The last gift in our Beneath the Tree prize draw is a week long stay at The Dunvegan, on the gloriously remote Isle of Skye. In the aftermath of Christmas, this welcoming hideaway is the perfect new year escape. Here we talk to the husband and wife team behind The Dunvegan, Tim and Blair Hunter-Davies.
Can you tell us about the history of The Dunvegan?
The Dunvegan has a long history dating back to the 1850s. During this time it has been owned and run by a number of families, and has been known as the Dunvegan Inn, Dunvegan Hotel and now The Dunvegan.
From research and a little insider knowledge, it would appear that the 25th Clan Chief, Norman MacLeod commissioned the building around 1858, from plans worked on by esteemed Inverness architect Alexander Ross.
On the 12th July 2019 we took over ownership and care for the property, and having completed 18 days of renovations with help from our newly formed team, we opened on the 1st August.
What's your inspiration for The Dunvegan?
Family is at the heart of The Dunvegan - there is a real family atmosphere within the team here already, and our original, driving inspiration was to create a relaxing, enjoyable and peaceful venue in our community that would cater for all ages: mums, dads, teenagers and small children, for both local families and visitors alike.
Being part of and playing a role in our community is also a key inspiration for us. Practically this is delivered by being open for food and drink all year round, which in turn provides much needed out of season jobs and security so people can plan their lives. We're already a venue for local organisations such as the Alzheimer's group and the monthly Dunvegan Ladies gathering.
Also, as we live in such a beautiful place, we are reminded daily to put in the hard work to look after our environment and create sustainablebusiness practices that aim to look after our planet. We're not saying we're perfect it's an ongoing commitment from us and a lot of hard work from our team, and with the help of our in-house environmental coordinator, we aim to minimise waste, encourage re-use and recycling, reduce our carbon footprint and remove the unnecessary use of plastics.
How would you describe your food offering?
Our food offering & setting is informal - home comforts and family favourites are set on the same menu as more sophisticated dishes, providing something for all the family in one sitting.
We share many of the same quality, local & regional suppliers as the well known fine dining restaurants on Skye, but with the freedom to do something more informal, such as Orbost beef shin pasties or Highland venison koftas.
We have sourdough bread from our in-house baker and locally made cakes and sweet treats. Across the menus we have vegetarian and vegan options, satisfying our environmental aspirations and growing demand for healthy, plant-based food alike.
We're committed to working closely with local, ethically responsible producers to source quality ingredients for our menus. For example, we source meat from Orbost Farm (just down the road), seafood literally on our doorstep from local fishermen and suppliers in Portree, charcuterie & cheese from Scottish producers such as East Coast Cured, Great Glen and Isle of Mull Cheese, along with homemade pickles, delicacies and fresh herbs from our own garden.
What's it like living in such a wild location?
The Dunvegan sits on the banks of Loch Dunvegan, on the northwest coast of the Isle of Skye, with spectacular views towards the Macleod's Tables.
Every day can be different, often with multiple seasons or weather systems in a single day - and so not without its challenges! It's great to be a safe haven for those wet windy days, when cups of tea or hot chocolate and cake are a must, or on dark evenings when you can sit by our real open fire with a good book and a wee dram.
Regardless of the weather, you really appreciate the clean air and freedom of space, and the changing colours of the hillsides are a real delight through the seasons.
With our location and delivery schedules, we have to plan more in advance and make sure our larder is fully stocked for all occasions, which fits well with our environmental commitments and reducing food miles.
What is your perfect week on the island?
Every week on Skye has its landscape and weather nuances. Our personal favourites would be weeks in May and October.
Late Spring - May
May usually rewards you with sunny days, a little breeze and an opportunity to explore those places that are busier during the summer.Take a boat trip through Elgol to see the Cuillins or from Portree to the Isles of Rona or Raasay with a superb seafood lunch. Closer to home, a walk up the Macleod's Tables gives spectacular views across the north-west of Skye.
Autumn - October
Experience stunning autumnal colours across the landscape, some gloriously sunny days combined with the turn of the weather as the season changes to winter. Time to watch auroras and slow the pace of life down. On cooler days you can keep warm by the fire and watch as the sun sets across Loch Dunvegan.
To win a stay at The Dunvegan, enter the Beneath The Tree prize draw before the 12th December.
Images by Anne-Sophie Rosenvinge.