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Some twenty years ago, a clever group of Scottish hoteliers got together and had an idea: Instead of competing, why don’t we band together to offer travelers the best experience they can have in our country?
Representing small inns and large hotels, ones world-renowned for golf and others that deserve equal fame for their spa, Michelin-starred cuisine, award-winning whiskey bar or combination of those pleasures, Connoisseurs Scotland was launched.
Today Connoisseurs Scotland consists of one-of-a-kind hotels that span the country, from the rugged West Highlands and Isle of Skye to the velvety east coast where the game of golf was born, and down to Edinburgh and the North Channel.
Magnificent hotels aren’t Connoisseurs Scotland’s only members. The group also consists of a the exclusive Hebridean Princess , which cruises the coasts of Scotland, the Western and Northern Isles, and Ireland; the extraordinary vintage Royal Scotsman train, limited to 36 privileged passengers; and Little’s Chauffeur Drive limousine company, which provides liveried chauffeurs who can take couples from the airport to the furthest reaches of the country in the comfort of luxurious, late-model vehicles.
Romantic, serene, and charmingly Scottish, each of the hotels has a distinct personality. Take a virtual visit to some favorites to understand the unique charms of Connoisseurs Scotland.
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and its second-largest city, with a population of nearly one half million residents.
Traveling to Scotland, your first stop will likely be Edinburgh. It's an ancient city and dominated by the circa-1130 Edinburgh Castle.
Although you'll want to head out to the hinterlands, spend a day or two exploring its attractions. In addition to the castle, it's worth visiting Holyroodhouse Palace (an official residence of the royal family) and the National Museum of Scotland, where admission is free.
Be sure to see the Royal Yacht Britannia, which served the Windsor family from 1954 to 1997. It was decommissioned and converted into a tourist attraction. If you're not superstitious, peek into the ill-fated Honeymoon Suite, where four royal marriages — Prince Charles & Princess Diana, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips, Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones, and Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew — all consummated their vows. Although the ship survived many choppy waters in its 43 years of service, those marriages did not.
Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, Edinburgh
A good place to recover from a long flight, the Sheraton is Edinburgh's largest hotel and contains 269 guest rooms.
One of Edinburgh's finest hotels and a member of Connoisseurs Scotland, the Sheraton Grand Hotel caters to both business and leisure travelers. It's a fine gathering place to meet. At One Square, the hotel's free-flowing restaurant/bar area, patrons can eat where, when, and what you want.
Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa is located across from Usher Hall, the city's cultural hub. It's also two blocks from Princes Street shops, and about a £6 taxi ride or 15-minute walk to Edinburgh Castle at the head of Royal Mile.
One Spa at Sheraton Grand Hotel
High atop the city couples can unwind — in any weather — at the heated pool in the Sheraton Grand Hotel.
Several member hotels of Connoisseurs Scotland feature spas. The newest and largest is the Sheraton's One Spa. At 34,000 square feet and spanning four floors, it's the biggest and most comprehensive spa in the country. It offers more than a dozen types of massages as well as various facials, body wraps, manicures and pedicures. Ayurvedic treatments are also available.
The Scotsman Hotel
Couples who appreciate historic properties will find a comfortable perch in The Scotsman Hotel.
This landmark Victorian building is the former home of The Scotsman newspaper and has maintained some of the original occupant's rich details, including romantic turrets, ornate ceilings, stained glass windows, wood-paneled walls and a magnificent marble staircase.
The Scotsman contains 56 rooms, and in a nod to history its suites are named after the hierarchy that ran The Scotsman newspaper: Editor, Publisher, Director.
Our spacious, 5th-floor Editor's suite overlooked the castle-like Scottish Parliament building and also boasted views of Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street, Calton Hill and The Firth of Forth.
The Scotsman Spa & Health Club and indoor swimming pool occupy the basement, which once held The Scotsman's printing presses.
Perhaps The Scotsman's most unique feature is its private screening room, which shows movies once a week. It's a setting where imaginative couples could stage an intimate gathering.
What is Haggis?
Haggis is a traditional Scottish food derived from a sheep's entrails.
Components of haggis include the heart, lungs, and liver from a sheep. These are mixed with spices, onions, oatmeal, mutton fat, stock, and salt. This tantalizing concoction is then stuffed into a sheep stomach or encased in sausage skin and simmered for several hours.
View from Pool House
Pool House is among the smallest hotels that belong to Connoisseurs Scotland, and it may be its most romantic.
Lapped by the Atlantic Ocean, Pool House was originally built some 350 years ago as a hunting lodge.
Since then it has been a private house of a lovetorn couple in the 19th century (the abandoned wife occupied herself carving roses in the bannister that leads to the second story) and a strategic, top-secret outpost of the Royal Navy and a forerunner of the Royal Air Force during World War II.
Today it is a welcoming, childfree hideaway on Scotland's western coast run by a charming family dedicated to your pleasure.
Tea Time at Pool House
Pool House is decorated with authentic antiques handed down from friends and members of the owners' family.
It's a long drive to Pool House, but the trip is well worth it. Upon arrival we were greeted by Liz Harrison Myles, one of two daughters who operate the inn along with their active parents. Liz gave us a capsule version of Pool House's history and a bit of her family's. "We didn't have a cook," she informed us breezily, "so we married one."
The "cook" is John, married to her sister, and he is a masterful one at that.
Our midday repast -- delicious cheese and tomato sandwiches, smoked salmon sandwiches, and three kinds of cake (lemon, poppy, and carrot) plus a scrumptious strawberry shortcake -- was prepared by distaff members of the family.
That evening we reconvened in Pool House's Finnish-made barbecue hut, where John prepared fresh-from-the-water queen scallops (these have the roe attached), steaks, shrimp, and an array of side dishes. Much wine was poured, stories told, and laughter heard, making Pool House one of the warmest and most hospitable places we ever had the pleasure to visit.
Sleeping at Pool House
The honeymoon suite features a bed that is a reproduction of the one Napoleon and Josephine slept in.
Each of the guest suites at Pool House has a different theme, rich textiles, and antique accents.
Children are not permitted at this romantic inn, which makes it ideal for couples who want to revel in some private time. Should they wish to enhance it with accessories, Pool House can supply a "Naughty Weekend Kit" stocked with Love Suds (aka bubble bath), a velvet eye mask, a feather, and other pleasurables.
Other themed suites include Titanic and the fit-for-a-Moghul Indian Suite, which has connected bedrooms. Brad Pitt slept in one. I slept in the other. Need I confirm that it wasn't on the same night?
Visit Inverlochy Castle
Upon visiting Inverlochy Castle in 1873, Queen Victoria wrote in her diary "I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot."
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh slept here. Charlie Chaplin, too. So did Liam Neeson, Sean Connery, J.K. Rowling, and the cast of the Harry Potter movies.
Refined Inverlochy Castle, a member of Relais & Chateaux as well as Connoisseurs Scotland, was built in 1863 as a private home for Lord Abinger on a 500-acre spread in the foothills of Ben Nevis, Scotland's tallest mountain.
Today it boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant, gracious rooms, a lake, and acres for couples to roam on a romantic stroll.
Bespoke weddings are a specialty here, often capped with a fireworks display over the lake. And should the couple wish the accompaniment of a bag piper, that too can be arranged.
Inverlochy Castle Breakfast
Breakfast is served in Inverlochy Castle's formal dining room, where large arched windows frame a pastoral view of the highlands, especially romantic at sunset.
Queen's Bedroom Suite at Inverlochy Castle
The hotel contains 17 bedrooms, each different and each adorned with antiques.
As lovely as an English Rose, the Queen's Suite is the largest and most lavish at the multi-award-winning Inverlochy Castle. From the four-poster double bed couples can view the picturesque loch beyond the windows.
All bathrooms are clad in marble, with both a tub and a shower. Exquisite Penhaligon shampoo, conditioner, and other amenities from the brand are provided, guaranteeing a sensual experience alone or a deux.
Note: Inverlochy Castle is not handicap-accessible. All bedrooms are located up a carpeted staircase.
Whisky Sommelier at Inverlochy Castle
Inverlochy Castle offers a wide array of single-malt Scotch whisky and guests can savor several varieties in a tasting class.
Do you prefer yours peaty-smoky, spicy-peppery, fruity-woody, light-flowery, or salty and sweet? There's a single malt for every Scotch drinker's taste.
Inverlochy Castle features a trolley laden with aged brown goods from the country's finest distilleries and helps guests identify ones that particularly appeal to their taste buds.
Driving through the Scottish Countryside
Driving through Scotland, where there are more sheep than people and the lochs and mountains form ever-changing, breathtaking views is one of life's pleasures.
If driving on the left side of the road seems a bit daunting and you'd prefer to sit back in comfort and take in the beauty of the passing scenery, consider reserving a car and driver from Little's Chauffeur Drive.
The company, which has been in business since 1966 and is a mobile member of Connoisseurs Scotland, provides professional drivers and can design a customized Scotland itinerary that leads to unforgettable places and experiences.
Focus on castles and lochs if you wish on your honeymoon or vacation... or perhaps romantic settings and gourmet cuisine at Michelin-starred restaurants. Perhaps history and gardens entrance you, or spending time at a spa and golf resort in the country that invented the game. And leave time to explore the cultural treasures of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
If you arrange airport pickup from Little's Chauffeur Drive, your driver will be waiting for you outside the baggage claim area. You'll recognize him because he'll be dressed in chauffeur's livery and holding a sign with your name on it.
The burgundy-colored fleet consists of current Jaguars, Volvos, Mercedes E and S classes, one circa-1933 Rolls-Royce and two late-model vehicles that bear the flying lady hood ornament.
Couples planning on visiting additional countries during their stay can take advantage of Little's international division, which secures cars and drivers for customers outside of Scotland.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary transportation, accommodation and meals for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy .
Welcome to Kinloch Lodge
Kinloch Lodge is located at the southern end of Isle of Skye, a short drive from the bridge that connects it to the mainland.
Kinloch Lodge, which has stood for more than 300 years, is the ancestral home of the MacDonald clan.
Originally a hunting lodge, Kinloch was converted to an inn in 1972 by the clan's High Chief Lord Geoffrey Macdonald and his wife, Lady Claire Macdonald. Today their daughter, Isabella, runs the property with her husband and several helpers.
A second, recently built house footsteps away from the original property brings the number of bedrooms to ten. Inside the building there's a room for facials and massages, a large, comfortable, and light-filled drawing room with wi-fi, and a demonstration kitchen where Lady Macdonald performs a few times a year.
Kinloch Lodge Cuisine
Thanks to the efforts of Lady Claire Macdonald, Kinloch Lodge earned a Michelin star.
The doyenne of Scottish cookery, Lady Claire Macdonald no longer runs Kinloch Lodge on a daily basis. After winning a Michelin star, she turned the kitchen over to Marcello Tully, who has maintained the high standards and the star. His creative and tasty meals are produced using fresh local produce and shellfish, game, and poultry from the hills and waters of Skye.
The walls in the fine dining room are covered with portraits of Macdonald family ancestors. Tables are sheathed in crisp white linen and hold gleaming china, glasses, and silverware.
The Lodge's restaurant is also known for its wine offerings. For a special occasion, opt for the seven-course tasting menu, enhanced with wine flights. As each course is delivered, twin glasses of wine compatible with the dish and selected by the knowledgeable sommelier are set before each diner to leisurely compare.
Lady Macdonald's hand is still evident on the property. Kinloch Lodge features a large, modern, well-lit kitchen where her cooking show is recorded. In addition, the Lodge contains a small shop that sells a selection of kitchen gadgets she recommends along with her best-selling cookbooks.
Every traveler has a favorite place, and on my journeys through Scotland The Torridon is the one I most hope to visit again.
Beside a loch and framed by snow-capped mountains, The Torridon is set in a magical location in Scotland's West Highlands.
Warm, genuine hospitality; modern, handsomely designed bedrooms; one of the most extensive whisky bars in all of Scotland; well-prepared food; and an impressive selection of adventurous outdoor activities make this Connoisseurs Scotland member a top destination for a wedding, honeymoon, or romantic getaway.