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November 28, 2023

Kinloch Lodge: The Isle of Skye’s Most Sought-after Stay

Discover an iconic hotel on the picturesque shores of the Isle of Skye.

By Kim Ayling

Come rain, shine, snow, mist or wind, the Isle of Skye is up there as one of the most beautiful, dramatic destinations in the UK. To live up to the island’s reputation, a hotel must be authentic, personable and most importantly restorative – things Kinloch Lodge has in bucketloads.

While the arrival of the Skye Bridge in the 1990s made the island much more accessible from mainland Scotland – and ergo much more popular – its quiet magic still prevails. Many visitors favor summer in the fool’s hope of better weather, but truthfully the forecast is unpredictable all year round. Instead, try a fall, or even winter, visit to avoid the crowds.

Nestled at the foot of Kinloch Hill and on the shores of Loch na Dal on the island’s Sleat Peninsula, Kinloch Lodge (a member of Luxury Scotland) occupies a spectacular location, even by Skye standards. The lodge has held many roles throughout its years – first, a 17th-century farmhouse, then a shooting lodge and later a public house.

[See also: Experience the Beauty of Scotland on Glenapp Castle’s Sea Safari]

drawing room south lodge kinloch
Retreat to one of the lounges after dinner / ©Kinloch Lodge

Its most recent personality, however, was brought to life in the 1970s by Godfrey Macdonald, the 8th Lord Macdonald and the 35th High Chief of his clan, and his wife Claire, who set out to relaunch it as a luxury hotel. Now in the hands of their daughter Isabella, Kinloch Lodge remains one of the most sought-after stays on Skye.

Don’t come to Kinloch expecting grandiose hospitality, however; luxury here takes on a very different guise. Isabella welcomes each of her guests openly, as though they were an old friend or a member of the extended family, and her warmth flows through to every element of service – the lodge is, after all, her family home.

Stay

Rooms are spread across Kinloch Lodge’s two chalk-white main buildings – the North Lodge is also home to the restaurant, the bar and one lounge, while the South Lodge is closer to the loch, has its own drawing room, and is where you’ll find Kinloch’s suites.

[See also: Inside Edinburgh’s Hotly Anticipated Gleneagles Townhouse]

kinloch lodge room 19
Owner Isabella Macdonald has designed each room / ©Kinloch Lodge

Isabella (along with the help of her interior designer brother-in-law, James Stevens) has designed each of the 18 rooms herself, and her lovely personality shines through. They’re cozy and comfortable with plenty of cute touches like ornate wallpaper and hand-selected art and vintage furniture, as well as luxury finishes like waffled robes and L’Occitane bath amenities.

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Each of the rooms – and both of the lodges – offer their own unique charm, but we’d recommend requesting to be in the South Lodge. Although a little further away from the action, this building offers a little more privacy and the best views over the water. 

Try to nab one of the rooms on the very top floor (accessed via a grand spiral staircase) for the bathtubs alone. They’re wedged right into the window; draw a hot bath right to the top, open that window wide and breathe in that fresh Scottish air – a real tonic.

[See also: The Most Anticipated Hotel Openings of 2024]

Dine

kinloch lodge restaurant
Head chef Jordan Webb artfully interprets native ingredients into decadent, thoughtful plates / ©Kinloch Lodge

Thanks in no small part to its impressive natural larder (primarily seafood, naturally) Skye has established itself as something of a culinary hotspot, and Kinloch Lodge is routinely named as one of the best places to eat on the island – providing great food was one of the core principles on which the Macdonalds first opened the hotel back in the 70s.

Head chef Jordan Webb joined the hotel in 2020 and artfully interprets native ingredients into decadent, thoughtful plates. The daily menu comes with a map highlighting where the main ingredients were sourced – a lovely detail that keeps diners in touch with the landscape around them. Webb’s food is undeniably refined yet still holds on to that hearty edge Scottish cuisine is so famed for. 

After dinner, retreat either to the bar or one of the lounges, all of which entice with roaring open fires, for a final dram of whisky. The bar has a great selection, scaling the length and breadth of Scotland. The small-scale nature of the hotel means you’re likely to find yourself sharing a lounge with other guests; many people come as strangers but leave as friends, something we found out for ourselves after just two nights at Kinloch.

[See also: The Best Luxury Hotels in Ireland]

south lodge drawing room
Both buildings have their own cozy lounge / ©Kinloch Lodge

Relax

Kinloch Lodge doesn’t have spa facilities, but you don’t need them. Instead, consider a dip in the loch, followed by a warming dram of whisky (or hot cocoa, if you’re that way inclined) in front of the fire. “Wellness” takes on a different meaning on the Isle of Skye.

Explore

Exploration is the name of the game at Kinloch Lodge, and indeed the rest of Skye. From its prime position on the loch (which is a loch by name, but quite quickly opens out to the ocean), the hotel is all but a gateway for wild immersions. 

Locally, guests can skirt the edges of the water, keeping your eyes out for elusive otters slinking into the water and seals bobbing their heads out into the bay, or hike the hills that surround the lodge. You can explore solo or book a day out with Kinloch’s resident ghillie (or ‘guide’) who will gladly show you the landscape’s many hidden stories and secrets.

kinloch lodge main house
Rooms are spread across Kinloch Lodge’s two chalk-white main buildings / ©Kinloch Lodge

Locale traversed, take to the car and explore further afield. Toward the very north of the island are Skye’s most famous natural landmarks: The reaching, dramatic Old Man of Storr, the otherworldly Quiraing, and the mythical Fairy Glen. 

Skye’s cutesy ‘capital’, Portree, is also very worth a visit. Its harbor is lined by pretty multi-colored houses and is the launch point for the island’s most popular boat trips. There are plenty of operators to choose from (you can book on the day, but during peak season plan ahead) and each offers wild and often quite windswept journeys into the oceans beyond. Wildlife spotting comes basically as standard – seals are aplenty, but whales, dolphins and eagles are also known to make appearances too.

Whisky lovers will also find plenty to do on Skye. A short drive from Portree is the Talisker distillery which recently re-emerged after a comprehensive refurb and offers a host of experiences, from beginner-friendly tours to connoisseur-centric cask drawings. Back down south, not far from Kinloch, is Torabhaig – a lesser-known but historic distillery that re-opened in 2017 and now produces stellar single malts.

From £320 ($408) per night, luxuryscotland.com

[See also: Elite Traveler Reveals Top 50 Eco Suites]

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