Review: Toravaig House Hotel – Scottish Ground

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That’s four seasons in one day for Rosie Morton as she reviews the Toravaig House Hotel in Skye.

Failure

The trip to Skye from Auld Reekie is always a total pleasure. It’s (with obligatory stops at my favorite haunts) a six-hour journey that’s equal to a five-star tasting menu – peppered with some of the most beautiful and eclectic views Caledonia has to offer.

Pit stops don’t get much more enjoyable than this. [Credit: Rosie Morton]

Of course, this is often considered a mere appetizer compared to my destination. The explosion of interest in Skye over the past decade – steeped as it is in the romantic tales of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora Macdonald – means that Misty Isle has never been busier. But that doesn’t mean hotels are resting on their laurels. If anything, that means the competition is hotter than ever.

My home was to be Toravaig, a nine-bedroom boutique hotel beautifully situated on the Sleat peninsula with south-facing views of the Sound of Sleat. It is one of three hotels in the Sonas collection. (The other two include Duisdale, a Victorian mansion built in 1865, and Skeabost, which retains fishing rights to much of the Snizort, one of the island’s best salmon rivers).

If I was to trust the weatherman, he must have been consistently vile for the duration of my trip. As is the case on the island, however, it proved unpredictable, greeting me with a light show as the sun broke through the clouds in dramatic fashion. Before checking in, I drove to Armadale Castle (formerly the seat of the Macdonalds of Sleat), just ten minutes from Toravaig, to see if I could spot the resident otters along the shore. Maybe they had slipped away for their supper, but the view was as unreal as I remembered.

The spectacular Sound of Sleat.

Coorie down

The hotel was quaint and tranquil with its Ochil Anta rug, large bay window and old curiosities in the main lounge. I would say my room, “Berneray”, had one of the best views in the hotel. It overlooked the water and Mallaig, who on his arrival was shrouded in a thin veil of mist.

The bedroom itself was cozy and had muted tweed accents, while the bathroom was modern and stocked with an assortment of moisturizers, soaps, and other Temple Spa accessories. (Unfortunately, Temple Spa isn’t Scottish, but the miniature bottle of Raasay whiskey and box of Talisker whiskey fudge that had been thoughtfully placed on my bed absolutely hit the mark).

Most rooms at Toravaig have water views.

Neil, the friendly face who greeted me at the hotel, suggested a short walk to the ruins of Knock Castle before the storm closed in. It was only a 15 minute walk away and the scenic viewpoint (which I had to myself except for a few wandering sheep) was the perfect spot to watch the sun go down.

It was my fourth trip to Skye, and as I stood at Knock Castle I was reminded why this southern part of the island (often bypassed by visitors on the promise of Tolkien-esque mountains in the central parts and north) remains my favorite farm. The storm quickly made its way over the horizon… It was time to go home and get ready for supper.

Sunset over the ruins of Knock Castle.

Remains

For a gourmet meal, guests are encouraged to use the free shuttle to Hotel Duisdale, where they can take advantage of the 2 AA Rosette-awarded restaurant. My driver, Peter, took me up the road, and ten minutes later I was taking my bench in a beautiful, bustling dining room.

From 6-9pm, Duisdale entertains both residents of Sonas hotels and non-residents. The place was very busy and a couple from San Francisco sitting at the next table told me to expect good things. It was their third visit to the restaurant in as many nights. It seemed like the kind of place you dream of after a long, cold day on the hill.

The menu was filled with dishes inspired by the landscape. My starter of Forest Pigeon with Isle of Skye black pudding, chicory and walnuts (£10) was an example of this and was devoured with indecent haste. The woody addition of the nut, married to the sweetness of the chicory was heavenly.

The Duisdale Hotel has a restaurant awarded 2 AA Rosettes.

Needless to say, local vendors are the stars of Duisdale’s menu, with the likes of Fisherman’s Kitchen, Lochalsh Butchers (both Kyle-based) and Portree’s Just Hooked taking center stage. The temptation of local venison with beetroot, bramble and chocolate (£34) was too hard to resist for my main course. The chocolate was incredibly subtle, the meat melted in your mouth and the bramble was beautifully tart. It was, without a doubt, the undisputed winner of the evening. I hasten to add, however, that saving space for dessert is a must. The Apricot, Earl Grey, Ginger Cake and Grapefruit Pudd (£12) was a refreshing end to a decadent meal.

Apricot Pudding and Earl Gray at the Duisdale Hotel.

On the Sleat Peninsula, you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to dining options. Once you’ve tried Duisdale you might want to visit Kinloch Lodge (run by the very talented chef Jordan Webb), Eilean Iarmain’s Bar Am Pràban (which has a full menu of local produce including game shot on their estate), or the Claymore restaurant in Broadford, all of which are a short distance from Toravaig. That said, if diving into the dark and stormy night isn’t for you, Toravaig offers simple charcuterie or cheese boards.

The sound of the rain thundering on my bedroom window helped me to have a peaceful night. In the morning, breakfast was served in the hotel’s dining room, where all hot and cold dishes were available (from 7:30 to 10:00). A platter of mini croissants, pain au chocolat, toast, butter and jam was presented to me before I even had a chance to look at the menu. I looked longingly at the Eggs Benedict and full Scottish breakfast, but decided the yoghurt with berry compote and granola was more than enough after the sweet treat the night before. I wanted nothing because this simple bowl of berry goodness was just the thing to start the day.

Breakfast is served at Toravaig House Hotel.

Hurry back

Time seems to pass faster on Skye than anywhere else. As I packed up my things, I realized once again that people make a place. Thanks to the genuine warmth of all the staff, Toravaig certainly felt like a friendly home away from home.

To learn more about Toravaig or to make a reservation, visit their WEBSITE.
Alternatively, details of Duisdale and Skeabost can be found HERE.
E: [email protected]
Tel: 01470 373 737

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