From the homes of game-changing doctors to the works of renowned architects and ground-breaking chefs, here are 6 pioneering hotels to stay in during the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, as chosen by the Good Hotel Guide. Britain’s leading independent guide to hotels, inns and B&Bs.
1. Boath House, Nairn, Highlands
There’s a fascinating tale of restoration behind Boath House in Nairn. Designed by renowned Aberdeen architect Archibald Simpson, this Grade A-listed Georgian Mansion was once described as the most beautiful Regency house in Scotland. But by the early 1990s it was on Historic Scotland’s endangered list – until its current owners Wendy and Don Matheson fell head-over-heels for the place and set about meticulously restoring it to its original magnificence. Thanks to them, Boath House is now known for its luxurious but thoroughly unpretentious style and its Michelin-starred restaurant, headed up by chef Charlie Lockley, a follower of the Slow Food Movement. It all goes to show that good things really do come to those who wait.
2. Dumfries House Lodge, Ayrshire & Arran
Yes, Dumfries House Lodge is a luxurious guest house with cosy lounge areas and bedrooms filled with antiques. And yes, this B&B sparkles with its five stars. But another reason we love this 18th-century factor’s house is because it’s part of the 2,000-acre Dumfries House Estate, which was built by some of Scotland’s most pioneering architects. Dumfries House was one of Robert Adam’s and his brothers’ earliest commissions; later commissions included Fort George, Edinburgh’s Royal Exchange and Register House, Old College at the University of Edinburgh, Trades Hall in Glasgow, and Pulteney Bridge in Bath. There’s no charge for admission onto the estate, and in winter, guests can book a private tour of Dumfries House.
3. The Three Chimneys and The House Over-by, Isle of Skye
The Three Chimneys is on this list thanks to its pioneering approach to provenance and culinary innovation, and the rooms aren’t bad either! The Three Chimneys has been blazing a trail for local, seasonal produce in Scottish cuisine for over 30 years. When it was founded in 1984 by Eddie and Shirley Spear (who still own the place), Shirley was a self-taught chef and an early pioneer of using hyper-local ingredients; in fact, she’s now chair of the Scottish Food Commission. And when the Spears introduced accommodation in 1999 with The House Over-by, that trail-blazing character held firm. It was the first five-star accommodation on Skye.
4. The Rutland Hotel, Edinburgh
Steps from the top of Princes Street, this stylish, modern hotel is discreetly hidden in a 19th-century building that was once the home of Sir Joseph Lister, a pioneer of antiseptic medicine. Considered the father of modern surgery, it was Lister who introduced sterile surgery. He’d be impressed not just by the standards of cleanliness at The Rutland though. The boutique hotel’s homemade shortbread on arrival, in-room GHD hair straighteners and touches of baroque are just as likely to make a positive impression. And nestled beneath the hotel there’s still a room full of sterile equipment, only now it’s used for making gin. The Edinburgh Gin Distillery is a botanical wonderland dedicated to the creation, tasting and enjoyment of gin.
5. Tigh an Dochais, Isle of Skye
Built by award-winning Scottish architects Dualchas, who specialise in combining modern ideas and technology with a respect for the past, Tigh an Dochais is unlike any other B&B in the Guide. This modern space is designed to exploit natural light and the constantly changing views of the bay, islands and mountains that surround it. A galvanised steel bridged walkway leads to the upper storey entrance, where the lounge has floor-to-ceiling windows, sofas, bare oak floorboards, underfloor heating, a wood-burning stove and a bookcase crammed with books – not that you’ll spend much time looking down at the pages. Downstairs, the three bedrooms have sliding doors leading to a larch deck, and are equipped with binoculars to help you take in even more of that spectacular view.
6. Ardanaiseig, Argyll & Isles
Stay at Ardanaiseig for an up-close-and-personal experience of the design of one of Scotland’s best architects. It was built by William Burn, who was one of the 19th century’s leading architects, and one of the four architects appointed to carry out Robert Adam’s unexecuted plans for Edinburgh’s New Town. Among his best known works are Edinburgh’s Melville Monument, the Edinburgh Academy and the regal Bowhill House in the Scottish Borders. Nowadays Ardanaiseig is owned by antique dealer Bennie Gray, who has filled the house with suitably grand – and some quirky – pieces. The overall effect is rather deliciously cheeky.
This selection is taken from the Good Hotel Guide’s Best Hotels in Scotland.
For more hotel choices in Scotland, please visit our hotels section.