Although it looks like we will be unable to grab our passports and fly off to a sunny destination anytime soon, I look forward to the day where we can travel in our very own country. The popularity of staycations looks likely to soar this year as soon as restrictions and guidelines allow and perhaps we can really take this opportunity to explore the beauty that lies on our very own doorstep.
Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands is an area of stunning beauty and is notably known for its apparent monstrous inhabitant, Nessie. In 1924 a man named Robert Kenneth looked across the water from the drawing-room of a lochside property and it’s here where the famous photo of the alleged monster was taken. Today this property is known as Highland Escape, a stunning six-bedroom private hire house that has been meticulously restored to celebrate Scottish art, culture and history.
As soon as the property appeared on the market, founder Mathew Meredith, who works in the music business in London couldn’t wait to get his hands on it. Due to its stunning location and infamous history, it was his ultimate goal to restore the property to its former glory, adding a few contemporary touches whilst remaining sensitive to its past.
I was recently invited to stay for the weekend (pre-covid) and I couldn’t wait to experience this historic building and all the bespoke services that are on offer. After a glorious drive through Scotland’s renowned scenery, I arrived to the glimmering water of Loch Ness and as if out of a fairytale the house appeared majestically on the horizon. Its exterior slowly comes into view and as soon as I stepped out of the car I couldn’t help but look at it in awe.
The Old Manse as the building is also known, exudes a typical Victorian exterior with turreted roof, sash windows and impressive stonework. Alongside The Old Manse is Bona Church, a quant and spacious addition to the house which can cater for intimate weddings and ceremonies.
I was met by the passionate Highland Escape Director, Magda Meredith who kindly provided me with a welcoming glass of champagne and encouraged me to explore the property, which of course I couldn’t wait to do. On entering the house I was completely taken aback by its stunning elegance, its large entrance hall setting the tone of what you can expect throughout the rest of the property.
Antique furniture that has been locally sourced from the Highlands stands sophisticatedly against the mellow hues of the wall as if they have been there forever and a sweeping staircase entices you in to explore the rest of this eloquent building.
The living room is a large and inviting space where no money has been spared and its roaring open fire conjures up images of relaxed evenings and a warming glass of whisky, of which I certainly did later that night. Specially selected antique furniture enhance the room, however it is the addition of small details that really make this place special. An elaborate and extremely comfortable sofa from British company Tetrad adds a sumptuous and luxurious touch and the addition of a large Harris Tweed footstool brings in a further traditional Scottish element. The artwork that hangs splendidly in each room tells the history of the Jacobite uprising and local prints that pepper the walls are from the famous Leakey’s bookshop in Inverness.
Adjoining the living room is ‘the snug’ which again benefits from an open fire, antique furniture, artwork and beautiful hints of luxury such as the bespoke handmade blinds from Mulberry. I especially loved this room in the evening watching one of the many movies on offer whilst the roaring fire crackled away in the background.
The country kitchen is both spacious and light and is equipped with everything guests could possibly need. As well the traditional elements they have included many contemporary appliances including large fridge/freezer with wine cooler, double-sized cooker, dishwasher and wash machine.
Adjoining the kitchen and leading to the backdoor, is the fantastic addition of a boot room, providing guests with wellington boots, jackets and raincoats.
Next to the kitchen is the impressive dining room which seats up to twelve people. This palatial yet comfortable room takes in the impressive views of Loch Ness and is where the famous photograph of the mysterious monster was taken.
The property has six bedrooms over two floors which allows up to 12 guests to enjoy this lavish escape. Each of the bedrooms have their own distinct personalities yet manage to seamlessly blend together with the rest of the property. There are two super king four poster beds, two super king sleigh beds and two king sized beds each embellished with lamb’s wool throws and windows that take advantage of the surrounding views.
On the second floor, each of the rooms benefits from en-suite ‘Jack & Jill’ bathrooms which are generous in size and have the most exquisite interior design each containing a selection of premium towels and toiletries.
All of the rooms benefit from their very own tea and coffee stations, branded dressing gowns and slippers, meaning guests can relax in true highland comfort. I settled for one of the bedrooms in the upper floor that looked upon the surrounding hills, it was extremely relaxing and the huge comfortable bed insured I had one of the best sleeps ever.
What sets this private hire accommodation above the rest is when guests book directly with Highland Escape they can completely tailor your trip to make it as relaxing or as adventurous as possible. Highland Escape provides numerous bespoke packages which truly allow guests to get to know the area and enjoy this house to its fullest.
I was treated to a privately escorted tour by Tour Highlands which included my very own knowledgable driver, luxury vehicle and customised itinerary.
This individually designed tour really allowed me to delve into the history, culture and heritage of the region. This was one of the highlights of my stay and Tony our guide was extremely informative, humorous and friendly.
As well as the above Highland Escape also have their very own luxury golf tours along with a concierge service, clay pigeon shooting and exclusive access to fishing areas in the Highlands with top guides, which I can’t wait to experience when I go back.
For guests who don’t wish to cook whilst on vacation then Highland Escape have the perfect answer. They provide guests with their very own chefs who can cook a bespoke restaurant-quality meal in the privacy of the home. Prior to my stay I pre-selected my food from an extensive menu of high quality local produce. As soon as I arrived back from my day trip around Loch Ness, the chef duo Steven and Veronika were already hard at work creating their culinary works of art.
It was fantastic to sit back in the dining room with a glass of wine by the flickering fire and be served some spectacular dishes. This is just one of the services available which makes your experience at Highland Escapes both outstanding and remarkable.
Highland Escape provides a unique and memorable stay in a stunning area of Scotland. It shines not only due to the exceptional property but also because of the added bespoke benefits which truly makes a trip here unforgettable.
They have cleverly managed to combine the relaxation of a self-catering vacation with the added benefits of luxurious hotel service. If you are looking for a exuberant getaway at an affordable price in a remarkable location, then look no further than the immaculately presented Highland Escape.
Take a video tour on my IGTV.
Opening July 15th 2020. Book direct at highland-escape.com