Scotland and its Highlands have plenty to offer adventurous newlyweds.
The poet’s beloved Scotland and its wild, beautiful and remote Highlands offer honeymooners the warm kiss of history, hospitality and natural wonders—with the bliss of fine food, drink and accommodations.
For a true Highland fling, book a room at Inverlochy Castle, where Queen Victoria came to sketch in 1873. Located near Fort William, the manor house is sited a caber toss from the ruins of the original 13th-century castle and is an easy drive from Inverness, the largest city in the Highlands. Or take the Caledonian Sleeper, the iconic overnight train from London. To travel in style from the station, reserve the hotel’s chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce Phantom, stocked with two bottles of ice-cold champagne.
Guests are greeted with bubbly on arrival, no matter how they get to Inverlochy. The extravagant bouquets in the great hall are imported from Holland. The glittering chandelier is from Venice. Sink into sumptuous, down-filled seating in front of the coal fire and listen to the pianist who plays each evening. Equally sigh-inducing rooms are equipped with laptops, high thread-count sheets and marshmallow-soft pillows.
If the $500-per-night entry point is too rich for your blood, book at a local bed-and-breakfast for about $100 a night, breakfast included. Then make a reservation for lunch, afternoon tea or dinner at Inverlochy Castle’s restaurant, which has held a coveted Michelin star for more than 20 years. The heavily carved sideboards in the hushed, posh dining room were a gift to the lord of the manor from the King of Norway.
A lavish three-course dinner featuring such delights as the hotel’s signature baked quail with foie gras is an attainable splurge, priced at the equivalent of $104, tax included. Lunch is $59 for three courses. Sommelier William Birch expertly pairs wines with dishes.
After your repast, stroll velvety moss walking trails on the 500-acre grounds. The estate also offers fishing, tennis and falconry for outdoors enthusiasts, as well as a clubby billiards room for the indoor set. Nearby activities include monster-watching cruises on Loch Ness and hiking on towering Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the United Kingdom.
Newlyweds take in a romantic view of the Highlands
Navigating the High Road
With miles of open byways, driving in the Highlands is a pleasure, even for motorists unaccustomed to driving on the left side of the road. You can rent a car or let someone else to the driving. Little’s Chauffeur Drive has bases in Glasgow and Edinburgh and provides drivers attired in snappy gray livery throughout Scotland. Little’s also rents vintage Rolls Royces for destination weddings.
There aren’t many people who live and work between villages and small cities, so traffic is rarely a problem. That allows passengers to focus on views of craggy mountains, waving fields of heather and sheep grazing in picturesque pastures beside shimmering lochs.
In the remote reaches of Wester Ross, the privileged shooting set roughed it in style in the Victorian era. You can, too, at The Torridon, originally constructed as a baronial hunting lodge in 1887 with jaw-dropping views of the mountains and a sea loch.
There are outdoor activities galore, including kayaking, hiking and clay pigeon shooting. Wander the 58-acre grounds, which encompass a vegetable and herb garden supplying the kitchen and a corral for shaggy Highland cattle, which eventually wind up on the dinner plate, too.
If breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day, count on the Scots to get you off to a great start. The Torridon’s full breakfast includes local eggs, bacon, black pudding, grilled tomato, mushrooms and a savory cake of haggis, the traditional dish made of sheep offal and oatmeal.
Fancy a nightcap, darling? Choose from more than 400 single-malt Scotch whiskies in The Torridon’s convivial paneled bar before you glide off to bed. Updated guest rooms offer comfy beds with upholstered headboards and large, modern baths.
Book Poolewe’s Pool House
Every bride thinks her hubby is hotter than Brad Pitt. You can sleep in the same bed as the Hollywood hunk—although not at the same time—at Pool House, a unique boutique hotel in Poolewe, a wee village on the shores of Loch Ewe.
It’s a short stroll from the fabulous 54-acre Inverewe Garden, which showcases specimen plants from all over the world, including lush tropical flora.
Each suite at Pool House is the size of a Manhattan apartment, including a bedroom, sitting room and bath, and decorated in antiques, most gleaned from the family of the innkeepers, Margaret and Peter Harrison.
The hotel was decorated by the Harrisons’ daughter Elizabeth Miles, who also created a private honeymoon cottage on the grounds with an open-air deck and hot tub. One-way glass means couples can gaze out at the sea—but no one can see in the cottage. The enormous bed is an exact replica of the bed Napoleon gave to Josephine, with opulent gold-leaf swans on the headboard and cornucopias on the footboard.
There also is a Titanic suite—Kate Winslet slept there—with brass replicas of lights on the ship, an authentic re-creation of a 1912 bathroom and framed blueprints of the doomed ocean liner. Capt. Edward Smith, in fact, was a cousin of the innkeeper’s grandfather.
So what about Brad? He stayed in a lavish suite inspired by an Indian maharajah, traveling solo before he met Angelina Jolie.
The husband of the Harrisons’ younger daughter Mhairi—the Gaelic equivalent of Mary—is the hotel chef. Visitors can choose from a multi-course evening repast in the dining room or an informal barbecue in a tiny cooking lodge imported from Finland. Guests gather around a central grill while the chef prepares such delights as scallops brought up by local divers that very afternoon.
Getting to Poolewe from the south can be challenging in winter for visitors traveling by car. Better to plan your route in via train from London, which manages to chug through the drifts on a regular basis.
Touring the Western Highlands’ Isle of Skye
If you’re touring the western Highlands, don’t miss Eilean Donan Castle, touted as the most romantic castle in the world and a natural backdrop for honeymoon photography. (You might recognize the castle’s fortress-like facade from the James Bond film, “The World is Not Enough.”) Eilean Donan is located in Kyle of Lochalsh, perched on a bluff overlooking three lochs on A97, just before you drive onto the causeway leading to the Isle of Skye.
Kinloch Lodge is nestled on the southern end of Skye, the largest and northernmost island in the inner Hebrides. Yet there are graceful palm trees on the grounds, thanks to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Skye also is a home to white-tailed sea eagles, golden eagles and other birds of prey, making it a favored destination for bird watchers.
The 300-year-old lodge once was the private family home of the owner, Lord Godfrey Macdonald, who is head of the clan, and his wife Claire, a celebrity chef and food writer in the UK.
At Lady Claire’s cookery classes, scheduled several times a year, guests learn to make yummy dishes in a relaxed social setting. A few nibbles from her menu: walnut-and-Parmesan tart with caramelized onions; seared scallops; cauliflower purée and crispy bacon; and butterscotch-and-pear upside down cake. Prices start at $750 per person and include three nights’ lodgings, plus all meals and cooking classes.
Rather eat than cook? Year-round accommodations include both breakfast and dinner in the lodge’s Michelin-star restaurant. Marcello Tully, the resident chef, serves a multi-course menu that changes daily in keeping with local and seasonal produce. Combined with flights of perfectly paired wines, dining becomes an absolute art form.
The intimate dining room exudes the atmosphere of breaking bread in a home that has been in the family for centuries. The walls are lined with impressive oil portraits of Macdonald ancestors.
Guest rooms are simple but elegant, with lovely water views. Americans will appreciate the warm feeling they get in the bathrooms, which are outfitted with heated floors.
- The currency in Scotland is the British pound. Credit cards are accepted in cities and major hotels but many small bed-and-breakfast inns and pubs deal only in cash.
- U.S. citizens require a passport but don’t need a visa unless they plan to stay six months or more.
- Current is 240VAC, 50Hz. That means hair dryers and other personal appliances made in North America require an adapter.
- Time throughout Scotland is five hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time.
- Tipping is not expected in bars. For good service in restaurants, add 10-15 percent to the tab. Round up to the nearest pound for taxi drivers.