Like many this summer, I chose a staycation over travelling abroad.
With the sheer popularity of the NC500 putting us off taking a trip north, my girlfriend and I decided to head to Glencoe from Aberdeen, via Skye, for a luxurious stay in the Ballachulish Hotel.
Nestled at the point where Lochs Leven and Linnhe meet, this historic, palatial inn opened in 1877, with its spectacular Gothic design flourishes enduring to this day.
We arrived mid-afternoon, slightly wearied from an earlier stay in Skye, but in awe at the picture-perfect vista in front of us – including a lone stag patrolling the banks of the loch outside the hotel. It was all very Monarch of the Glen and the perfect welcome.
Checking in at reception, it was heartening to see the latest Covid measures being adhered to, and the hotel’s charming history was plain to see.
To our left was the hotel’s drawing room with great views of the surrounding scenery, while we’d later learn of the hotel’s library further down the corridor (replete with historic guestbook). It’s these charming touches which helped to give our stay a sense of occasion, made all the more effortless by the warm welcome and advice given by the front-of-house team.
Up the wide, famously creaky staircase we went to the first floor. With one of the hotel’s Signature rooms at our disposal, we enjoyed a fantastic view of Loch Linnhe, with luxurious features including a Victoria and Albert roll-top bath and sleigh king-size bed helping to create a relaxing vibe.
With Scottish-themed décor, the room managed to look contemporary while being respectful of the hotel’s long history – and I’d definitely recommend treating yourself to its ambiance if a Signature room is available.
After a short walk before dinner, we visited the hotel’s Waterside Café. With a great view of the loch nearby as the light faded and grey clouds rolled in during the sunset, the two of us enjoyed a beautiful three-course dinner – aided by the smartly kitted-out and attentive staff.
I opted for the tempura squid to start, with a sirloin steak as my main, finished off with a sticky toffee pudding. All were prepared to perfection. My partner opted for sweet potato soup, followed by sweet potato pie with wild mushroom and spinach, as well as the sticky toffee pudding.
We enjoyed a window seat with views over the loch – though the hedge immediately outside the window did its best to obscure some of its beauty!
By the time we finished our meal the hunger which accompanies a day of driving and exploring was long gone, and we popped through to the drawing room to relax and plan out the rest of our trip.
With a fireplace, high ceilings and large windows, it makes for the perfect location to enjoy a drink in peace – and is available for private hire as a wedding or meeting venue.
Of course, being in Glencoe, there’s no shortage of local attractions to enjoy. A special shout goes to the reception team who were unfailingly helpful in advising on local things to see and do.
The headline attraction is of course nearby Ben Nevis, but we were after a more relaxing walk and visited Steall Falls via the Nevis Gorge, home to the second-highest waterfall in the UK at over 390ft – which, despite the midges, was as dramatic and stunning as we had hoped.
Fort William, styled as the outdoor capital of the UK, is approximately a 30-minute drive from the hotel, and hosts a wide array of restaurants, cafes and diversions to enjoy.
It’s close enough to be accessible from the Ballachulish Hotel, while also far enough away to be spared the traffic which plagues the town during high season.
The only real wrinkle during the trip was the swimming pool, run by sister hotel Isles of Glencoe and located off-site. Recently opened following the pandemic, it required booking well in advance in order to secure a slot, and could only be booked in person via reception instead of online.
However, once sorted, neither of us could fault the cleanliness of the pool or sauna – especially since we were lucky enough to have the pool to ourselves.
A word of warning though – if you’re expecting a large pool you’ll be disappointed, as it’s quite compact and less than 5ft deep.
If you’re looking for a relaxing stay, the Ballachulish Hotel ticks the boxes. A big part of the appeal for us was the hotel’s stunningly pretty location; which was as typically Scottish as you would hope.
The relaxed atmosphere and storied history makes for a great couple’s getaway or family break, and the hotel’s upmarket luxury is the perfect antidote to a day spent exploring outdoors.
Nr Fort William, Glencoe PH49 4JY
Phone: 01764 651842