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Dornoch Castle Hotel
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Dornoch Castle Hotel
Castle Street,
Dornoch,
Sutherland,
IV25 3SD
01826 810216

I have been to some dodgy Scottish hotels in my time; old fashioned décor, 1970's menus and a welcome as warm as an Eskimo's neb. I have seen roofs drip and dirty breakfast rooms. So I am very happy, practically ecstatic actually, to report that this highland hotel is a shining example of just how good a Scottish hotel can and should be.

A warm welcome and love of local produce is evident throughout our stay but first, let's set the scene.

Dornoch is an idyllic small town set in the stunning and dramatic Sutherland countryside. It also has beautiful beaches blessed with that East coast light and is a fair-trade town.  During our two day stay we cycled, climbed Ben Bragghie and saw eagles and deer close up. 

The hotel is a 15th century castle and is situated opposite the 13th century Dornoch Cathedral (Madonna had her son, Rocco, christened here).

When we arrived I was very pleased by the room. A four poster bed was sumptuous and the hotel clearly understands that 'All Mod Cons' means so much more these days than a twonky hairdryer! Digital TV, a modern luxurious bathroom (fluffy robes etc), complimentary sherry and shortbread and a box containing real coffee and, heavens above, a cafetiere - huzzah! I was told I could only get wifi in the bar but I in fact got it easily in my room.  More brownie points.

There is a comfy, cosy bar with good sofas, a fire, coffee and cakes and a very large whisky selection.

Dornoch is close to a number of whisky distilleries and whisky master classes are available showing rare examples that you simply cannot buy in the shops. Says owner Colin ‚ÄúSimon and Phil (his sons) are currently stocking over 170 different malts. They are delighted to help guests book into nearby distilleries including Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Balblair and Clyneliesh. Of particular note is the selection of vintage whiskies, including malts from the 1930's, 40's and 50's."

Mr Bite and me however, were here for the food.

Night one saw a meal which included a particularly fine specimen of sea bass for me and lamb for Mr Bite. The hotel has one AA Rosette for food and chef Mikael Hellies obviously know what he is doing. Haggis bon bons as dinner canapés stood out as being stupidly delicious. My, very large, bass was served on top of a tasty mix of spinach, potatoes, and tomatoes  A Belgian chocolate and orange mouse with 21 year old Gengeary whisky through it was impressive. A cheese board consisted of mostly local cheeses, Morangie Brie, Inverlochy goats' cheese, Morangie Blue, Dunloch Cheddar and a wildcard, Arran whisky Cheddar. Vegetables and salad ingredients are obviously locally grown, you can just tell by the taste.

Dinner on night number two saw us enjoying halibut and beef. Mr Bite's beef was easily the best we have tasted. He requested it rare and was glad given the quality of the meat which was velvety, tender and full of flavour. The halibut came with a Pernod cream and was equally 'up there' in terms of fine produce. Even the potatoes were full of flavour. The only areas of improvement I would suggest in quality of the food would be the scrambled eggs for breakfast (rubbery and not freshly made). Also the décor is a bit dated and therefore, is not the best palette for the food.

A pint of Brewed Awakening, coffee infused stout from the Cromarty Brewery was bigged up by our waiter and we thanked him for it.  A lovely brew.

Our stay at the Dornoch Castle Hotel was a luxurious and comfortable break which gave us a new appreciation of the countryside, the wildlife, the local produce and the warm hospitality of Sutherland.

 



 

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