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