Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Scotland in Five Days: Day Four

Inverlochy Castle. With Rolls Royce.

Day Four: There is no direct train line between Inverness and Fort William, your next destination. So waiting for you at Culloden House is your driver, Mary, and her trusty black car. The drive through Inverness and down the banks of Loch Ness takes about two hours. Mary stops at Urquhart castle, a ruined pile on the shore of the Loch, so that you can take some pictures (in the light rain). Loch Ness is one of the deepest in the world, and very long. It is a windy day, and the surface of the Loch is pitted with white caps. Naturally, you spend a lot of time peering closely at the water, just in case Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, should choose just that moment to appear. She doesn’t.

Urquhart Castle & Loch Ness: no sign of the monster.

Inverlochy Castle.
Around two o’clock, arrive just outside Fort William at your accommodations - Inverlochy Castle. This splendid Victorian castle has a winter special rate, which enables you to spend the night in high luxury, occupying The Queen’s Suite, where Queen Victoria Herself slept.  The enormous room looks out, through three tall windows, over farmland to the mountains beyond. Behind the castle rises Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles. Which you would be able to see if there wasn’t so much cloud. There’s snow up there, but not down at Inverlochy.

The sitting room.

The Queen's Bathroom.
The Queen's Bedroom
The public rooms of Inverlochy Castle dazzle you with their opulence. You enjoy a light lunch, and a glass of wine, in front of a delicious log fire; followed by a long hot soak in Queen Victoria’s bath tub. Dinner at Inverlochy’s restaurant is a tasting menu - they go in for Michelin-starred chefs here - and involved salmon, foie gras and local crab. Replete, you go to sleep in Queen Victoria’s four poster bed.

In the morning, you may follow a large breakfast with a tramp about the Castle grounds, if you judge the timing right between rain showers. The clouds part now and then, and random shaft of sun shows up the town in the folds of the meadows, and the mountains with a fresh dusting of snow.

The distant hills.

Inverlochy grounds.

Ben Nevis Distillery
Nearby is the distillery of Ben Nevis, and you arrange a tour. The Inverlochy Castle concierge drives you the five minute drive in the Castle car, which happens to be a Rolls Royce. You consider smugly what a bargain that winter rate has turned out to be. At the distillery, a guide named John shows you around. You learn that they begin production for the week at midnight on Sundays, because no one works on a Sunday. You learn that single malt whisky is aged in barrels made in the distilleries own cooperage, but the barrels are sent away to hold sherry, wine and Jack Daniels’ for three or four years before returning to hold the whisky for longer. You see the long pipes coming down the side of Ben Nevis, bringing the pure mountain water from the two high lochs that supply the distillery. John gives you some whisky to taste. You buy some whisky from John.

Ben Nevis looms over the Distillery

Distilling single malt whisky.

John (who, bizarrely, is a theatre fanatic who has seen ‘Phantom of the Opera’ 126 times and knows Sir Cameron Mackintosh: “he lives just down the road”) hands you on to a taxi driver with instructions to take you to a fish restaurant on the loch in Fort William, where you enjoy a delicious haddock lunch. A short stroll in the rain reveals all there is to see of Fort William, after which you return to Inverlochy Castle to spend a few more hours in front of the sitting room fire.

Then it is time to transfer yourself and your luggage to the train station.

...to be continued.

Fort William.


  1. This is my kind of country!

  2. I went to Urquhart Castle and if memory serves me right, at this point a piper came out from the cabin of his boat and blew us away when he floated a beautiful tune across the loch.

  3. @ Jenny - the weather or the whisky?

  4. @Bruce - glad you are reliving a few memories!