Dunalastair Hotel Suites review: a highland fling in the heart of Perthshire
A serene base in the Scottish highlands from which to walk, cycle, fish or simply relax
“We’ve left a few traditional Scottish treats in the fridge for you,” says the porter cheerfully as he shows me to my hotel suite. “So just see what you make of them”. He laughs and disappears with a wink.
Dunalastair Hotel Suites in the heart of the Scottish Highlands is a stylish five-star hotel which reopened in May after a refurbishment costing millions. Despite this cash injection, it blends in easily in the humble village of Kinloch Rannoch, which is North West of Aberfeldy and West of Pitlochry, and just a two-hour drive from Edinburgh, Glasgow or Dundee.
Over 200 years since it began life as a village inn, the hotel today feels bright and spacious, with 32 luxury rooms including a honeymoon suite and rooms for families. My suite is plush and luxurious, with a useful kitchenette and enormous bed crammed with pillows and cushions, all in tasteful, muted tones of grey. I tentatively approach the fridge to find smoked beef from the local smokery, Tunnock’s Snowballs, a slab of the sweetest Scottish tablet imaginable and of course, a can of Irn Bru.
The hotel feels like a modern, yet authentic slice of Scotland. Surrounded by craggy peaks, Kinloch Rannoch is a small, picturesque village, perfect for invigorating country walks and breathtaking vistas. Just a short walk down a quiet lane from the hotel is stunning, silvery Loch Rannoch, and if the weather is with you, as it was on my visit in early September, watching the sun set over the loch is an unforgettable experience.
Despite its makeover, the hotel has retained its traditional Scottish charm. Original features such as the stained-glass windows and a chandelier made of deer antlers have been kept, while the traditional service bells used in the old hotel and oddly, the kilt Liam Neeson wore as Rob Roy in the Hollywood film, adorn the walls. It is tastefully decorated with vases of orchids and sofas, and the hotels’s restaurant, Edina’s Kitchen, opens onto a beautiful outdoor courtyard.
The restaurant is small, but warm and inviting. Breakfast is particularly good, with lots of hearty Scottish fare, such as creamy porridge, a totty scone (potato scone) and Scottish smoked salmon. The kitchen also has a good range of soups and sandwiches for lunch, and packed lunch options for those wanting to spend their days exploring. However, dinner is slightly disappointing. A seafood stew with linguine turns out to be pasta in tomato sauce with a few prawns and chunks of fish. Strangely, the same sauce is also accompanying my companion’s gnocchi. There’s also not a great deal of choice for vegetarians, with another companion choosing a couple of side dishes in place of a main. However, after a long day’s hiking, cycling or sampling whisky, this doesn’t seem to matter terribly; the service is prompt and friendly, and the food is tasty, even if it doesn’t quite live up to the menu’s promises.
There’s plenty to do in the area, especially for keen walkers. From the hotel you can walk up Craig Varr, a short, but strenuous hike, rewarded with stunning views over the loch and a summit carpeted in delicate yet hardy heather. Returning to my suite’s hot shower, warm heater, and homemade, crumbly vanilla shortbread is divine after the walk, although a few details in the suite have been overlooked. Bizarrely, there are no hooks anywhere on which to hang a wet waterproof. Nor is there a mat for boots or muddy trainers, although I belatedly find out there is a boot room behind reception.
Approximately 18 miles from Kinloch Rannoch is Rannoch station, one of the most remote railway stations in the British Isles which featured in the Harry Potter films. It is on the famous West Highland Line which links Glasgow on the Firth of Clyde, to Mallaig on the west coast and runs across the wilderness of Rannoch Moor. Not a single train rushed through while we were there, and the station is quiet and atmospheric. Yet the station tearooms are delightful; warm, bright and cheerful, offering a respite from the autumnal chill. It is run by a couple who live nearby, serving delicious hot soups and toasties from behind an eye-watering counter piled high with every kind of homemade cake imaginable. This is definitely a treat not to be missed.
Other local attractions include the charming Edradour whisky distillery in Pitlochry, which used to be one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, and the breathtaking views from Queen’s View which overlooks Loch Tummel, and is said to be named after Queen Victoria, who visited the area in 1866.
Overall, for those looking to escape to the serenity and grandeur of the Scottish highlands, whether to walk, cycle, fish or simply relax, Dunalastair Suites is a very comfortable, relaxing base to choose.
Rooms start from £155 per night.
Dunalastair Hotel Suites, 1 The Square Kinloch Rannoch Perth and Kinross PH16 5PW, (0)1882 580444, dunalastairhotel.com