“ Invermoriston / Inverness-Shire / IV63 7YA / Tel: +44 (0)1320 351279. „
Once in a while you come across a little gem in a sea of mediocrity, and it was our luck to have found one for our recent visit to Scotland. We were looking for a place that was as centrally located as possible, without being in a major city, and at a reasonable price. What we didn't expect to find was a place so welcoming and comfortable that we almost didn't want to leave. This is the B&B in Invermoriston called Bracarina House, and here's why I'm giving it five stars.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow:
The Bracarina House is located on the most famous Loch in Scotland - the Loch Ness - and if you look on the map, you'll see that Invermoriston is on one of those western inlets down the Loch Ness coast, just south of Drumnadrochit (home to the two Loch Ness Monster Museums) and the picturesque Urqhart Castle. This puts this B&B almost exactly half way between Inverness and Fort William smack dab in the middle of the Great Glen Way hiking and cycle route. In fact, the trail actually winds just behind this B&B's backyard, so there's no way any walkers or riders on the Great Glen haven't seen this particular spot. You can therefore imagine that this is a perfect location for hikers to stay the night. But that's just the beginning.
If you stand looking out from the front door of this B&B - or better yet, from the dining room at breakfast - you'll see looming up in front of you the beautiful Sron Na Muic mountain, that often is decorated with clouds and mist rolling off the Loch. As I mentioned, behind the B&B is the trail that leads into the woods and along the Moriston river, which feeds into the Loch (from what I understand, 'inver' means 'mouth of' so Invermoriston means 'mouth of the Moriston'). So although you're on the main road (the A82) you're also surrounded by nature. And being on the main road means its convenient. As for public transport all that you can get is a bus that goes between Inverness and Fort William. There are no trains directly to Invermoriston - only to Inverness and/or Fort William. Also, the nearest boats for the Loch are in Fort Augustus (south-east along the Loch on the A82).
You've Got A Friend:
So, what makes this place so highly recommended? First of all, the owners. Sheila and Simon MacLellan are a sweet and friendly couple with five children - only two of which are still at home. Sheila does most of the work around the place, and she does it with total grace and charm. I cannot recall an unkind word or moment when she couldn't give out a smile for her guests. Mind you, while you could stop and chat with her for long stretches at a time, she still is businesslike enough to get everything taken care of efficiently and quickly (even if her daughter prefers to procrastinate and doesn't get the dining room table set and ready for the next morning until just before going off to bed)! I felt so much at home with the MacLellans that I had to stop myself from lending a hand with things.
Nights in White Satin:
But the owners could have been dipped in gold and the experience still might not have been great, if the place itself didn't live up. There are practically no faults here, however. Bracarina House was built to be a B&B, and as such, the owners were careful to make sure that every possible consideration for their clients would be made. The rooms are large and tastefully decorated (with what I believe included matching MacLellan tartan curtains and bed covers!) and all rooms are en-suite. For instance, even with a double bed in the room, we still had lots of space to walk around and not bump into each other. There was a large chest of drawers in the corner that held most of our clothes and which had the coffee/tea materials on top. Next to that there were two comfy chairs (oh, yes, the comfy chairs!), which we mostly used to drop our junk onto. I know, we probably could have put that stuff into the very large built-in closet which had lots of hanging space and enough room on the shelf above the rail to put all our emptied luggage, as well as room down below for our shoes. So sue us for being lazy!
On either side of the bed were night tables, one of which had an alarm clock. All the furniture was in sturdy, thick pine, which made you feel more like you were visiting a friend's home than a B&B. I also appreciated both the carpeting and the fact that the floor didn't squeak every time you took a step - something that older or more flimsily made buildings often have.
I don't want to forget the en-suite. While there was no bathtub in our room, the bathroom here was certainly big enough to accommodate one, if they had decided to put one in. Being shower people anyway, this didn't bother us. And there was enough room for both myself and my husband to be in the bathroom at the same time - something I don't even have in my own house! All the fixtures were new and clean and the floor was conveniently covered in linoleum. We didn't need the hair dryer but it was good to know it was there, just in case. Unfortunately, there wasn't a medicine cabinet to put our toiletries in, but the basin, top of the toilet and window sill (yes, there was a real window in the bathroom and not just an exhaust fan) were available for that purpose. The only other problem was that the shower stall had one of those fast water heaters and for the life of me I'll never figure out how to work these properly without finding myself either freezing or getting burnt during at least one shower. But that's just me, I'm sure - and not at all serious, so no points lost here.
As for the view from our room, since ours was at the back of the house, we looked out onto the backyard and forest behind the building which the walking trail winds into. This means we didn't see the mountain from our room, but we still had something pretty to look at. My final word about the room has to be about the bed. This was very comfortable - not too narrow and neither too soft nor too hard. We both slept wonderfully well and there were enough cushions provided to keep our snoring down to a minimum. Unfortunately, this apparently didn't help one of the other lodgers since we could actually hear a pair of them one evening. Serves us right to leave our window open, I guess, but a good thing we always have earplugs with us. That really was the only time any noise disturbed our sleep - despite the closeness of the house to the main road.
You're the Cream in my Coffee:
Getting on to the second B in B&B, each morning from 8 until 9:30 we were greeted by our proprietor in the dining room. There was fresh brewed coffee ready, but pots of tea were available for those who prefer. They also had an assortment of breakfast cereals to choose from, and jugs of orange juice. The usual cooked fare was toast, bacon and eggs, but our not eating bacon was supplemented with a choice of grilled tomato or baked beans. This may not sound like the most exciting selection, but remember that most of the visitors only stop for one or two nights. Since we were there for longer, Sheila added a variety of extras to the menu ranging from yoghurt to fresh or tinned fruit (and once she even made us kippers as an extra special treat!) which we found very thoughtful of them.
The Sweetest Things:
The MacLellans seem to have wanted their clients to interact with each other. We assume this because the dining room has only one big table in it. In this way, everyone sits around one table and even if there are different languages floating about, one cannot help but strike up a conversation with someone there. This certainly added to the friendliness of the place, giving it a more "you're at home here" feeling.
There's also a very large lounge upstairs. On one end there's a dining table where you can play games that they have lying about (including a very beautiful chess set) or eat at. There is also a stereo and some CDs you can listen to as well as a bookshelf filled with a very varied bunch of books - but they're for borrowing, not for stealing! In the middle of the lounge is a fireplace and at the other end of the lounge is a big sofa, a large chair, a coffee table (with some magazines) and a TV set. Every evening we made a picnic dinner on that coffee table, in front of the telly - mostly to see the news and weather, due to the heavy rains they had at the time. Almost every evening we were joined by other guests and again couldn't help but get to know them a little.
You will notice pictures of the MacLellan family from all different ages can be found in all the public areas of the building. That shows me that this is not only a family business, but its also something that the family is very proud of, and well they should be.
One other little touch is a huge map of the world in the hallway of the upstairs bedrooms (there are 4 upstairs and 1 on the ground floor). The idea behind this map is that people stick a pin in the map to note where they came from (pins for this purpose are available on the table at the sitting area at the top of the stairs). We liked this and were impressed to see that apparently we weren't the first people from Israel, nor the first from Jerusalem, for that matter. It was fascinating to see that this place has been visited from all the corners of the globe, and all that in less than 12 years that they've been open! I guess good news travels not only fast, but far as well.
Since our member hiker asked, I should add that the MacLellans haven't forgotten that their main customers are... hikers! And hikers come in with dirty, sometimes muddy boots and often wet gear. For this, they built at the entrance to this facility an inclosed porch which I have dubbed the "boot and brolly" room. For day trippers using this as their base, there are umbrellas available to borrow. For those hikers coming with their boots, this is where they're lined up at night, and the wet gear is hung out to dry. This area is well ventilated, and I think its equipped with an air freshener as well - since I never could detect the scent of sweaty feet when coming back. (Of course, that might have been the scent of the midge repellent.)
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you of probably the most important features of this B&B. Remember, this spot is heavily frequented by hikers and what usually happens when a hiker gets to their haven in the evening? They want to rest their feet, of course. Well, Bracarina House supplies each and every room with a foot bath massager! The story goes that a friend gave one of these to Sheila and when she heard that her guests were falling over themselves to get a turn at it, she went out and bought one for each of the rooms. Tell me, what more could you ask?
And In The End:
At £25 per person per night, and considering all I've said about it, this establishment is very reasonably priced. Since we were staying for such a long time (more than 3 nights) we were offered a lower rate of £20 per person, per night - which was quite a bargain. To tell you the truth, we were a bit wary when we were quoted this amount, since at that price, we could easily have ended up in a dump. But as you can see, this was far from that - in fact you could say it was a little bit of heaven on earth. Bottom line: The Bracarina House is absolutely and unequivocally recommended with the highest marks available! (Say, can I ask DooYoo to let me give it 10 stars instead of just 5?)
Thanks for reading!
Davida Chazan © October 2004, updated October 2007
(Yes, this is a long review, but when I get enthusiastic, I can't stop myself!)
Bracarina House is located in Invermoriston, Inverness-Shire, IV63 7YA, Telephone: 01320 351279 http://www.maclellans.net/ email: firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a non-smoking establishment but you can bring dogs if you arrange for it in advance. This is also one of the establishments that caters to the service of pick-up of luggage for hikers, which also includes the possibility of getting a box lunch for the way at a charge of only £4 per person. For very tired visitors, you can use their sauna for only £5 per person - but the foot baths are included in the room rates.