While the promise of a home-away-from-home experience is something of a cliché in the hospitality industry, at Kinloch, this is genuinely the case. Originally the Macdonald clan’s 16th-century hunting lodge, the striking whitewashed dame later became the family home for Godfrey Macdonald, 8th Baron Macdonald of Sleat, his wife (chef and food writer Lady Claire Macdonald) and their four children, who transformed it into an intimate hotel in the 1970s.
Today, Kinloch is helmed by Isabella, the chief’s hands-on daughter, who has elevated it into a refined bolthole with a focus on that strong family-run spirit and warmth. “Kinloch is where I grew up and brought up my own children,” she explains. “My whole ethos is to ensure our precious guests feel like they’re at home, but without any of the domestic chores that being at home involves. I actively encourage guests to lie on the sofa and have a snooze by the fire.”
In a picture-perfect spot, ensconced between a towering green-cloaked mountain and the mesmerising shores of Loch na Dal on the peaceful southern edge of Skye, Kinloch has, in recent years, been revamped by Isabella to now include 18 rooms (including three suites) that unfold over the main house and a newer, separate extension, which also features a cosy living room with an honesty bar. The timeless, lived-in country-house interiors are layered with warmth, personality and character, its homey pastel-hued tableau accented with a plethora of strong patterns and rich fabrics, traditional furnishings and a riot of trimmings from lamps and books to imposing Macdonald family portraits and memorabilia.
“All our bedrooms are individually decorated and, having grown up here, some hold particularly special childhood memories,” says Isabella. “However, my favourite room would have to be the whisky bar.” The oldest part of the hotel, dating back to 1762, the room in question, with its roaring fire and over 100 whiskies to choose from, is indeed the best spot to wind down and whet your appetite after a day spent roaming the misty wilds of Skye.
In the kitchen, chef Jordan Webb stays true to Claire MacDonald’s legacy – and her mission to make the most of Skye’s rich larder of ingredients – with a simple, pared-back daily-changing menu that focuses only on the ultra-local and seasonal, with fresh vegetables and fruit from the hotel’s own kitchen garden and a selection of daily foraged sea herbs.
On the dinner menu, expect dishes like the tasty scallops from nearby Sconser, served with Kinloch wood sorrel, artichoke and puy lentils or the glorious poached turbot from Portree – the island’s capital – with fried baby gem, celeriac and fish velouté. Wash this down with a glass or two from the extensive wine list and the next morning at breakfast, don’t miss out on Webb’s delicious home-smoked salmon, which he serves with scrambled eggs on granary toast. “Our goal is to make everything taste better than expected,” says Webb. Up next, Isabella, who says sustainability is ever more important, has plans to extend the kitchen garden to add even more Kinloch vegetables, herbs and fruit and also create a shoreline polytunnel in which to grow more sea herbs.
With its deep history, informal family-run friendliness, roaring fires, comfy beds and some of the best food Scotland has to offer, Kinloch Lodge is, no doubt, a wonderfully unpretentious base, offering a real sense of place, from which to explore the stunning scenery of wide open skies, jagged mountains and shimmering lochs that the Isle of Skye is best known for.
Sleat, Isle of Skye IV43 8QY (01471 833333/kinloch-lodge.co.uk). From £170 per person per night.
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