This is one seriously lush boutique hotel. We were booked into the restaurant, Chez Roux and I was expecting good things. Albert Roux, the iconic French chef, took over the food and beverage operation at the five-star hotel in Inverness earlier this year, and trained the chefs to produce simple yet stunning food for the 50 seat brasserie.
We settled down for the first drink of the night (me a Margherita, and the Kiwi a Long Island Ice Tea), and started to soak in the trendy yet welcoming surroundings. We were perusing the menu when the Kiwi started flapping his arms and shouting. Sensing this behaviour wasn't exactly apt for a five star restaurant I glared at him. But still he continued, so I followed his gaze, and nearly screamed. The tiny black napkin which my drink had been served with had caught alight thanks to a teeny tea light and was now bursting in a mino bonfire of sorts. We tried our best firefighting skills - the Kiwi flapping a menu in its direction, me blowing -but thankfully the bar manager came to our rescue, with a fresh drink for me. I wished the ground would swallow me up there and then, but thankfully the other two guests in the bar were simply giggling to themselves, as was, believe it or not, the bar manager.
Not too soon, we were then escorted to the dining room, and I almost gasped as they opened the door for us. Our table was nestled into a bay window overlooking all of Inverness, and the room was empty and still. It was stunning. Not to lower the tone, but I felt like Belle being taken into the library in Beauty and The Beast (the Kiwi being the beast, obviously).
The meal we devoured was worth all the hype Chez Roux has received. My Pike Quinelle came in the most delicious sauce I have ever tasted and I would have quite happily have accepted it as my final meal. Thankfully I didn't feel quite so full as teh previous night, my Quail with chestnuts and grapes, and pineapple sorbet just enough, so we drifted back to the hotel 'food drunk.'
On Monday we set off early, as we'd been booked on an 11am cruise around Loch Ness. Though I've visited Loch Ness many times as a child (no, I still haven't seen it), I'd never been on the Loch. Sometimes it takes something like this to make you appreciate the country you live in. Scotland has some of the most stunning scenery in the world, and the crisp November morning provided calm waters and eery grey skies which served as a perfect backdrop to the Loch.
We stopped off at Urquhart Castle for an hour. The castle is now a series of ruins, after the government of William and Mary ordered it be blown up, to save rival clans fighting over the impressive stronghold.
What is left is actually very pretty, perfectly set against the wild Highland countryside. There are many castles in Scotland that are more complete, and some that are larger. But there are few with quite such a turbulent history, and even fewer located in such beautiful surroundings.
I even managed to find my own medieval calling - in the bakehouse.
Just as we were leaving, the atmosphere changed, with the sky darkening and the wind picking up. For a tiny moment I got a feel of what it would have been like trying to protect your castle from rebellious clans and wild Scottish weather and I have to say, it makes me appreciate our little flat all the more.
Our weekend in the Highlands made me remember why I love living in Scotland -it's breathtakingly beautiful and wild.