Glenfinnan House Hotel
A Victorian mansion with lawns down to Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Monument over the water. There’s no shortbread-tin twee or tartan carpet here; instead a warm welcome from the MacFarlanes and managers, the Gibsons, and an atmospheric bar (with music on Thursdays). Try smoked venison or kippers for breakfast before heading out to explore the Glenfinnan area on foot, or by boat – on a loch cruise (highlandcruises.co.uk) or for the more energetic, a kayak, (rockhopperscotland.co.uk). Great for kids and quintessentially Scottish.
•Doubles from £140 B&B, 01397 722235, glenfinnanhouse.com
The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool
What started out in the 1970s as a coffee shop and exhibition space in a boat shed, has spread along a row of cottages and now comprises a restaurant, bookshop, cafe-bar (and performance) area with bedrooms upstairs. The bar and restaurant go all day, from famously good breakfasts to a dinner menu (last orders 9pm). A bunkhouse across the road offers cheaper accommodation. Live music and events are on throughout the year, though you can simply sit in the cosy downstairs parlour or, if you’re a hotel guest, in the lounge upstairs with its honesty bar – or maybe even on the terrace overlooking Ullapool where the boats come in.
• Doubles from £124 B&B, bunkhouse rooms from £23pp pn (room only),01854 612103, ceilidhplace.com
This small but perfectly conceived and formed hotel at the corner of north-west Scotland has been in the Mackay family for generations. Fiona and Robbie have transformed a solid old house into a cool spot where in summer the light lingers forever. Wood and slate; discreet but efficient service; comfy beds in calm, stylish rooms. There’s no bar or restaurant so eat at the Sango Sands Oasis pub. As well as the adjacent bunkhouse, it now has two fabulous new eco-cottages at Lade, 9km east, overlooking Loch Eriboll. Go treat yourself in splendid isolation.
•Open May-October, doubles from £129 B&B, 01971 511202, visitdurness.com
The Anderson, Fortrose
On the town’s main street, in the middle of the Black Isle, a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water – the Cromarty Firth to the north, the Beauly Firth to the south, and Moray Firth to the east, this very individual hotel has a restaurant, reasonable rooms and a bar notable for an extraordinary bottled ales and whisky collection. Anne Anderson manages a perhaps unfeasibly long daily-changing menu (smokes the venison, makes the black pudding and just about everything else) in the atmospheric bar and dining room. It’s a find!
•Doubles £99 B&B, 01381 620236, theanderson.co.uk
The Lovat, Fort Augustus
This contemporary, comfortable roadside hotel at the southern tip of Loch Ness on the road to Fort William, is unquestionably the best in the area. Refurbished and very effectively run, and with an award-winning restaurant, Station Road, offering a five-course menu and brasserie serving local, seasonal produce, such as slow-cooked Highland beef cheek, smoked potato, haggis ravioli, Scottish roots and shoulder of Black Isle lamb. Good looks and smart service in the heart of the Great Glen.
•Doubles from £65 B&B, 01456 490000, thelovat.com
Corriechoille Lodge, Spean Bridge
A former fishing lodge, Justin and Lucy Swabey’s mountain-facing hideaway has spectacular views to the Grey Corries and Aonach Mor. Loch Ness, Inverness, the Isle of Skye and Ben Nevis are all within easy reach, while Fort William – with the Lochaber area, designated the “Outdoor Capital of the UK” – is a short drive away. It does a lovely set dinner (£28pp) and the rooms (no kids under seven) are simple and cosy. There are two turf-roofed self-catering chalets in the grounds of the lodge. Great walks begin here.
•Doubles from £43 B&B (open April-October, closed Sundays and Mondays); cabins from £340 a week (rising to £396 in peak season, open year round), 01397 712002, corriechoille.com
The Loch Ness Inn, near Drumnadrochit
Less than a mile from the monster mash of Drumnadrochit, home of the Loch Ness Centre, is this functional roadhouse hotel – quite the best in the area and with a notable restaurant that’s invariably full (it’s advisable to book). The estimable Judy Fish from the Applecross Inn has a hand in this and supplies the langoustines, while the fresh fish hails from Mallaig. There’s a separate bar menu and a beer garden out the back.
•Rooms from £85 B&B, 01456 450991, staylochness.co.uk
The Lime Tree, Fort William
In a former church manse building that dates back to 1850 and overlooks Loch Linnhe at the foot of Ben Nevis, Lime Tree is a working studio for artist David Wilson, and a gallery hosting his paintings. Most of the nine rooms, decorated with David’s art, overlook the loch. The award-winning restaurant offers the likes of west-coast mussels, Ardnamurchan venison and Scottish hake.
• Doubles from £90 B&B, 01397 701806, limetreefortwilliam.co.uk
Tigh an Eilean, Shieldaig
Chris and Cathryn Field’s cosily furnished hotel is set in a line of whitewashed cottages on the seafront, where the magnificent Torridon mountains meet the western seas. You’ll find spectacular walking trails and deserted beaches – home for seals, otters and sea eagles. There are two restaurants: the main one offers a fixed price four-course meal, while the Shieldaig Bar and Coastal Kitchen is for less formal dining; both offer fantastic local food and there’s live music at weekends. A good spot at the heart of a Highland village in one of Scotland’s last great wildernesses.
•Doubles from £160 B&B or £245 for D,B&B, 01520 755251, tighaneilean.co.uk
The Rumblie, Laggan, near Newtonmore
An eco-friendly B&B with a pretty garden in the Cairngorms national park, midway between Dalwhinnie and Newtonmore. Breakfasts are organic and a three-course evening meal is offered by arrangement (£25pp). A good base for the 82-mile East Highland Way from Fort William to Aviemore. It offers drop-off and pick-up at various points along the route – and packed lunches. Or explore on two wheels: there are mountain bike trails at nearby Strathmashie Forest and new bike hire centres at the Wolftrax in Laggan Forest, while Glenlivet is a 50-minute drive away.