Highland Adventure: Duisdale House

6 May

I wake to see the boy plug in the small kettle, stretch and wander to the thickly curtained windows. As he opens them, white light filters in, the grey day trespassing on my barely fading dreams.

“Snow,” he says.

“Hmmm?” I mumble, still not coherent enough to move from the comfort of the oversized four-poster bed.

“Snow…there’s snow everywhere,” he responds.

Padding over to the window I see he’s right; the snow is not a figment of his imagination but a real, freezing, crystalline reality.

Shivering, I head straight back to bed unimpressed with the scene outside, despite its eerily quiet beauty.

The night before, we’d arrived at the classy Duisdale House, a former hunting lodge constructed in 1865. The graveled drive – more accustomed to Mercedes and Beemers – gave way to our little Ford Fiesta and before we’d even turned the engine off, the effervescent David was at our door to relieve us of our bags and usher us in from the nippy air.

Duisdale House, in warmer climes...

The hotel sits near the village of Duisdale, appropriate enough. Set in 38 acres, it exudes country charm and modernity in equal measure. When Anne Gracie and Ken Gunn bought it in 2007 they had to start from scratch: new electrics, plumbing, decor, furnishings – the whole lot.

“We wanted to establish somewhere really nice that would offer facilities that we wanted when we went somewhere ourselves,” Anne told me.

That is just what they have done. After the renovation, the space has been transformed into a place perfect for anyone wanting to escape hectic city life for a while.

“And we deliberately steered away from stags heads and tartan. A lot of people have designed their hotels that way but many haven’t been updated so they began to look tired and stuck in a time warp,” she added.

In our room spacious room, the aforementioned four-poster elicited a squeal from yours truly before a hot cup of tea and hammering shower pulled the tiredness from my limbs after a day’s hectic driving.

That evening a stunning meal awaited us. Anne told me the idea was always to focus on local, sustainably sourced foods. They use a small company called Food Link, which delivers food to hotels that’s been grown on the Isle of Skye. And, while each dish is dainty, Anne said they never want to lose sight of back to basics cooking.

“We always have to keep watching out to see what is current without losing our sight on basic, good, well cooked food. If the technique is right you can dress it up and put little touches on it that are young and new,” she said.

A starter of assorted hot and cold smoked salmon with beetroot for me, and juicy pigeon for the boy was followed by the “best steak” the boy has ever had – high praise indeed. We finished with the cheese board, a scrumptious outing of five creamy delights.

Knowing an early morning wake-up call awaited, we headed to bed to get some much-needed shut eye after what seemed like an unending day.

Snow-capped mountains in the distance at the waterfront access of Duisdale House.

The next morning we awoke to snow, and news that the mountainous drive back to Inverness was not very welcoming.

After a brisk walk to the waterfront to inhale some last fresh breaths of Isle of Skye air, and a tummy-filling scrumptious breakfast, we hopped in the car earlier than planned, sad to leave the beautiful surroundings and admit our Highland adventure was coming to a close.

A snowing, blowing, frightful mountain drive followed – cars drove slowly while snow trucks cleared the mounds of fluffy flakes that now dominated the previously green scene. Despite this, like most routes in Scotland, it was sublime. The sun peeked out from the clouds every once in a while, just long enough to show the shimmer of snow in full glory.

By the time we entered Inverness, we had just enough time to drop off the car and head for our train. It had been an adventure like no other.

Thank you to Duisdale House for hosting the boy and I. For more information on the hotel, visit: http://www.duisdale.com

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