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High-end in the Highlands

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By Hazel Fulton on 6th January 2023

Make the most out of Burns Night and visit the breathtaking Scotland. With sprawling landscapes, mystical folklore and enough deep-fried mars bars to fill your belly, we've rounded up some of the best places for you to stay this January in beautiful Caledonia.

Given that good weather in Scotland is never guaranteed, there’s a lot to be said for leaning into the dark nights and visiting in winter. For one, this is the time of year you’re most likely to experience the magical aurora borealis, and as the only Dark Sky Park in the UK, Galloway Forest is a great location for stargazing. January is also peak mussel and scallop season, delicacies for which Scotland is world-renowned. And where better to enjoy the finest malt whiskies by a roaring fire?

Scots certainly know how to make the most of the longer nights and, having recovered from their Hogmanay celebrations, turn their attention to Burns’ Night at the end of January. Nowhere does so in greater style than The Fife Arms, a relatively new addition to the Scottish luxury hotel scene in its current incarnation. Nestled in the spectacular grandeur of the Caringorms just 15 minutes from Balmoral, the landmark Braemar hotel was comprehensively renovated by a team of architects, artisans and artists in 2018. Each of the 46 bedrooms is dedicated to a local place, person or event, meticulously researched and decorated to tell the story of the area. If their Hogmanay was anything to go by – at which Dame Judy Dench was spotted carousing at the piano with Sharleen Spiteri of Texas fame – Burns’ Night will be an extravagant affair.

Extravagance is never in short supply at Gleneagles Hotel, either. Historically one of Scotland’s most luxurious destinations (and the setting of the Roy family’s Scottish gathering in HBO’s hit series Succession), Gleneagles estate is a worthy playground for the rich and famous. Choose from a host of high-end pursuits, from salmon fishing on the River Tay to game bird shooting in the hills. Snipe, partridge, duck, pheasant and woodcock are all in season now. To sample local produce prepared to the highest standards, you need look no further than Gleaneagles’ own two-Michelin-starred eatery, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie. Try the signature dish: Scottish lobster smoked for five hours over whisky barrel chips.

Other notable restaurants north of the border include the Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye, which reopens after a winter break on the 20th January. Positioned by the seashore in an undeniably remote corner of the country, this uniquely Highland restaurant serves ingredients which are mostly sourced in and around Skye. Cut the journey time and arrive in style by sea plane (Loch Lomond Sea Planes) or helicopter (PDG Helicopters). 

Skye is a magical island with magnificent scenery. If you do visit by car, try the walk to the Fairy Pools at the foot of the Black Cuillin mountains. These crystal clear pools on the West of Skye feature stunning waterfalls and a natural arch – too cold perhaps for even the bravest of wild swimmers just now, but a stunning photographic opportunity nonetheless.

For a taste of Gothic romance, Edinburgh’s Old Town is hard to beat. And huddled within it, in a 16th century building at the top of the Royal Mile near Edinburgh Castle, is The Witchery; a hotel and restaurant Harpers and Queen described as being ‘almost as famous as the castle itself’. Taking its name from the hundreds of women and men who were burned at the stake as witches on Castlehill, its candlelit interior provides an atmospheric backdrop for indulgent entertaining. Along with seasonal menus showcasing the finest Scottish produce, The Witchery boasts a multi award-winning wine cellar. Drinking and the supernatural: a combination Burns himself would endorse.

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