Overlooking the wide open vistas of the very bonnie Beauly Firth sits the impressive Bunchrew House Hotel, just 6-miles west of Inverness. The hotel makes a perfect staging point for those exploring the area, or indeed those starting or finishing the now very popular North Coast 500.
The NC500 as it is known is Scotland's answer to 'Route 66', a spectacular route that winds itself around the Northern Highlands coast roads. Unlike the NC500 however, Bunchrew House Hotel is far from a newbie on the scene. This is a Scottish mansion house with real links to the Jacobite Risings - Outlander fans, eat your heart out, the house even has both Fraser and Mackenzie clan connections!
HISTORIC SCOTTISH MANSION HOUSE ON THE BANKS OF THE BEAULY FIRTH
Bunchrew House has been the home of the Fraser-Mackenzie family for centuries, two names that are prominent within the successful Outlander TV series, fans of which will recognize this interesting coincidence immediately. Before the Fraser-Mackenzie's lived here though it was the home of the prominent Forbes family. In 1700, it was John Forbes who raised the first stones of the house which can still be seen today at the western end of the house. Over the fireplace in the sitting room too, you will see his initials carved into the stonework, a lasting testament to the man who left a beautiful legacy on the banks of the River Beauly.
John Forbes was a interesting man, it is no surprise he had the vision to build such a home in such a location. He had travelled much of Europe and brought back some exotic horticultural species from his wanderings, planting extensive gardens at Bunchrew. The grounds of the house still to this day include some of Scotland's most impressive Cedars trees, with trunks that only a giant could wrap their arms around.
(The front entrance to Bunchrew House opens to an ornate vestibule area adorned with original wooden panels and oil portraits of bygone residence.)
(From the main driveway the house is very imposing and impressive)
(Sat by portraits of the family, enjoy a Scotch whisky across from a crackling fireplace).
INDULGING MY SENSE OF ALL THINGS TRADITIONAL, HIGHLAND AND SCOTTISH
Moving inside the hotel, guests are reminded of the fascinating and rich history at Bunchrew at almost every turn. The walls are adorned with original oil portraits of the families, from both the Fraser-Mackenzie lines and the Forbes line. You will also be struck by the impressive Sporting trophies typical of the style of property along with Victorian lithographs depicting traditional Scottish highland scenes. Decorated in a modernised yet firmly traditional style the hotel has retained an old world feel with a functionality of the 21st century. This is a rare balance that I love. Today many of Scotland's hotels have lost this delicate balance, preferring to kiss goodbye to the old world charm. To find a hotel with a real sense of old Scotland is a delightful reassurance that Scotland can still serve up the quintessential highland stay to her millions of visitors per year.
Speaking of 'serving up', Bunchrew House Hotel has a 2* AA Rosette marking its excellence in cuisine. The food was absolutely delicous, I enjoyed an amazing locally sourced venison dinner served in the main dining room having had canapés by the fireplace in the comfortable lounge area beforehand with some of the hotel's other guests. Here I realised the multinational appeal of the hotel, with American clients, French clients, Spanish and even Scottish. When I asked some of my fellow guests what it was that attracted them to Bunchrew they told me that the building was the first thing they fell in love with, before quickly realising the hotel had retained a old world style that is these days hard to find in Scotland.
(A fine portrait of the lady of the house stands in the bar area overlooking hotel guests).
THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT
For those with an interest in the supernatural, it is said that Bunchrew House Hotel is haunted. Kenneth, the 12th Mackenzie clan chief's wife, Isabelle has been reputed to wander the passageways and has been spotted at a favourite table of hers in the dining room by more than one. A portrait of Isabelle hangs in the main entrance of the hotel, if the likeness is anything to go by, I was disappointed not to see the ghostly apparition during my stay. No doubt she is a really nice lady.
(Within the grounds is reputed to be Scotland's oldest Holly tree along with a fabulous collection of mature Cedars brought back hundreds of years ago in the 1700's.)
WHAT ROOM TO SHOTGUN?
I was lucky enough to stay in what is known as the honeymoon suite, the spacious 'Mackay' suite. This enormous room has river views from two large sache and case windows. Here you can see right across the Beauly Firth and if you are lucky you will even see some of the areas incredible and famous bird life from your window. Looking north across the river you can pick out villages on the Black Isle. As the evening descends you can pick enjoy the almost romantic twinkle of distant village lights from the comfort of your super-king four-poster bed. The large Mackay room or suite is adorned with warm and rich tartan colours. A decour endulging my sense of all things traditional, highland and Scottish. If you are booking at stay at Bunchrew House Hotel far enough in advance, I recommend you look to shotgun this particular suite, it even has a spa bath.
(The Mackay Suite has an impressive superking four poster bed and stunning views across the Beauly Firth - this room has to be my favourite bedroom at the hotel.)
TO BUNCHREW OR NOT TO BUNCHREW?
To summarise, if you are looking for a hotel a stones throw from Inverness with a calming atmosphere and traditional feel complete with exceptional food, look no further than Bunchrew House Hotel. The hotel will fit right into your Scottish Highlands tour in 2018 and provide a great pitstop. To capitalise on the best of Bunchrew at a fair rate, my top tip is to visit out of season. Try the Spring (March to May) and benefit from favourable pricing and a lack of crowds.
To book your own tour of Scotland please email firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our team will assist you straight away with the planning of your own magical experience in the Scottish Highlands.
Sandgrouse Travel & Expeditions are one of the leading experts in Luxury Scotland holidays and we create totally bespoke, tailor-made itineraries for our clients. Each trip is carefully throught through so as to exceed all expectations. We look forward to seeing you here in Scotland!
(Dinner is served in a romantic lit dinning hall with tables sufficiently well spaced to enjoy some privacy yet retaining a good atmosphere.)