I knew the minute I turned off the road and onto Skeabost’s driveway that I would love this place. Something about the white building emerging through the trees hinted at historical grandeur and manicured and rambling grounds.
Skeabost is typical of a traditional and very grand property, evidence of a patterned history within its walls and grounds; slightly faded through time and now in the process of re-emerging, once again, as a major player in the hospitality industry. Skeabost was purchased, by the new owners, former Hoteliers of the Year, Anne Gracie and Ken Gunn, in April 2015 and they have made great headway already, in the restoration of the building, whilst upgrading and reassigning the order of the public rooms, with the aim of granting Skeabost, a second heyday.
That process has progressed with such gusto that stepping through the grand front door, you could easily be returning from a day’s hunting in the late 19th century, with the building displaying some well preserved features of that era within its entrance hallway.
Like so many of the old country house style hotels, Skeabost’s reception is sitting in that rather grand entrance hallway, instantly creating a welcome more fitting of house guest than hotel guest and very appropriate at Skeabost – an ex Hunting Lodge, dating back to 1870. Today, with private fishing rights and a golf course running through the grounds, Skeabost retains its original purpose, for which it is so ideally set.
With warm greetings and no check-in formalities – this was completed later, over a leisurely coffee in the drawing room – settling into the day-to-day, slow paced life at Skeabost, came with ease and its charm and unique atmosphere, which only comes from older properties, engulfed me from the outset.
Moving comfortably from room to room, guests were friendly in their relaxed demeanour – obvious recipients of the sheer calm, extended by the house, too. An expectant air also was present, and that I think was prompted by the anticipation of gathering later, over dinner, which, at Skeabost, I was hoping would also retain some traditional grandeur and ceremony.
Skeabost is of moderate size, with only 14 bedrooms – comparatively small, yet perfectly sized to be cosily intimate, adding to that private house feel as opposed to impersonal, of which, some larger establishments can be considered guilty.
Shown to the Snizort Suite, so called mainly due to the fabulous view afforded from the windows of this gorgeous room. Loch Snizort is the sea loch fed by the River Snizort, originating in the hills east of Bracadale and visible from my window. It was at this window, with those views that my writing for the evening commenced – perfect peace, picture perfect view and a beautiful sunset, which made me feel privileged to have witnessed it. With the sunset, a call downstairs, to dinner – no such need for watches in this ethereal environment!
Comforted in my expectations of a sedate affair, an invitation to enjoy a drink in either the bar or the lounge, whilst perusing the evening’s dinner menu, I chose the latter, primarily due to my rather stereotypical ideals of logs burning on an open fire and languorous sofas.
By surprising contrast the contemporary styling of the dining room awoke me from my repose in readiness for dinner. Comfortable and chic, the monochrome scheme offered a sharp contrast to the earth and heather hues of the lounge, nonetheless, with views down to the water, superb hosting skills and food worthy of high praise, dinner was a hugely enjoyable affair. I should mention that the main dining room was undergoing some refurbishment during my stay and offers an alternative dining option at Skeabost. Somewhat experimental, the menu accommodates memorable, edible flowers alongside the more expected option of fresh shellfish and local venison and beef. Having obviously earned a reputation locally, it was nice to share a dining experience with not only visitors but locals who had ventured out to Skeabost to enjoy dinner too – always a good sign!
Skeabost presents that unfathomable charm, which makes you want more. One night is never enough, although a delight and somewhere where I am greatly honoured to be one of the first writers to experience that revived charm, since the new owners assumed residency.
The aroma of old wood (stirring childhood memories) and evidence of historical guests offers a comfort of this country house hotel, which cannot be replicated by newer, more modern hotels and a facet which I hope is retained at Skeabost for years to come. Yet there’s no theatrical formalities – the staff are professional, yet superbly endearing, with an obvious love for Skeabost, embracing the traditional as much as the more contemporary changes and presenting a young face for the old building.
Skeabost is a delight; her beauty has never waned but the attention and love now being lavished on this beautiful building shall reveal a newer version of traditional, losing the faded glory and launching Skeabost into the 21st century, where it has earned it’s place and shall forever be my castle on a cloud, on Skye.