We’re at the end of The Road to the Isles. Scone Spy has travelled hundreds of miles to Mallaig’s West Highland Hotel to sample its luxury afternoon tea and drink in what are arguably some of the best views on the planet.
The hotel – just steps from the station and ferry port – has been a popular haunt for travellers for more than a century, originally built in grand style as the railway hotel for UK-wide travellers holidaying in the Highlands. Nowadays the hotel welcomes visitors from around the globe, drawn in no small part by the “Harry Potter” (aka Jacobite) steam train – featured in the children’s film inspired by the JK Rowling’s The Prisoner of Azkaban.
Described as one of the greatest railway journeys in the world, the 84-mile round-trip takes in Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, its mostly westerly railway station, Arisaig, and passes close to the country’s deepest freshwater loch, Loch Morar, before finally arriving next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis. And it crosses the spectacular Glenfinnan viaduct 100ft above the ground and spanning 1,000ft, before arriving in Mallaig.
The town’s West Highland Hotel had been largely in the same family, before being taken over a decade ago by current owners Gavin and Sine Davis. They have not only upgraded the Victorian building, but have also added an expansive, chic dining terrace with a “wall” of glass offering the most spectacular panorama towards the Outer Hebrides.
We sit transfixed as the afternoon sun falls on the isles of Skye, Rum and Eigg and fishing, ferry and wildlife cruise boats ply their trade, and consider our options for afternoon tea. The Terrace offers tea for two with a selection of sandwiches, cakes, and scones with jam and cream plus shortbread for £29.50; a prosecco version for £37.50, or a “Light Tea” which includes a scone with jam and cream.
During the run-up to Christmas there is a distinct festive flavour, offering gingerbread, mince pies, turkey and cranberry sandwiches, and cranberry and orange scones.
Our shared £29.50 multi-tiered cake stand arrives laden with goodies. There is a tasty sandwich selection, lemon shortbread, cherry macarons, chocolate and orange eclairs, orange croquant, Christmas pudding truffles, and dainty individual sherry trifles – all off-the-scale delicious.
And the imaginative spiced wholemeal, orange and cranberry scones are like nothing we have tasted before. Wholesome and filling, yet light and fluffy, they are nothing short of yuletide yumminess.
We’re impressed not only with the quality and quantity on offer, but also with the staff, whose super-swift and friendly service means train travellers easily have time for a pit stop before their return journey to Fort William.
We smile to ourselves as one satisfied customer leaves with a wink and the words: “Isle be back!” We have to agree.
The Terrace, West Highland Hotel, Davies Brae,
Mallaig, PH41 4QZ
Cheerful and friendly, with a warm welcome for all, from toddlers to seniors. 9/10
Super conveniently located just minutes, by foot, from the Mallaig’s train station and ferry port. 9/10
Tasty, imaginative and delicious. 9/10