The conclusion of the dram-soaked Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival meant it was time for my dad and me to head north to Easter Ross. I specifically chose this area of Scotland because it was one I had not previously explored, though I had spent time on Black Isle during a previous trip, and I didn’t want to use Inverness as my base. Despite the fact that most travelers seem to drive through this area en route to more northerly destinations like Orkney, there’s much in this region to draw attention: Pictish stones, distilleries, castles, wilderness, and proximity to other areas of northwest Scotland. I’ll cover these in more detail in future posts; today I want to talk about Wemyss House, my headquarters in the area.
Being picky about my accommodation selections, I can hardly resist looking at Sawdays for ideas. It was in Sawdays special places to stay in Britain that I found mention of Wemyss (pronounced WEEMS) House, and upon first sight I knew my search was over. Located on the pastoral Fearn Peninsula south of Tain and overlooking the Cromarty Firth to Black Isle, Wemyss House provided my kind of rural, quietude combined with an excellent location that made travel around the northwest highlands feasible and easy. It also made the perfect waypoint before heading off to Orkney.
Our four nights began with a warm welcome from Christine, who showed us around the bright and beautifully-decorated house before serving us tea and homemade baked goods. We dropped off our luggage in a large room with a great view over the firth (despite the occasional oil rig). Much (if not all) of the gorgeous wood furniture was handcrafted by Christine’s husband, Stuart, and everything about Wemyss House highlights local arts, crafts, and food.
Our bedroom contained two single beds, comfortable chairs and benches, loads of maps and books relevant to local interests, a large closet, tea service, and an en-suite bathroom. The beds were soft and comfortable with handy reading lights built into the wall overhead. I loved the broad window overlooking field and firth. The bathroom was a cozy mix of mahogany wood, tile, and opaque glass that ticked all the boxes for privacy and functionality.
After several hours exploring the region, we returned in the early evening and chatted with Christine and Stuart in their new sunroom that Stuart had recently built. Their life stories were fascinating as they explained how they both left successful jobs in England to pursue life paths that they loved, just as I had, here, with Traveling Savage, and Christine mentioned how she respected my choice. It was a neat moment of synchronicity where we all kind of understood each other, and it led to a long night chatting in their common room over a couple drams of single malt.
Following a good night’s sleep, we ventured out to the breakfast table in the common room and enjoyed a fantastic private breakfast as we were their only guests during our time with them. Christine showed off her skills on the AGA cooker, presenting us with a hearty Scottish breakfast, homemade bread and jams, fresh fruit, and delicious porridge. The local mushrooms were particularly scrumptious.
Christine also prepares dinners, so on our last night at Wemyss House my dad and I sat down to a four-course dinner buoyed by our experiences at breakfast and tea. A delicious ciabatta bread was on the table when we arrived, and first course was an apple-butternut squash soup with a complex of subtle flavors perfectly balanced. Shortly after that came the hot-smoked cold salmon with greens and beetroot. The salmon was nicely salted and moderated by the fresh greens. I’m getting hungry just remembering this dinner!
Our main course was a stew of local venison with boiled vegetables and sweet-and-sour red cabbage that reminded me how excellent highland fare and local produce can be. Christine finished off her meal with a cranachan of Talisker-soaked oats (at least I think it was Talisker – she wouldn’t divulge the secret), cream, and fresh berries. The incredible meal ended with coffee and an enjoyable chat with Christine and Stuart sharing stories from our pasts.
I highly recommend Wemyss House. The property and rooms are spotless and very comfortable, the food is delicious, and Christine and Stuart are consummate hosts. During my stay, the wifi was a bit troublesome and spotty in certain places around the house, but Christine graciously allowed me to go in the rooms where the signal was stronger to complete my blogging duties.
I look back fondly at my stay at Wemyss House. Christine and Stuart were truly interesting and engaged hosts – we spent time together every night just chatting, and, well, maybe having a few drams, too. During the day, between visits to ancient sites and distilleries, while I wrote, Christine often played the piano like a virtuoso (she was a pianist in her former life). They’ve put together an idyllic life out in the peaceful wilds of Easter Ross, and they’ve chosen to share their good vibes with guests. Your highland home is calling.
Disclosure: Wemyss House provided me with a discounted rate for my four-night stay. All thoughts and opinions expressed here, as always, are my own.