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A new five star hotel is putting this charming Scottish city firmly on the map, says Helena Lang...
The legend of a monster always threatening to appear lures millions of tourists to this neck of the woods, but it’s also possible to have yourself a fascinating couple of days near Loch Ness with a huge dollop of luxury on the side – especially if you decide to check into Ness Walk.
You could just about smell the fresh paint as we arrived in the autumn of last year – the brand spanking new £4.5 million rennovation on the site of two former small hotels had just finished and glamorous guests were zipping up the gated drive in a collection of super cars, ready for a regular rally that takes keen (and hugely wealthy) car enthusiasts on an idyllic route through the Highlands.
Our sleek, modern bedroom was a stylish hideaway loaded with mod cons, stacked with great quality tea, coffee, fresh milk and shortbread and a bathroom supplied with the gorgeous Arran Aromatics toiletries. There was a pretty view over the planted courtyard to the beautiful tree-lined riverside beyond. Keen to explore, we ambled along the riverbanks, crossing bridges and dawdling along paths admiring attractive Victorian gothic villas nestled along the river’s edge.
For a few moments we even wondered what it would be like to swap the frenetic pace of London for something seemingly much calmer and more civilised. Eager for a bit of history we hopped into a local taxi for the 20-minute drive to Culloden, the site of the famous battle and where the National Trust for Scotland have an excellent interactive visitor centre. You can walk the site alongside an entertaining and informative guide and admire the adorable Highland cattle grazing the surrounding paddocks.
Dinner that evening showed off chef Craig Douglas’s skills in the classy Torrish restaurant. We enjoyed an amuse bouche of flavour-packed celeriac velouté and a hunk of excellent sourdough bread. My octopus tempura starter was a generous portion and beautifully tender and my glistening roast rack of lamb main course came with tiny freshly podded broad beans, an excellent contrast to the richness of the meat. The puddings all sounded superb, but I was very happy with my bowl of chilled coconut rice pudding with a scoop of pineapple mousse and pineapple sorbet. We never caught up with Nessie, of course, but it’s suprisingly easy to have a legendary weekend of another sort in this stunning city.
How to book
Rooms at Ness Walk start at £140 per night including breakfast (for two people). Dinner, bed and breakfast costs from £210 per room per night including three courses from the à la carte menu (with restrictions). Visit nesswalk.com.