The UK’s northernmost luxury destination in one of the least populated parts of Western Europe… Looking for an indulgent home getaway, what didn’t you? enjoyed ? It was an opportunity to get rid of the shackles of social distancing in the city and fill our lungs with fresh Highland air.
And so we met at check-in at Links House in Dornoch, a five-star hotel located at the entrance to the city’s world-famous golf course.
Dating from 1843, the former rectory of the Free Church opened in 2013. Lovingly restored and extended, it now includes the original house and two new buildings with a sympathetic design, offering a total of 15 rooms, suites and apartments.
Since reopening in April, after the enforced shutdown last year, the hotel has put in place its own enhanced security measures. The spacious accommodation – in a cluster of three separate properties – naturally lends itself to privacy for anyone seeking a degree of seclusion.
Our suite, The Fleet, had a super king-size bed, two built-in armchairs, a large wall-mounted TV and a picture window – perfect for enjoying the breathtaking view of the Dornoch Firth.
Its sparkling bathroom had a double vanity, a walk-in shower and a bathtub, with plush bathrobes included.
Named after 15 of the area’s best-known salmon rivers, none of the hotel’s rooms are alike, each decorated to reflect the character of its namesake.
Felted tartans in subtle heather and fern undertones, along with rolling hills and lochs, gave ours an unmistakable Highland vibe.
Definitely boutique. Every aspect of the accommodation and service lives up to luxury billing, with attention to detail evident throughout.
Mara, the hotel’s recently launched ethical fine-dining restaurant, offers ‘gifts of Scotland’s water, fields, forest and sky, presented with minimal disruption’. The ethic is one of sustainability, with the promise of sourcing seasonal ingredients as locally as possible and always within 50 miles.
We opted for hand-dipped Orkney scallop starters, with sea buckthorn and sea herbs, and a venison pithivier from Ardgay, finished with bacon jam and pickled vegetables.
For the main course, we opted for the Ardgay duck with cranberries, bundle of mallard and Pedro Ximenes sauce, and the pan-seared halibut served with a truffle croquette and a spicy bisque.
A spicy pumpkin soufflé, accompanied by nutmeg custard and a selection of Scottish cheeses completed a memorable meal.
The following evening we enjoyed a more relaxed dining experience at Courtroom, a lively brasserie bar also run by Links House and just a five minute walk from the hotel.
Occupying the town’s original courthouse, directly opposite the 13th-century Dornoch Cathedral, the restaurant is known for its delicious local menu and impressive mural.
Worth getting out of bed for
If you need inspiration, take a peek inside the hotel’s Sporting Bothy – an overnight resting place for golf bags, hiking boots, cycling gear, rods and reels.
The neighboring Royal Dornoch, voted Scotland’s Best Course at the 2020 World Golf Awards, is obviously a major draw for visitors and there are other highly rated courses nearby.
Links House is an ideal base for exploring the spectacular coastline, via the NC500, or for heading inland and into the mountains and moors.
At different times of the year, salmon fishing, deer hunting, game shooting and clay pigeon shooting can all be arranged as part of tailor-made packages offered by the hotel, with tours castles, distilleries and other attractions also available.
Log fires, honesty bars and board games help create cozy hiding places in the library and wood-paneled lounges.
Manager Phil Scott and his team invite guests to ‘come as strangers and leave as friends’ and do everything possible to make it happen with their charming mark of Highland hospitality.
The room and breakfast rate for The Fleet Suite, based on two people sharing accommodation, is £ 495 (£ 375 off season). Links House at Royal Dornoch, Golf Road, Dornoch IV25 3LW, 01862 810279 linkshousedornoch.com.
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