The Isle of Skye is a magical place, which is once again delighting tourists. It’s also a place that outclasses when it comes to award-winning restaurants, given its size and population.
Almost every inch of the island offers you breathtaking views, scenic lochs and vistas and atmospheric glens. It is therefore not surprising that, if your family home was here, you would take the opportunity to share it with others.
As is the case with Kinloch Lodge, which began life as a farm and then a hunting lodge for the Macdonald family.
It is now a comfortable, warm and luxurious hotel and restaurant, still owned by Macdonald’s and was opened as a hotel by Godfrey Macdonald (8th Baron Macdonald of Sleatand) and his wife, Lady Claire in 1972. It is now run by their daughter, Isabella.
This year the family, their friends and guests (seemingly interchangeable given the warm and friendly welcome received) are celebrating 50 years of Kinloch Lodge with the publication of a beautifully photographed cookbook.
Lady Claire worked with the lodge’s head chef, Jordan Webb, to create recipes that showcase the style and history of the lodge, as well as her own heritage.
The new cookbook is co-authored by Jordan, Claire and local author, Alisha Fernandez Miranda, and includes modern adaptations of some of Claire’s first dishes from 50 years ago.
Having never been to Kinloch Lodge before, I was looking forward to some peace, quiet and good food, as I headed out on a solo trip at the end of September.
Although the journey is a good four and a half hours from the central belt, it is one of the most scenic, with plenty of places to stop for lunch or a walk, before arriving on the island.
Kinloch Lodge, which overlooks calm Loch na Dal in the Sound of Sleat, is just 10 minutes’ drive from the Skye Bridge and close to the newly opened Torabhaig Distillery (featured in the book).
After a day sheltered from the first storm of fall (a great excuse to sit by a crackling fire with a cup of tea and watch the weather roll by), it was time for dinner.
From day one, Claire has pioneered using local ingredients from Skye’s natural pantry and working with passionate artisan producers. This is something Jordan has continued with these daily changing menus, a copy of which is left in the rooms to be perused before sitting down to eat.
The emphasis is on local produce from the island, with fruits and vegetables from the lodge’s vegetable garden. Dishes can include items such as Monkfish from Portree, Lobster from Lochalsh, Mussels from Lewis and Scallops from Skye.
Where it’s not possible to get ultra-local produce is usually in Scotland – the duck comes from Perthshire and the beef from the Highlands. There is also a good mix of meat and vegetable plates available.
After being seated in the wood-paneled, candle-lit dining room, dinner began with amouth muse of a tapioca cracker with butternut squash and honey mousse garnished with seedswhich was the right balance of creamy, light and sweet.
My starter monkfish ceviche arrived in a glass bowl, with the bright green avocado mash visible.
Hidden in its depths were large chunks of firm, fresh fish. A burst of zesty lime kept the avocado creaminess from being too overpowering, keeping things balanced.
For main I chose the Haunch of Venison Skyewhich we were told had been delivered fresh.
The meat, sliced and perfectly pink, was served with beets, chestnut duxelles and locally picked chanterelle mushrooms. There was also a small layered square of potatoes, topped with a sauce resembling bramble and beet jam.
Half moons of jewel beets were surrounded by a sticky sauce while a mushroom tapenade style sauce was sandwiched between two pieces of meat and next to a pool of beet sauce.
There was a lot going on with this dish, but all very complementary and absolutely like autumn on a plate.
Although it was quite comprehensive, it was hard to resist the apple press dessertwhich arrived as a long finger of lightly poached and flavored apple and served with amaretto ice cream and granola.
Small pieces of black elderberries coated the apple, while the crunch of the granola gave texture to the creamy ice cream.
After a quick service, which the staff took the time to discuss (always nice when you dine alone), it was time to return to the welcoming sofa by the fireside for tea and petit fours (homemade fudge and Florentines).
With a welcome as warm as the fires, Kinloch Lodge is an ideal home from which to enjoy not only Skye’s sights, but its produce too. It’s easy to see why it lasted for 50 years. Here are 50 more.