The Torridon Hotel and Inn, Scotland: hotel and restaurant review
The Torridon Hotel and Inn, Scotland: hotel and restaurant review
We review The Torridon, a grand Victorian hotel in a ravishing lochside setting with a new chef keen to make the most of the local larder (and the hotel’s own kitchen garden), in dishes such as John Dory with red cabbage, black pudding and burnt sour cream, and guinea fowl with peasemeal, artichoke and rocket
Read our expert review of The Torridon Hotel and Inn, Scotland. Set in Loch Torridon this unique Victorian hotel has stunning views of the loch’s south-eastern countryside. A quiet and cosy luxury hotel in Torridon, Scotland, for aperfect weekend away.
Sweeping, glacially carved mountains tower behind Loch Torridon. Their golden ridges cut a constantly changing sky and dwarf the tiny strip of white houses that run along the loch’s south-eastern shore. “This place makes the Lake District look like nothing,” says one fellow hotel guest that evening. The scale, the colours and the wild setting combine to form a powerful panorama that every Brit should witness at least once. Preferably from the cosy comfort of The Torridon, a conical-turreted Victorian hotel where you can perch in the Drawing Room’s bay-window sofa, the fire burning behind you, and gaze out at the loch.
Chef Ross Stovald joined The Torridon in July. Having previously cooked at the Isle of Eriska hotel, also on Scotland’s west coast, he knows and loves the local larder; lobster, crab, scallops, fish, game, lamb, beef, and berries. He’s after authenticity, an unfussy showcasing of great ingredients. But he also raves about vegetables, partly to reset the balance for his long-suffering vegetarian wife. It’s an admirable stance, and he’s itching to cultivate even more veg, fruit, and herbs in the Torridon’s already football-pitch sized Kitchen Garden.
We arrive eagerly early for pre-dinner drinks, but the accompanying olives and veggie crisps, heralded grandly as canapes, cause my heart to sink a little. As a prelude to a minimum £60-per-head meal, they ought to signal more effort, more local detail. I ask Ross about it later, and he says it’s on his list of things to change.
The actual dinner, in a heavily draped dining room (also with a view), is far better. The daily-changing à la carte menu offers three courses, with three choices per course, or there’s a longer tasting menu. With children in tow, we go à la carte. An amuse bouche selection arrives with homemade chicken liver and mushroom parfait, crowdie and pepper pâté with beer bread, and delectable slivers of home-hung air-dried Torridon ham. This is my favourite course, full of skill in flavour and creativity with local ingredients.
A winning John Dory with red cabbage, black pudding, and burnt sour cream starter offers tender flakes of white fish, and a rich Scottish black pud. Another, of warm smoked Deeside grouse, is well-cooked and seasonal.
The guinea fowl main with peasemeal, artichoke and rocket is excellent, the meat succulent. The other main of monkfish with cauliflower, truffle and sourdough is a little disappointing. I find the truffle perfume distracting, and the fish hard work and dry with the cauli. The sourdough, however, is fried into tiny, tasty fritters.
Puds are a hit, particularly a generous baked chocolate mousse, though in truth it’s more cake than mousse. A cream custard is pleasingly delicate and wobbly. And an excellent bottle of New Zealand Urlar Pinot Noir (£35.50) works well with the food.
It’s a good meal, but I’d like to return in six months to see where Ross has added personality. With his obvious West Coast food enthusiasm, I think he and his team will start bringing more excitement to the plate.
We finish in the whisky bar, of course. It’s a fine display and so plentiful that a library-ladder is needed to reach some of the 350 malts. Knowledgeable Ozzy-Scot barman Pete helps me choose a non-peaty Glenrothes select reserve single malt, and an Edinburgh Gin liqueur – packed with proper raspberry punch – for my sweet-toothed partner. The kids squirrel away to their room to watch Sky TV.
As a whole, the hotel is great. It’s cosy and Scottish, welcoming and luxurious, but neither stuffy nor obsequious. The brilliantly cheery activities crew (plus team collie, Cuillin) are a huge bonus. They take our boys coasteering in the freezing loch, the 10-year-old gleefully giggling as he plunges in off a rock. And an archery session alongside the hotel’s handsome Highland cattle is fun when it’s too windy for kayaking. Our Springer is made welcome in the hotel’s dog-friendly Chestnut Cottage suite with his own biscuits and bowl.
Rooms are just-right comfortable, with huge beds, Nespresso machines and Tunnock’s Teacakes, plus Sky TV, though the advertised ‘free wifi’ could do with a boost. I know it’s a remote glen, but I can’t even access email (and, as nearby Applecross village proves, there are now good off-grid wifi solutions). Rooms overlooking the loch come at a premium, of course, but are worth it. My teens’ room’s décor is garishly pink, but the general feel is warm, wood-panelled, heavy-sofa’d, country-house ease.
There’s no spa, which happily means there are no dazed-looking, dressing-gowned couples wafting around. Instead, the clientele is a smart international mix of no-nonsense Scotland-lovers. The activities team will take you walking, climbing, kayaking, coasteering (all included for guests except clay-pigeon shooting, which can be added on). Who needs a seaweed wrap when you’re out in this revitalising environment?
We also eat burgers and fish and chips at the neighbouring Torridon Inn, part of the hotel estate. It’s a cosy pub with rooms at the back. Ross wants to add to the Inn menu to reflect the surroundings better, but the quality is already good, and it’s an enjoyable change of environment. We’re introduced to the new house gin here, too, Arcturus, launched this October (2017). It’s fresh with sea-kelp, rowan berries, bilberries, and Scots lovage.
The Torridon breakfast highlight is perfect pinhead-oatmeal porridge served with honey and an optional dram. Kippers are moist and plump, not oversalty, and full breakfasts and eggs benedict offer Scottish bacon, sausages, and black pud. If I were Ross, I’d up the coffee game. The wee Torridon Stores café in the village does an excellent flat white, which they could emulate.
It’s the setting that sticks in the mind, though. Those glowing, glowering hills, that scudding sky. It gets under your skin, and is Torridon’s star attraction. Come, walk by the loch, or up a hill. Then sit by the hotel fire, sipping something – tea, whisky, that smart new gin – and stare out at the scenery, anticipating an evening of Ross’s thoughtfully prepared Highland food.
The Torridon Hotel & Inn, By Achnasheen, Wester Ross, Scotland IV22 2EY (thetorridon.com).
Doubles start from £165, B&B (£185 with a loch view). Dinner around £60 per head a la carte, £80 for the tasting menu. The Inn has comfortable rooms behind the pub from £75.
Getting there: from London, fly to Glasgow then drive the stunning 5½ hour route up the West Coast via Fort William. It’s quicker via the A9, but not half as pretty.