Boutique Style at Mackay’s Rooms

by Keith Savage · 2 comments

One of the glorious breakfasts at Mackay's Rooms in Durness, Sutherland, Scotland

Before I explored the North Coast 500 I performed quite a bit of research to pick the best stopping points along that mammoth and beautiful drive through Scotland’s northern highlands. There are vast stretches with no obvious place to bed down when your aim is to find a base for a few nights. Sure, you can book any B&B you stumble across, but I prefer not to switch accommodations every night. That’s simply not the best way to see Scotland, or, for that matter, most places.

The North Coast 500 takes you into the remotest parts of the Scottish mainland, places where the main road is a single track and oncoming traffic is sheep more often than not. This region has been historically under-touristed, a situation the North Coast 500 aims to rectify. I imagine that in 10 years’ time there will be loads more accommodation options, for better or for worse, along this route, but those options aren’t here yet as we’re only a few years into the initiative. That said, there are some real gems like The Brochs of Coigach and The Torridon Hotel, and I’m happy to say the subject of today’s post: Mackay’s Rooms.

Mackay is a common name in this corner of Sutherland, and the company behind Mackay’s Rooms also maintains a cabin, cottage, and super-high-end Croft 103 in the beautiful northwestern highlands. I booked a couple of rooms for my parents, Sarah, and me at Mackay’s Room because of its location in the center of Durness, right where the North Coast 500 bends south or east depending on which way you’ve tackled the route. Durness itself is tiny, little more than a T-junction with a couple of pubs and shops and proximity to pretty Balnakeil Bay and Smoo Cave.

The exterior of Mackay’s Rooms is an unassuming brick building with a somewhat dated front entry, but that entry is divided into a common area and breakfast room that glitters in the morning sunlight. The building’s interior reflects a thorough remodeling with some of the nicest furnishings and fixtures you’ll find anywhere in Scotland.

Our bedroom was compact with sturdy, attractive wooden furniture, a plush bed, and green accent wall. The tasteful, minimalist interior design coupled with perfect cleanliness hit my sweet spot for accommodations, and our western facing windows brought in tons of June sunlight.

The adjoining bathroom, nearly as big as the bedroom, was replete with gleaming tiles, sparkling chrome fixtures, loads more light, and a venerable Sir Thomas Crapper valveless waste preventer toilet. It’s OK to laugh, but this is really the origin of the word ‘crapper.’ I’m not a big fan of glass bathroom doors, but this one did help spread the light to brighten both parts of the suite.

One of my favorite things about Mackay’s Rooms is the mixture of old and new styling. The common areas are full of tartan couches, comfy lounging chairs, and a fireplace — just what you’d expect in a highland lodge — but then you catch glimpses of modern artwork like the child falling into dreamland in the hallway leading up to the bedrooms. There’s a youthful vibe and air of freshness rather than the staid, faded elegance of many other accommodations. While Mackay’s Rooms doesn’t serve dinner, they do serve drinks in the common areas. They also serve a mean breakfast. Just look below.

With several mornings at Mackay’s Rooms we had the opportunity to try just about everything on their shifting menu. Every dish was a delight, from the glorious full Scottish breakfast to the salmon and eggs to the smoked haddock with hollandaise sauce. Compotes, homemade granola, homemade jam, yogurt, and bowls of fruit completed the spread. The food was hot, cooked perfectly, and artistically arranged on the shining white plates — a true feast for the senses!

Mackay’s Rooms in Durness makes a good stopping point on any tour of the North Coast 500. From here you can range out in many directions to Loch Eriboll and Ben Hope, Dun Dornaigil Broch, Cape Wrath, Sandwood Bay, and even Handa Island. You’re sure to have a wonderful stay.

Joanie MurrayNo Gravatar January 16, 2018 at 1:01 PM

Hi Keith,

These meals look delicious! I really enjoyed the smoked salmon and eggs our hosts made for us on our first morning in Edinburgh. Unforgettable. Almost the first question I get from folks about our trip is about the food. I have to say, we never had a bad meal. The food in Scotland is among the best we have tasted.



Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 16, 2018 at 1:43 PM

Have to agree with you, Joanie. The food in Scotland is generally excellent with incredibly fresh seafood, beef, and produce everywhere you go, great local butcher shops, and numerous little bakeries.


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