The four-star country house hotel sits on a hill overlooking the Cromarty Firth and Invergordon where cruise ships now dock, before spilling out hundreds of eager tourists. The main door opens to reveal an opulent sitting room with an open fire and a view out to manicured gardens. There are separate dining areas – one for breakfast and another grander space for lunch and dinner with bay windows and the obligatory stag’s head over the fireplace. A separate bar lies off the main sitting room. The castle was home to generations of the Clan MacKenzie and is now owned by Ray Grant, a former oil and gas worker from Nairn, and his wife Amy, from Singapore, who has a background in hospitality.


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The hotel has rooms to suit different budgets, with the Deluxe Castle Room featuring a turret and fireplace. The bathroom has a huge corner bath and a separate walk-in shower. Guests are given a "taste of Scotland" basket which includes Irn-Bru, a macaroon and a Tunnock’s Teacake.


Head chef Stuart Thomson joined the business two years ago after stints at Malmaison Aberdeen and Harvey Nichols. He has already secured one AA Rosette at Kincraig and is on course for a second having created a sublime and ever-changing tasting menu. Dishes include smoked Highland estate venison, roast Scottish halibut, smoked haddock risotto, Gressingham duck and chilled new season pea veloute. Desserts such as bitter chocolate fondant and baked yogurt are also divine. The menu also features a generous cheeseboard and the dining experience ends with hand-rolled chocolates and coffee. Kincraig’s kitchen also offers a terrific afternoon tea with warm scones served straight from the oven.


A creative cocktail list complements the extensive drinks menu. Teetotallers will enjoy impressive mocktails in tall glasses adorned with generous helping of fresh fruit.


The Grants take time to get to know their customers, creating a homely atmosphere akin to visiting relatives. Their staff follow that lead and are polite, warm and friendly without being overbearing.


The hotel is half an hour north of Inverness. Cromarty and Dornoch are nearby, as are a range of distilleries and some of the best golf courses in the northern hemisphere. A range of woodland walks and beaches are a short drive away. The hotel sits just off the A9, very near the beginning (or the end, depending on which direction you take) of the North Coast 500 – Scotland's answer to Route 66.