A review of the Kylesku Hotel, a hostelry in a truly memorable location in the Scottish Highlands

A review of the Kylesku Hotel, a hostelry in a truly memorable location in the Scottish Highlands 2
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There’s getting away from it all, and then there’s the Kylesku Hotel. 

The Scottish hostelry, in one of the most sparsely inhabited areas of Europe, is near the north west coast at a point where three lochs meet. 

During the Second World War, the Royal Navy used these dark, deep waters to train men for a top secret mission – the audacious miniature submarine attack on the mighty German destroyer, the Tirpitz. The Admiralty knew there was no chance of being spied upon in so remote and wild a spot. A memorial near the hotel paying tribute to the subs’ crews also hails the local people who ‘knew so much and talked so little’.

Neil Armstrong checks into the cosy and remote Kylesku Hotel (pictured) in the Scottish Highlands, which is closer to Norway than to London

Neil Armstrong checks into the cosy and remote Kylesku Hotel (pictured) in the Scottish Highlands, which is closer to Norway than to London

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Residents are a lot more expansive these days and you’re sure of a warm welcome at the hotel. A former coaching inn, it’s a somewhat unprepossessing stone building in an incredible location, nearer to Bergen, Norway, than to London, England. 

The main block – which has been added to over the years – has seven guest bedrooms and there are four more in an annexe. 

The rooms are comfortable and cosy rather than luxurious but the bar and restaurant are light and airy and provide stunning loch views as well as first class food and drink.

I was served excellent fish and chips, venison and simply grilled white fish (not all at once). 

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The hostelry, a former coaching inn, is located in 'one of the most sparsely inhabited areas of Europe'

The hostelry, a former coaching inn, is located in ‘one of the most sparsely inhabited areas of Europe’ 

The main block of the hotel ¿ which has been added to over the years - has seven guest bedrooms and there are four more in an annexe. Above is a Deluxe Double Room

The main block of the hotel – which has been added to over the years – has seven guest bedrooms and there are four more in an annexe. Above is a Deluxe Double Room 

An ensuite bathroom in a Deluxe Double Room. 'The rooms are comfortable and cosy rather than luxurious,' Neil reveals

An ensuite bathroom in a Deluxe Double Room. ‘The rooms are comfortable and cosy rather than luxurious,’ Neil reveals 

'There¿s getting away from it all, and then there¿s the Kylesku Hotel,' Neil says of the remote hostelry

‘There’s getting away from it all, and then there’s the Kylesku Hotel,’ Neil says of the remote hostelry 

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The seafood is especially good. They’re virtually hauling the stuff out of the water onto the hotel terrace. 

I also sampled an incredible Dark Island Reserve beer, a cheeky little number from the Orkney Brewery weighing in at 10 per cent. 

And while fine malt whiskies are available in any civilised establishment, there’s an especial pleasure in drinking one while gazing out over a spectacular Highlands vista. 

The bar (pictured) and restaurant are light and airy and provide stunning loch views as well as first class food and drink, according to Neil

The bar (pictured) and restaurant are light and airy and provide stunning loch views as well as first class food and drink, according to Neil 

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The restaurant's seafood is 'especially good', according to Neil, who dines on an 'excellent' portion of fish and chips

The restaurant’s seafood is ‘especially good’, according to Neil, who dines on an ‘excellent’ portion of fish and chips 

None of this is cheap – the fish of the day, for example, served with a light courgette and fennel salad, is £19.95. In part you’re paying for the view and dinner is much enhanced, I find, if you can eat it while watching seals sporting in the loch.

Directly outside the hotel is the slipway that was once the southern end of a ferry crossing. Although the northern slipway is only a few hundred yards away, anyone missing the last ferry of the day faced a 100-mile road trip to get to the other side. 

The ferry was replaced in 1984 by a graceful, curving bridge that you might recognise from TV ads and Top Gear, however, weather permitting, there are still several sailings a day from the slipway. 

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The hotel is an excellent base for all sorts of adventures - hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and rare bird watching

The hotel is an excellent base for all sorts of adventures – hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and rare bird watching

TRAVEL FACTS

Kylesku Hotel, Sutherland, Lairg, IV27 4HW. 

B&B from £170 per room, per night. (kyleskuhotel.co.uk)

For £22, a boat will take you down Loch Glencoul (apparently Gaelic for ‘the glen at the back of beyond’), at the far end of which, still some distance away but visible, is Britain’s highest waterfall.

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The trip takes around 75 minutes and offers some amazing sights. We saw a sea eagle soaring above the cliffs. I can report that sea eagles are about the size of a barn door. 

That’s an ornithological term. Also, Kylesku is at the centre of North-West Highlands Global Geopark and the skipper pointed out the ‘Glencoul Thrust’, a dramatic and very visible rock feature, created more than 400 million years ago. The area is catnip to geologists. 

A fellow passenger had first visited Kylesku as a geology student in 1974 and she has been back every year since. The place gets under your skin, they say.

The hotel, which must be one of the few to give instructions on where to moor your boat if arriving by sea, is an excellent base for all sorts of adventures – hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, rare bird watching. 

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Or, if your idea of adventure is pairing scallops with scotch, it’s pretty good for that too.

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