“In Heaven itself,” Burns wrote, “I’ll ask no more, than just a Highland welcome.”
And it was a part of the world he spent no small amount of time in, embarking in August 1787 on a six-hundred mile tour of the region with his friend William Nicol, following an established path that Boswell, Johnson and Thomas Pennant had travelled before them (though with typical Burnsian irreverence, they conducted their journey in reverse). Over 22 days, Burns and Nicol visited sites of historical significance, inspiration for his writing, and courting the patronage of John Campbell, the Earl of Breadalbane, John Murray, the Duke of Athole and James Duff, the Second Earl of Fife.
As we approach Burns night then, it seems timely to explore the breathtaking beauty of the area, and the best way to enjoy everything from incredible views, to elemental adventures, the finest locally-sourced fayre and of course, a wee dram or two. Rather than heading off on a 600-mile tour though, we’d suggest hunkering down for a stay at one high-end hotel, from which you can embark on your adventures – and they don’t come much more heavenly than The Torridon in Wester Ross.
Indeed, it would be hard to imagine a more impressive estate than this 19th-century Baronial manor; harder still to dream up the verdant fairytale in which it is set. The resort borders the calm waters of Upper Loch Torridon to the north, and the dramatic peaks of the Torridon Hills to the south.
Owner and managing director Dan Rose-Bristow, who has been running the hotel with his wife Rohaise for nearly 30 years, attributes some of the Torridon’s legendary status to its awe-inspiring surroundings.
“Location is ultimately the draw; the thing that sparks the interest,” Dan explains. “There aren’t many places you can visit where you sit 200 yards at sea level from a sea loch, looking up at 3,000-ft mountains. Our location certainly makes our job much easier, and we are lucky to have a foot in this northwest corner that allows us to promote what we do and to attract staff.”
But scenery can only take you so far, and by focusing on the people they employ, the bespoke experiences they offer and the producers they collaborate with, Dan and Rohaise have managed successfully to redefine the five-star hospitality experience.
“We have an ethos here that marries up location, adventure and sustainability with luxury, and I think the definition of luxury has definitely changed. People tend not to use the word so much these days – there’s more of a focus on the experiential. We don’t have a 24-hour concierge, but we can provide experiences and access to activities that 90 per cent of guests won’t have done before – or at least not since they were in the Scouts.”
The Torridon’s outdoor team coaches and guides small groups of up to six guests through sea-kayaking adventures, loch-snorkeling excursions and hilly hikes, giving them the opportunity to witness sea eagles, seals, otters and all manner of other wildlife from new perspectives.
And as the sun sets, the curtain opens on a celestial showstopper the likes of which you’d struggle to see anywhere else outside of Scandinavia. Dan says: “We have an experience where you have dinner with astrologer Steven MackIntosh, who takes you through a presentation on the stars and planets before you go outside with the telescope and experience the night sky.”
A sustainable approach
Munro bagging, archery, and unforgettable walks without; whiskey tasting, fine wines and quality Scottish produce served by friendly staff within. These experiences and services are all developed with a beady eye on sustainability.
As Dan explains: “We run a biomass system, we’re moving away from gas to electric induction, food waste is composted and used in the kitchen garden. We’ve just put up a deer fence around the estate and planted 1,000 trees. Whatever we do, we always look at our carbon footprint and think, is that the responsible thing to do? Could we do better?”
For Dan, all these elements are intrinsic to providing what he calls “relaxed experiential luxury”.
“It’s about giving people an experience through every touch point, so they walk away from here thinking that’s the first time they’ve experienced that sort of wow factor.”
Much like The Torridon, The Macallan also take great pride in high-quality British manufacturing, combining the finest ingredients and a sustainable production process to create a whisky of outstanding quality and distinctive character. The Macallan Double Cask range is available in The Whisky Exchange, The Whisky Shop, Waitrose and other premium retailers. Find out more at themacallan.com