Tobermory on the Isle of Mull is often cited as Scotland’s most picturesque seaside town. Pink, blue, yellow, and white buildings alternate along the harbor and look out over a bay filled with boats. Buildings grow above buildings in a kind of stepped terrace. On the top of the hill surrounding the harbor stand some of Tobermory’s most impressive buildings.
The Western Isles Hotel is one of these buildings, a purpose-built 26-room late Victorian hotel in red and brown stone with distinctive conical towers. I arrived to the hotel after spending the first half of my week on Mull at Druimnacroish, and it would be here that I finished it up. I was looking forward to being based in Mull’s largest town, small as it is.
Walking into the lobby, I immediately get a sense of the hotel’s age and grandeur. The lobby and lounge are wide spaces with high ceilings and vintage furniture, the walls are decorated with antlers that have seen better days and Muileach paraphernalia from over the ages, and dense carpeting runs off to a proper dining room and to a café-style sun room overlooking the bay. There is a palpable feeling of a bygone era everywhere at the Western Isles Hotel.
The hotel’s rooms are named after famous whisky distilleries. I collected the key to Glenlivet and made my way upstairs to the room. Some things have changed since 1882, like the installation of fire doors on each landing, which also do a nice job of keeping the noise of downstairs away from the rooms. The Glenlivet room is considered a Master Sea View room, and it’s an apt description. The king-size bed looks small in its massive surroundings with the same high ceilings as the lobby. A sitting area that looks perfect for tea lies on an upraised platform and looks over the harbor.
The lux bathroom is the size of a normal hotel room. Half the room is carpeted and designed as a dressing area while the other half contains a shower and a separate tub. This room strikes me as the Western Isles’s honeymoon suite, but, traveling solo as I was, I did my best not to think about it.
I spent my final night in the Macallan room on the hotel’s top floor. This room was much smaller than the Glenlivet but also more modern. From the plush bed to the furnishings, it seemed like the Macallan room had recently undergone an upgrade. Though smaller and less grand in the Victorian sense, I preferred the Macallan. It was the right size for me and it still had a good view of the harbor.
The Western Isles serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I had the opportunity to enjoy several meals during my stay. My first dinner consisted of a salmon remoulade starter followed by roast venison with kale and a potato cake. The following night I tried their mussels and moved on to the boar sausage with sweet potato fries. Both meals were good and showed skillful preparation and presentation. Breakfasts consisted of a large continental spread and choice of typical Scottish breakfast options like salmon and eggs and the full Scottish breakfast.
I spoke with Richard, one of the owners of the Western Isles Hotel, and he explained how they are in the long process of updating their rooms. I think it’s a wise move as the hotel looks worn in places. On the flip side, it is the hotel’s past on display: just make sure you know your cup of tea. The two rooms I stayed in were two very different experiences, and it makes me think your experience could be unique depending on your room. I should note that good internet is available only in the lobby. I hope they work to make it available in their rooms.
The Western Isles Hotel, with its unbeatable views over Tobermory and the harbor, was a comfortable way to close out my time on Mull.
Disclosure: The Western Isles Hotel provided me with a complimentary three-night stay and meals. Special thanks to Holiday Mull and Iona for helping arrange my visit. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
Post photo by damiandude via Flickr under Creative Commons.