If you're looking for a short break, why not head to Scotland and have a Highland fling? Get into the heart of this landscape with whisky, waders and a fishing rod
Scotland often seems to get a bad press - too cold, too wet, too far away. Yes, it rains and yes, you might have to travel a bit of distance, but once you're there this is one hell of a landscape. Trying to savour all its best bits in one trip isn’t easy. But package whisky tasting and waders with overnight accommodation in your very own castle and you might just be getting somewhere. It’s at the end of a line, learning fly-fishing, that might just pull things together.
Crossing the border from England is as dramatic as in any far-flung country. Things become distinctively different. Lakes slowly become lochs, mountains Munros and this blissfully bold landscape seems to stretch higher and further, with a larger-than-life quality. Out of snowstorms can come sunshine, whilst rain clouds can break into the most glorious light-throwing skies.
On the outskirts of Fort William, nestled beneath a backdrop of heather-strewn mountains and hidden from view by a cloak of woodland, you will find the resplendent Inverlochy Castle
, a tucked-away Highland haunt of both royals and rock stars (Elton John, Queen Elizabeth and the King of Jordan have all stayed here). When Queen Victoria visited in 1873, she wrote in her diary, 'I never saw a lovelier spot.' And she didn’t even go fishing.
A turreted entrance leads to chandelier ceilings, hunting trophies and a malt whisky collection that will satisfy any connoisseur. With the Ben Nevis Distillery just down the road, offering tours and tastings, you are more than suitably positioned to get better acquainted with the wet stuff or usquebaugh, which in Gaelic means ‘the water of life.’
And when it comes to wet stuff there’s also another kind to consider. This stuff may well require waders. There are plenty of places to fish in Scotland, where mountains, moors, lochs and rivers provide a backdrop of splendid outdoor isolation.
From Inverlochy Castle Hotel a ghillie can take you to the beautiful Glen Garry and beyond, finding hidden mountain lochains and silent fishing pools where it's simply you and the comforting flick and zip of the line. As you settle down with rod in hand, frustrations seem to drift away as gently as the circling waters of the pools below.
If you are a newcomer to fly-fishing, just a few hours learning the basics with your ghillie may leave you with a lifetime’s obsession. Tempting the fish with a perfectly presented fly becomes much more than simply sport. This is art.
So as you stand on the riverside, this is when you will see the magical side of Scotland. As the day’s end gently sweeps the hillside you may just glimpse this country’s softer side. This is when the river, teeming with salmon, can turn into a meandering trail of gold, as if the water has become whisky. In certain tranquil moments this bold, uncompromising landscape of moody lochs, exposed moors and craggy mountains changes before your very eyes.
This is when you may just find yourself hooked on the Highlands.
Train: Travel from London by Scotrail sleeper
Flight: easyJet fly to Glasgow or Edinburgh
Hire car: available through easyJet