Whether you want to retreat to a cosy inn or play golf on a country estate, here’s our pick of the best hotels in Scotland…
Words by Natasha Foges
The best hotels in Scotland
Tucked away on Scotland’s sublime West Coast in the sleepy village of Port Appin, the simple whitewashed Pierhouse Hotel has no airs and graces – but it does command a truly majestic view. The breathtaking panorama takes in the islands of Lismore and Mull, across the waters of tranquil Loch Linnhe.
Step inside and you’ll find a convivial inn, with flagstoned floors, a wood-burning fire and chic nautical decor. The buzzy bar is a place to swap stories about the day’s adventures and make new friends before you head to the restaurant, which is renowned for its seafood, fished from the crystalline local waters and unfussily but expertly cooked.
After dinner (and a wee dram, perhaps) it’s just a short stagger upstairs to bed. The 12 guest rooms are decorated in tasteful, soothing tones, and some have spectacular views of the loch.
The hotel was once the residence of the pier master, responsible for getting passengers aboard 19th-century steamers, and there are still plenty of opportunities to get out on the water, from whale watching trips to sea kayaking.
Or take the little Lady of Lismore ferry from the jetty outside the hotel over the loch to Lismore, a wild and beautiful place of ruined Viking castles, freshwater lochs and hidden coves.
Backed by vivid green forest, Kinloch Lodge gazes out over a shimmering loch at the southeastern end of the spectacular Isle of Skye. The hotel has an impressive historic pedigree: in the 16th century it was the hunting lodge of the Macdonalds, one of the largest and oldest of the Scottish clans, and is still in the family: now at the helm is Isabella Macdonald, whose parents first opened Kinloch as a hotel in the 1970s.
This is a place of timeless charm, and undoubtedly one of the best hotels in Scotland, where guests are welcomed like old friends to a country-house weekend. The ancestral portraits that adorn the walls testify to its deeply rooted history, but a warm, cheerful feel prevails and the decor is anything but austere: floral wallpaper, squishy sofas and board games in the lounges, and refined luxury in the bedrooms make for a relaxed atmosphere – a place to retreat to after a day exploring Skye’s peaks and lochs.
Lady Claire, Isabella’s mother, is a celebrated chef and ambassador for Scottish cuisine, and Kinloch’s restaurant is the pride of the hotel. Head chef Jordan Webb’s exceptional cooking uses vegetables from Kinloch’s kitchen garden, poultry from Perthshire, fine Highland cheeses, and lobster, crab and scallops from the clear waters of Skye.
The Cameron House Resort
‘By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes / Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond…’ Immortalised in the classic song, Scotland’s biggest loch – a serpentine sliver of blue that straddles the Highland border – is bonny indeed.
The Cameron House Resort, which enjoys an unrivalled position on the lake shore, is the best vantage point for enjoying all that the area has to offer. At the heart of the resort is a baronial mansion, smartly refurbished in recent years, while in the grounds nestle the Cameron House Lodges: light, airy and extremely comfortable, with big windows enticing you to sample the delights of the wider resort.
All manner of experiences are on offer here. Take in Loch Lomond on a champagne cruise, soar above it by seaplane, go paddle boarding or jet skiing, or simply cycle round the lake’s picturesque perimeter. The can-do guest experience team can arrange all this, and more.
The lodges are self-catering but you might be tempted to sample one of the resort’s restaurants, which include The Boat House, where you dine amid the bobbing boats of the hotel’s marina; and the Cameron Grill, where after a day’s exploring you can feast on succulent steak and lobster, served up by tartan-clad waiters.
Don’t overlook the rolling Borders – a scenic swathe of hills and valleys dotted with grand castles and ruined abbeys – in your haste to get to the Highlands. This part of Scotland has plenty of charm, and now it can boast a destination hotel to be proud of. SCHLOSS Roxburghe has recently undergone a sparkling renovation to become a bonafide resort, with an impressive spa and top-hole golf course – making it one of the best hotels in Scotland.
This handsome grey-stone building hasn’t lost sight of its history, though. Step inside and you’ll find tartan carpets, grandfather clocks and antique prints, setting the tone for a Scottish country house hotel. But beyond the original building (and seamlessly incorporated) is a striking contemporary wing. A unified colour palette, with plenty of natural wood and teal accents, links the hotel’s two halves. The bedrooms in the old house have more of a traditional feel, while the ‘estate rooms’ in the newer wing are bright, airy and modern.
An array of bars and restaurants includes the new offering Charlie’s, which serves up moreish Scottish fare with views of the gardens through floor-to-ceiling windows.
But it’s the spa that’s the jewel in the crown of the renovation – a glamorous space boasting a vast relaxation room that overlooks the heated pool and the green lawns beyond. The Highlands can wait.
Picture the perfect Highland scene and it probably looks much like the approach to The Torridon, a historic hotel that stands in splendid isolation some 50 miles west of Inverness – earning its place on our list of the best hotels in Scotland. A single-track road leads you through a magical landscape of brooding mountains and pine-clad hills to a turreted country house overlooking a loch of serene beauty: a sight to gladden the heart of any weary traveller.
Inside, the wood-panelled hall, with its stags’ heads and crackling fire, spirits visitors back to the house’s Victorian beginnings.
It was built by the first Earl of Lovelace (husband of the mathematician Ada Lovelace) as a hunting lodge in 1887. The Highlands were highly fashionable at the time, thanks to Queen Victoria’s influence; the zodiac ceiling in the Drawing Room was a tribute to the queen, who was fascinated by astrology.
Original features abound, brought gently up to date with elegant decor and cosy, cushioned nooks for sitting with a book or gazing at the view.
Outdoors, a host of activities await, from archery to kayaking. You can also explore the impressive kitchen garden, which provides fruit and vegetables for the hotel’s two restaurants: the refined 1887 and the more informal Bo & Muc. After dinner, the whisky bar awaits, with its wall of shimmering gold and amber bottles – a different single malt for every day of the year.
Gleneagles needs no introduction and is well known for being one of the best hotels in Scotland, if not the world. This venerable hotel in Perthshire has hosted everyone from Vivien Leigh to our late Queen over the years. In 2024 the hotel will mark a century since it first opened its doors and was hailed “the eighth wonder of the world” in the press.
The hotel was a glamorous destination from the very start. Elegantly attired guests arriving in 1924 were treated to Art Deco interiors, bedrooms dripping in luxurious jazz-age glamour, and an on-site dance band. Although gently updated, the luxurious interiors retain the style of the Roaring Twenties, and the attentive staff are still primed to cater for their guests’ every whim.
Gleneagles describes itself as ‘The Glorious Playground’, and there’s no shortage of outdoor pursuits to enjoy on the 850-acre estate, from riding, shooting, falconry and fishing to a round on one of the championship golf courses. Aching limbs can be soothed in the impressive spa before you choose from an array of bars and restaurants, including Andrew Fairlie, Scotland’s only restaurant with two Michelin stars.
Standing proudly at the end of a sweeping driveway in a quiet Edinburgh neighbourhood, Prestonfield, part of the PoB hotel collection, is like a miniature country estate in the city. Step inside and you enter a dazzlingly theatrical world.
The walls are lined with intriguing prints, and there are piles of books and curios to pique your interest at every turn. The 23 rooms are all individually styled but all share a heady Rococo glamour, with bold wallpapers, swagged curtains, antique furniture and swathes of luxurious brocade, velvet and silk. Suites are named after illustrious former guests, from Winston Churchill to Benjamin Franklin.
Outdoors, twenty acres of parkland are at guests’ disposal, with views of the iconic Arthur’s Seat. The front lawn is set up for croquet, two well-fed Highland cows graze in the grounds, and there’s even a resident peacock.
Many guests opt to dine at The Witchery, under the same ownership as the hotel. Set at the gates of Edinburgh Castle, it’s pure Gothic romance, with 17th-century oak panelling, tapestries and gilded leather screens, lit by flickering candlelight. Like the hotel, it’s decadent, luxurious and quite unique.
This is an extract, read the full feature in the July/August 2023 issue of BRITAIN, available to buy here from Friday 9 June.