Kinloch Lodge, the Isle of Skye, Scotland
For the lover of fine food, old world style, stunning natural beauty, and soul-pampering service, Kinloch Lodge, situated in "the Garden of Skye " on the Sleat Peninsula , offers something quite unique. It belongs on any true gourmet's list of must-see destinations. Easy to reach and hard to leave, Kinloch would be the crowning experience of any culinary tour of the British Isles .
Kinloch Lodge consists of two 19th century houses on a perfectly manicured lawn that runs down to the head of Loch na Dal (Kinloch derives from the Gaelic for "head of the loch") on the south coast of the Isle of Skye . It is the home and establishment of Godfrey and Claire Macdonald, respectively Lord and Lady Macdonald of Macdonald, the hereditary chief and lady of Clan Donald and thus the successors of the historic Lords of the Isles. In the 21st century, Godfrey presides over the premier hostelry on Skye, itself one of the most compellingly beautiful places on planet Earth. Claire is a chef and teacher of growing reputation, with over a dozen best selling books to her credit. Accommodating up to about 30 guests, the Lodge is accessed by driving over the Skye Bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin or by taking the 25 minute ferry ride from Mallaig to Armadale and driving up the peninsula. Rooms vary in size and view, but are luxurious and equipped with every modern convenience.
The highlight of a visit to Kinloch is a series of morning "cookery demonstrations" by Claire Macdonald, ably assisted by Araminta Dallmyer. In a specially built demonstration kitchen, complete with overhead TV monitoring of the cooking area, and with great and entertaining flair, she introduces her guests to her special cooking style, to some innovative basic techniques, and to her passion for the best ingredients, especially from Skye and the surrounding highlands and islands. The most experienced cook will get some new ideas and will come away treasuring autographed copies of her recipe books.
You can stay at Kinloch Lodge for a night or, presumably, a lifetime, but the standard program is three or four nights with a pair of cookery demonstrations occupying two of the mornings and ample free time to explore Skye, from the Sleat peninsula and Armadale Castle on the south coast to the storied Cuillen Hills, to the sculptured coastlines, glens and vistas of the island, to Dunvegan Castle in the north. Don't miss the tour of Talisker Distillery and a taste of the superb island single malt. The day begins with a comprehensive English breakfast in the elegant dining room, which can include locally smoked kippers, venison sausage, freshly baked scones, and just about anything else you can imagine. While you eat, your room is made up by the hyperefficient house staff. Either touring or cooking (or vegging out with a book, if that's your need on a particular day) consume the morning, and certainly the afternoon should be devoted to exploring the treasures of Skye. A wonderful packed lunch will be provided on request, or a "soup and pudding" meal in the dining room ("pudding" takes in a rather broad class of dishes and means much more than "dessert").
The evening begins as the guests assemble for cocktails in a pair of elegant drawing rooms. Gentlemen will be most comfortable in a coat and tie, but it's not required. When dinner is called, the practical application of Claire Macdonald's theories to the feeding of a roomful of discriminating diners becomes manifest. Each guest will have reviewed the menu and submitted food and wine selections earlier in the day. The main event consists of four courses: a choice of appetizers, a soup, a choice of entrees, and a choice of desserts. Cheese is available on a sideboard. Representative starters include a mousse of Skye haddock, lime and parsley or of locally caught crab; a terrine of cucumber, lemon and chives with a walnut, celery and black olive salad or of hot and cold smoked salmon; and a roulade of mushrooms with white truffle oil filled with cheese and sun dried tomatoes. Soups are very creative, using a range of vegetables and fruits and with strong, distinctive seasoning. Entrees may be honey glazed pork loin with apple and mustard relish and vermouth gravy; salmon fillets on a bed of sautéed cucumber with ginger and peppercorn sauce; roast duck with plum chutney; Aberdeen beef ribs with Yorkshire pudding; or fillets of halibut or sea bass on carefully matched beds of fresh and roasted vegetables. Generous vegetable side dishes are chosen to complement the evening's entrees. The chocolate desserts at Kinloch, especially "chocolate decadence," are justly famous, but other sorts of tarts, meringues and pastries are offered. (Take the chocolate.) After dinner, the guests repair to the drawing rooms for coffee, digestifs and fudge.
In short, a visit to Kinloch Lodge combines intimacy and elegance in accommodations with world-class cuisine and lessons in how to prepare it, all in a setting of unparalleled natural beauty and of history that goes back to the birth of Britain. This must be one of the finest and most unusual culinary destinations available.
-- Contributing Author: Dr. John (Michael) Borky