Travel: Hotel of the week - Summer Isles Hotel
Lisa Markwell is the editor of The Independent on Sunday. She was previously executive editor of The Independent, i and The Independent on Sunday and has edited the features pages, and both the Saturday and Sunday supplements. She writes comment pieces for the papers and restaurant reviews for the New Review. Lisa has worked across a variety of newspapers and magazines and can now tick off every publication cycle from daily to quarterly. She is an enthusiastic foodie, mother of two teenagers and drives an electric car. She is writing a book about adoption.
Sunday 26 December 1999
This exceedingly popular Scottish hideaway is currently closed for the winter, which makes now the perfect time to call if you want to find vacancies on dates of your choice between April and October.
Where is it?
Just left of the middle of nowhere. In other words, 20 miles down a single- track road north of Ullapool. Address: Summer Isles Hotel, Achiltibuie, Wester Ross, Scotland (tel: 01854 622282; fax: 01854 622251; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
What's it like?
From the outside, not that great. A standard-issue guest-house with glassed- in front section and row of log cabins in the car park. But don't let that put you off. Once you're inside looking out - across the water to the beautiful, remote Summer Isles - the hotel seems none too shabby. And the open fire, exemplary bar and well-stocked bookshelves all help.
The thirtysomething owners, Mark and Geraldine Irvine, are fun, knowledgeable and basically make you want to stay for ever.
Plain white, with a very deliberate lack of TV and tea-making facilities. The rooms have something of the Designers Guild about them, with plump check-print duvets and matching curtains. The baths are huge, the heating brilliant - a place to soothe the limbs after a brisk walk over the nearby crags and round the lochs. The most basic rooms have private bathrooms down the hall and cost pounds 39.50 per person per night; en suite rooms are pounds 53; log-cabin rooms pounds 49. For those who want utter peace and solitude, there is a log house for rent in the grounds. It sleeps four and has its own kitchen and living-room with wood-burning stove.
Once tasted, the food at this hotel is enough to guarantee a return visit. Supper is served at 8pm and is a set five-course deal that costs pounds 38. There can't ever have been any complaints - local shellfish, organic lamb, vegetables grown in the hydroponicum across the road, the best cheese board this guest has ever seen, and a staggeringly good dessert trolley. Groan. The wine list is lovingly cared for by Mark Irvine, so take his advice and study the menu during the day and order ahead so that your bottle(s) can be prepared.
Practically all repeat visitors. Most are keen walkers, as there is nothing to do but admire the landscape on foot, and quite a few seem to bring dogs (only allowed in the log-cabin rooms). Perfect for those who like chatting to other guests over coffee and home-made petits fours after supper.
Things to do
There are no sport/gym/beauty facilities at the hotel (if you want that, go to a chain). Walk. Or fish. In the summer, boat trips on Loch Oscaig for sea-trout are available; all year round there's brown-trout fishing on the hill lochs. A trip to the hydroponicum is surprisingly interesting and the closest you'll get to souvenir shopping is a fabulous side of smoked salmon from the nearby smokery. For a de-stressing, hale and hearty break, nowhere's better.
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