With a Michelin-starred restaurant and a remote setting on the Scottish coast, Knockinaam Lodge is a bolt-hole for those looking to get away from it all in style.
“Wow”. One word was sufficient to summarise our first impressions of Knockinaam Lodge. I don’t know whether it was Jon or I who’d said it. It didn’t matter, we were both thinking it. The hotel was a welcome sight at the end of a long drive from London . We’d left the motorway many miles before, and the last few hours had been spent first on B-roads, and then country lanes as we’d neared the hotel. Then, there it was.
Perched in beautiful grounds on the Scottish coast and with its own private beach, Knockinaam Lodge is in a stunning location. Its remoteness affords a peace and solitude that’s part of Knockinaam’s charm.
The Lodge itself is grand without being imposing – the kind of country house that has been frequented by the British elite for centuries. It was built as a hunting lodge in 1869 and has attracted visitors ever since. Sir Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower held a secret meeting here during WWII to formulate D-Day plans and Knockinaam is said to be the inspiration for Richard Hannay’s hideaway in John Buchan’s classic adventure thriller The Thirty-Nine Steps.
History abounds, but we were both more concerned with the present as we checked in and were led to our room. Plush carpets and elegant wallpapers contribute to the atmosphere of understated luxury that resonates throughout the hotel. It’s reminiscent of a grand family manor, with a panelled bar and drawing room, not to mention the Michelin-starred restaurant where guests can enjoy some of the finest cuisine available in Scotland.
Local ingredients are the star of the show in the restaurant, skilfully cooked and artfully presented under the direction of chef Tony Pierce. Dishes such as grilled fillet of native salmon with pickled fennel and a coriander and pink grapefruit emulsion showcase the skills of the kitchen, blending traditional Scottish food with international elements.
During our stay, we got used to starting our day with a full Scottish breakfast before heading out on a local walk in the surrounding countryside before returning for dinner followed by a whisky from the extensive menu in the adjoining library.
Time takes on a different aspect when you’re away from the demands of everyday life, at Knockinaam we spent hours in front of the drawing-room fire reading books and chatting with the other guests. The staff were attentive without being overbearing and always happy to recommend different walks and activities in the area.
While the Lodge is beautiful, its location is almost as much of a draw as the building itself. Set in 35 acres of woodland, beach and gorse-covered grounds, guests can walk to the village of Portpatrick six miles away via a coastline walk with stunning views of the Irish sea and Ireland itself on a clear day.
In the south-west of Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway is one of Scotland’s less-explored counties but there’s a lot to see for those who take the time to look around. From Scotland’s southernmost whisky distillery Bladnoch, to remote golf courses – Knockinaam Lodge is a great base for those who wish to get out and about.
We had booked in for a long weekend. It wasn’t enough. When the time came for us to leave, we were reluctant to pack our cases and drive back to London. One positive? We’ll be returning in the summer.
Dumfries and Galloway
Scotland, DG9 9AD