Inverlochy is a 19th century castle in the middle of a group of mountains, surrounded by the luscious green of evergreen trees and the sparkling blue from a nearby loch. It’s a well known place for hunting and outdoor activities, as well as being close to Ben Nevis, where there are plenty of walks and routes to take for every kind of adventurer.
Inverlochy castle is built just a short drive from Fort William, which is otherwise known as the gateway to the highlands. If you’re going to travel there, I’d recommend driving up through Glencoe, a long and winding road in the midst of breathtaking mountains as far as you can see. Leave plenty of time to stop and stare and, of course, bring a rain mac.
The castle itself has a grand front room, with a roaring fire place and high ceilings built for light, and at the back a room for afternoon tea, which is much lighter and spacious in its feel, with pink and yellow coloured victorian furnishings. There are also vast grounds for walking and exploring, and a grand patio with seating out back, where you can walk from to reach the loch. From this view alone I could have sworn I was visiting the Von Trapp’s home in Saltsburg.
The castle has seventeen rooms and suits, which from every window you will not be left without an awe inspiring view. They also have a private gate lodge and extra accommodation for events.
The room we were in was cosy and spacious, with blue tartan furnishings and a bath and shower. The interiors fitted the castle style well, and I especially liked the classical music that softly played through the speakers as we entered. The TV blew my mind, it was a mirror with a gold frame that it looked antique, but with the switch of a button it transformed effortlessly into a full movie screen, which was very swish.
We arrived a bit early and took tea in the drawing room, where the tea pots were decorated with an assortment of delicious short breads and fun kitsch Scottish hats.
Their website says this of their Michelin star menu: ‘Dining at ‘Albert and Michel Roux Jr at Inverlochy Castle’ is a culinary experience to savour, with the legendary father and son taking the helm of the kitchen and offering the finest dishes using local produce.’
They have a selection of dining rooms, with elaborate furnishings that were given to the castle as gifts from the King of Norway. The public spaces too were all full of grandeur, with roaring open fires and trinkets from all over the world.
We took pre-dinner drinks in the drawing room, by far my favourite room in the castle followed closely by the billiards room, which was filled with information about hunting and the castle. The public spaces are unapologetically opulent, and the warm colours of the decor, coupled with the fire, fit perfectly with a cold winter’s night.
We were given canopes to start, with a particularly delicious cheese piece. Alongside the tasting menu they had daily specials, and we were allowed to peruse the menu on our phones in accordance with their carefully thought out Covid safety procedures. Everything in the castle was fumigated before any guests arrived, which made us feel very safe.
We then entered the dining room to a beautiful view of the sun setting. I was a fan of their blue wine glasses and the yellow flowers that topped each table.
Firstly we were given a sashimi amuse bouche, which was fresh and punchy. We were then served a sour dough Langostine, which was delicious; the roe jelly and mussels adding the right touches of flavour variation. We also had a rabbit cannelloni, which was hearty and filling.
The next dish was a light heritage tomato course, with tangy flavours that were balanced out by the creamy ricotta. It was mouthwatering, and I was stunned at how much flavour lingered on my tongue!
My guest ordered the special for mains, which was pulled pork and scallops, deliciously sauced and perfectly cooked. I didn’t order this as I was put off by the black pudding that came with the pork, thinking it might have been overbearing, but when I tried it, I realised couldn’t have been wrong. It was just the right touch, nestled in between the pork and sweetened by balls of apple and a sweet sauce. I chose the monk fish, with a glorious burnt aubergine puree on a bed of barley. Everything about this dish was divine, with wonderfully seasoned roast cauliflower to top.
By this point in a tasting menu I’m usually out for the count, but the courses were perfectly spaced and sized, even the cheese course was just the right touch – soft Isle of Mull cheddar with compressed pear – I would have been happy with another helping of this for desert.
We then had the chocolate mouse with coffee ice cream, which was beautifully presented, with gold wisps and a tower of hazelnut and chocolate cream. I had a Katy Rogers creme fraiche parfait, with was balanced out with fruit and a tart raspberry sorbet on a bed of oats, which really brought the dish together.
Breakfast provide some very warm pastries, and we were offered a selection of special teas from the Teastar collection, as well as coffee and fresh juice. To start, my guest had the brûlée porridge, with cream and a whisky aftertaste and I went for the yogurt with homemade granola and compote. My guest then had the fresh salmon and scrambled eggs, which was delicate and creamy dish and not coupled with any extra bread, which I doubt you would want after a bowl of porridge and multiple pastries. I had a beautifully presented dish of American style pancakes, which were light and fluffy and teamed with strawberries, maple syrup and crispy bacon.
This really was a perfect meal, and I still dream of the cheese dish.
Out and about
The grounds have a rural feel to them. We walked along the Victoria walk, which led is into the woods, which are rich in wildlife with a fairytale feel. We went off track and ended up by some castle graves and a mausoleum that dated back to the 1800s.
You can go boating on the lake, though the boat wasn’t in the best condition as it was missing the ore bracket and the pier was broken, so we decided to give it a miss. Had we been feeling more adventurous we would have ventured out into the stunning waters for sure. The tennis court and walled garden were not currently in use, which is understandable given that lockdown had only ended a couple of months previously. We walked around for a couple of hours at least, but I would have loved to have spent a summers day in the ‘before time’ enjoying the endlessly intriguing little walkways and activites.
You’re really there for the country walks and maybe some mountaineering and outdoor sports if you’re feeling more adventurous. Inverlochy has options for every taste, with wildlife and walking tours, fishing, hunting, clay pigeon shooting, golf, white water rafting and even skiing. For children (or me, a millennial) there is also the option for horse riding or a trip on the train that starred as the Hogwarts express.
The crowd who were staying in the hotel was old money, and many were from London, but there was also a much younger crowd visiting for tea when we arrived. This castle is at the base of Ben Nevis and a landmark in itself, so it has a pull for all ages but is more affordable for the younger crowds as a brief pitstop. I am told that the crowd pre-pandemic were often tourists from abroad looking for that quintessential Scottish experience, which explains the excessive tartan.
The best thing
The Michelin star restaurant, the breathtaking views and the peace and quiet are all reasons to stick around.
The worst thing
Rooms here start in the 300s, and if I’d paid that much for ours I’d have hoped to get a bit more from it, but I suspect that’s more a matter of personal taste than anything. If you’re prepared to pay more for your room, then there are some stunning options, but we didn’t plan to spend that much time in ours, being in the middle of such natural beauty…
Room rates range from £320 to £760, dependent on season. Rates are not applicable to Christmas and New Year Festive Period and any special events.
They now offer 48h free of charge cancellation for our Best Available Flexible Rates booked for stays before 31st March 2021.
There is no charge for children up to the age of 7 years in foldaway beds, however any meals taken will be charged pro-rata. Extra bed (8 years and over) £85.
Dinner is priced at £95 for a 5 course tasting menu. The dress code for gentlemen for dinner is a jacket.