16 of the best luxury hotels in Scotland - Times Travel (2023)

Scotland may be small but it punches well above its weight when it comes to sheer natural beauty. From the velvety green hills of the Borders to the rugged northwest coast, the mood of Scotland’s scenery alters in the ever-changing light. Mythical, magical and mesmerising, an immersion in nature here is an almost mystical experience. Beyond Edinburgh and Glasgow, to the north, lush rolling farmland gives way to a spectacular wilderness that walkers and climbers often have to themselves. Negotiated via tiny single-track roads, a trip through the Highlands and Islands is to be savoured, never rushed. A place that knows better than to rely on sunshine, Scotland is most resplendent when the trees turn coppery gold in autumn and snow dusts the mountains in winter.

For outdoors enthusiasts, it is heaven; offering skiing, climbing, hiking, surfing and diving in jaw-dropping settings. For golfers it is a chance to visit the home of the sport and play some of the world’s most revered courses. For those who prefer indoor comforts, “coorie” — Scotland’s own version of Denmark’s hygge — is exemplified in the cosy luxe aesthetic of myriad stylish retreats with views to enjoy by the fire with a single malt. When it comes to hospitality, Scotland has raised the bar in the last few years with some startlingly ambitious new offerings. Here are some of the very best.

Main photo: Coorie at Loch Venachar Lodges, the Trossachs

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1. Ardfin, Isle of Jura

Best for the wow factor
The spectacular Ardfin, sculpted into the rugged coastline at the southernmost tip of Jura, is a siren call to golf enthusiasts, interior buffs and wilderness lovers. The 12,000-acre estate has been restored and revitalised to combine five-star luxury with a Bob Harrison-designed golf course, already considered among the best in the world. The Quads offers 13 unique hotel rooms and two restaurants, while the opulent ten-bedroom Jura House is available for exclusive use. London designer Louise Jones has done a stunning job transforming the main house and creating luxurious rooms in the Quads with arresting Scottish artworks, vintage artefacts and exquisite wallpapers and textiles from local artisans.

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Price £££


16 of the best luxury hotels in Scotland - Times Travel (1)

2. Inver, Strachur

Best for food and views
With Scandinavian food meccas Noma and Faviken on her CV, chef Pamela Brunton has attracted much attention for her inventive and artful plates of exceptionally pretty food. Considered one of Scotland’s best restaurants, Inver also claims a Michelin green star for sustainability. The restaurant channels a strong Scottish-Scandi vibe: spare, simple decor; Ercol furniture; a wood-burning stove; and dramatic views across to the ruin of Castle Lachlan and a shimmering Loch Fyne. Two shepherd’s huts and four luxury bothies in the grounds feature birch-ply interiors, big glass corner windows and a decanter of sloe gin to savour with the views.

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Price ££


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3. Gleneagles, Perthshire

Best for golf, spa and Michelin cuisine
Set in lush grounds in rural Perthshire, this striking hotel has three world-class championship golf courses, Scotland’s only two-Michelin star restaurant and a brilliant spa. A recent refurbishment has seen off the overblown chintz in favour of more muted, elegant rooms and suites, giving the hotel a more assured, modern feel. Besides the all-important golf, Gleneagles offers country pursuits including deer-stalking, shooting, falconry, Land Rover off-roading and horse-riding. Food lovers should book into the exquisite fine-dining restaurant and order the home-smoked lobster in lime butter.

Spa Y
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Price £££

16 of the best luxury hotels in Scotland - Times Travel (3)

4. Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye

Best for country house style
This handsome whitewashed lodge overlooking the Sound of Sleat in southern Skye endures as one of Scotland’s loveliest country house hotels. Warm, homely and welcoming, Kinloch Lodge has luxurious but unpretentious Highland hospitality with open fires and cosy rooms in natural hues that reflect the surrounding landscape. The legacy of the food writer, chef and former patron Lady Claire Macdonald lives on in the restaurant, where local produce and vegetables from the kitchen garden take centre stage. After a day climbing the Cuillin or beachcombing along the shores of Loch Na Dal, Kinloch Lodge is a delightful place to retreat from the cold with a whisky by the fire before dinner.

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Spa Y
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Price £££

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16 of the best luxury hotels in Scotland - Times Travel (4)

5. Fife Arms, Braemar

Best for art and design
The once dowdy Fife Arms has been boldly recast as a real showstopper in this pretty village close to Balmoral. Melding its hunting-shooting-fishing heritage with a witty artistic aesthetic, this Braemar landmark goes all-out for neo-Victorian maximalism with a dash of metropolitan glamour under designer Russell Sage. There’s a Picasso in the drawing room, a Freud in the reception and a hot little cocktail bar named after the late Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli. Rooms range from rampant Victoriana to romantic crofter-style box beds. An enormous mounted stag holds dominion over the Clunie restaurant and the rather sexy whisky bar is the icing on the cake.

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16 of the best luxury hotels in Scotland - Times Travel (5)

6. The Old Manse of Blair, Blair Atholl

Best for a family get-together
This characterful ivy-clad house stands on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park, close to several ski areas. Recently revamped into a boutique rural retreat, the Old Manse has 26 tasteful rooms with super-stylish bathrooms and Farrow & Ball wallpapers — some within a walled garden. Sleek but cosy social spaces are backdropped by an eclectic art collection, and the restaurant offers contemporary Scottish dishes by a former Gleneagles chef. The perfect gift can be found at the nearby House of Bruar, purveyors of everything from local rib-eye steaks and caviar to cashmere and tweed plus fours.

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Price ££

16 of the best luxury hotels in Scotland - Times Travel (6)

7. Prestonfield House, Edinburgh

Best for a romantic weekend
Just ten minutes from Waverley Station, Prestonfield House provides the luxury and seclusion of a country estate right in the heart of the capital. Sitting in 20 lush acres beneath Arthur’s Seat, this opulent 17th-century mansion indulges a fabulously over-the-top sense of theatre and decadence, from the gothic teahouse in the garden to the restaurant and guest suites. Antique-filled rooms are draped in rich swathes of brocade, silk and velvet, with lavish four-poster beds. The gilded owner’s suite is entered by a private turret and has a bathroom with a silver chariot bath made for two.

Spa N
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Price £££

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16 of the best luxury hotels in Scotland - Times Travel (7)

8. Machrie Hotel, Islay

Best for golf and whisky lovers
This smart, modern golf resort hits all the right notes on this famous whisky island, where aficionados can take a tour of nine of Scotland’s most iconic distilleries, from Bunnahabhain to Lagavulin. Sitting above the pristine golden stretch of Laggan Bay, the Machrie has been completely renovated and expanded. It features 47 simple, beautifully designed rooms, suites and lodges, some with terraces and views across the popular golf links, rated one of Scotland’s top 20 courses byGolf Digest. The Machrie welcomes dogs for £30 for the full stay, which includes a blanket, bowl and treats — pooches will love the beach.

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16 of the best luxury hotels in Scotland - Times Travel (8)

9. The Torridon, Wester Ross

Best for mountain views
There can be few more spectacular settings for a hotel than Upper Loch Torridon, where the lofty peak of Beinn Alligin dominates the landscape. In recent years this baronial pile has shifted its image from a comfortable country house to a chic, contemporary Highland bolt hole, with a farm and kitchen garden that supply the hotel’s two restaurants with fresh produce and botanicals for the Torridon’s own gin. There’s plenty to do, from Munro-bagging and kayaking to whisky tastings, stargazing and hurtling around in a Morgan. Alternatively, just sit in the huge windows and drink in the views. If you have one, you can land your helicopter in the front garden.

Spa N
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Price £££

16 of the best luxury hotels in Scotland - Times Travel (9)

10. Grandtully Hotel by Ballintaggart, Perthshire

Best for contemporary design
Take the Caledonian sleeper to Pitlochry, just ten miles from this gorgeous rural escape in Perthshire, where swathes of mature woodland ignite a blaze of gold and copper in autumn. This stylish country bolt hole wouldn’t look out of place in Edinburgh, with eight boldly decorated rooms, two restaurants, a vibrant cocktail bar and an inviting outdoor terrace with fire. Public areas are mid-century-modern-meets-rustic in style, offering cosy spaces to sit and read or nurse a whisky or two. With a cooking school forming part of this family business, the food is a big draw here. Edradour, Scotland’s smallest distillery, is 15 minutes away.

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16 of the best luxury hotels in Scotland - Times Travel (10)

11. The Witchery by the Castle, Edinburgh

Best for magic and romance
For drama and romance in the shadow of the castle, the Witchery exceeds all expectations. Heavy on gothic styling with ornate wood panelling, reams of silk and velvet and flickering candlelight, there are nine suites, two above the dining room, and seven more across the Royal Mile. Each is decadently styled as a romantic boudoir, with draped four-poster beds, deep clawfoot baths and low lighting. Dine in the original Witchery — oak panelling hung with tapestries, red leather banquettes and big bowls of voluptuous roses — or in the Secret Garden courtyard lit entirely by candles. The Turret suite has the best views.

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16 of the best luxury hotels in Scotland - Times Travel (11)

12. The Three Chimneys and the House Over-By, Skye

Best for peace and quiet
Perched on the tiny B884 to Colbost, northwest Skye, the Three Chimneys really does feel like the inn at the edge of the world. A change of owner and a recent refurbishment has breathed new life into this charming Hebridean hotel, perfectly placed on Loch Dunvegan for long coastal walks and wildlife spotting. The talented young chef showcases local ingredients on his delightful tasting menus, including Sconser scallops, Orbost lamb and seafood from the Dunvegan pier fishermen. Five of the six elegant rooms at the House Over-By are split-level and feature enormous beds, soft throws, sheepskins and Temple Spa products.

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16 of the best luxury hotels in Scotland - Times Travel (12)

13. The Peat Inn, St Andrews

Best for foodies
Close to St Andrews on the picturesque East Neuk coast, this old coaching inn has been a Scottish gastronomic landmark for half a century. Under the guidance of chef-patron Geoffrey Smeddle, who took over in 2006, the Peat Inn has held a Michelin star for 11 years — his six-course tasting menu, featuring local seafood and farm produce, is the star of the show. Pared-back Scandinavian-style interiors are countered by flashes of bold colour and have retained the characterful beams and stone fireplaces. Seven contemporary suites, with bedrooms downstairs and a spacious mezzanine living area above, look onto a pretty garden.

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16 of the best luxury hotels in Scotland - Times Travel (13)

14. Greywalls Gullane, East Lothian

Best for gardens
This Edwin Lutyens-designed Arts and Crafts marvel exudes charm, from its honeyed stone walls to its delightful Edwardian garden and views over Muirfield golf course to the Firth of Forth. It’s set in the rugged coastal landscape of East Lothian, there are wonderful beaches and at least two castles within a few minutes’ drive. Greywalls looks and feels like a grand country house, and rooms reflect this comfortable traditional style with floral wallpapers and period furniture. There’s a Chez Roux restaurant, where breakfast aficionados can enjoy porridge “brûlée” with whisky, cream and demerara sugar. Afternoon tea in the six-acre walled garden is a treat.

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Price ££

16 of the best luxury hotels in Scotland - Times Travel (14)

15. Coorie at Loch Venachar Lodges, the Trossachs

Best for a rustic escape
Coorie (the Scottish equivalent of hygge) is a striking wood-clad lodge on the shores of Loch Venachar just north of Stirling. The box-shaped structure houses an upside-down space with panoramic windows in the living/dining/kitchen area that make the most of spectacular views of the hills of Menteith, Ben Ledi and Ben Venue. Plush interiors designed for “coorie-ing in” are centred around a log-burning stove, with two cosy bedrooms downstairs that sleep four. Dog-friendly, with parking for two cars and a sublime wood-fired hot tub out back, Coorie offers the perfect setting for an adventure-filled wilderness weekend that doesn’t stint on comfort and luxe.

Spa N
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Price ££


16 of the best luxury hotels in Scotland - Times Travel (15)

16. Forss House Hotel, Thurso, Caithness

Best for a country house break
Close to the North Coast 500 route on this wild northernmost coastline, Forss is a proper country house hotel. Big comfy Chesterfields, log fires and an abundance of antiques, wood panelling and antlers: this is traditional Scottish hospitality with a smart contemporary sensibility. Rooms are light-filled and spacious, some with huge round copper baths. Stay in the main hotel or choose from one of the three lodge houses in the grounds. Neighbouring estates provide local beef and lamb while seafood is landed nearby at Scrabster for a modern Scottish menu. Enjoy golf, fishing, coastal walks and wild swimming if you’re game. It’s a perfect bolthole for a cosy winter break — and dog-friendly too.

Spa N
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Price £

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