As a frequent visitor to the Scottish Highlands, in particular the West Coast, we regularly fly to Inverness before driving over to Shieldaig & Torridon, without spending any time exploring the East Coast. With its legendary beaches, castles, golf courses and distilleries the area has a lot to offer, so on this occasion, we decided to spend a ‘taster’ evening in Nairn before picking up our usual route over to Shieldaig. Close enough to Inverness to feel we weren’t straying too far away from our intended destination and only 10 minutes drive from the airport, Sandown House, a 5-star luxury guest house, was the perfect choice.
Originally a dairy farm built around 1907, Sandown House has been sympathetically updated and includes two additional buildings that house six extremely spacious guest rooms, some with stunning views and balconies. The owners, Liz and Andy Burgess, have previously run small hotels and have brought their considerable flair and tourism experience to their award-winning bed & breakfast guest house.
Situated down a country lane just outside Nairn, less than 10 minutes walk to the town’s stunning beach and only a stone’s throw from the prestigious Nairn Golf Club, the peaceful rural location is perfect for a relaxing stay – and for somewhere so close to the airport no aircraft noise detected. Warmly welcomed by Liz, a long-time resident and font of all local knowledge par excellence, she unhurriedly spent time providing information on where to eat and what to do in the short time we had available. There was a choice of several recommended restaurants and, having made a decision we wanted to eat local fish, Liz took the trouble to ring ahead and book a table at the Sun Dancer restaurant on our behalf.
On the afternoon we arrived in mid-May we were blessed with blue skies and sunshine so we were very keen to head out and take advantage of the brilliant weather. After perusing all the information provided by Liz in our extremely comfortable room – larger than most suites in posh hotels – and a reviving cup of tea and home-made shortbread, we set off. With map in hand and following Liz’s instructions we walked towards the golf club and along the beach path to Nairn harbour and the restaurant. Against a backdrop of huge skies over the Black Isle and the distant mountains of Easter Ross on the northern side of the Murray Forth – home to a resident school of dolphins – we ambled along the path soaking up the delicious early summer evening and near deserted beach. After a relaxing 40-minute stroll we had worked up quite an appetite.
The Sun Dancer restaurant has a reputation in the area for good food and service. With an a la carte restaurant on the first floor and a cafe on the ground floor it is an enviable position on the edge of the beach and adjacent to the small fishing harbour.
With a window table we could hardly take our eyes off the ever-changing sky as we were entertained to one of the best free things in life – a breathtaking sunset over sea and mountains – while we ate. We dined on scallops, halibut and the best panna cotta dessert I have ever tasted. Gourmet heaven, all washed down with some good quality wine. Needless to say we needed the 40-minute stroll back to Sandown House to walk off the excess calories. But what a walk. Against a pink and blue dusky sky we just managed to walk along the beach before darkness descended.
After a great night’s sleep in a very comfortable bed we headed over to the dining room for breakfast. One of the best things about staying in a small family and well-run guest house is the care that is taken over breakfast. At Sandown House they make sure you really do breakfast like a King. With home-made offerings such as soda bread, nutty granola, oatmeal porridge served with Speyside malt whisky and a wide range of cooked breakfasts, it was truly exceptional. As Liz explained, many of her guests are out all day on one of the renowned golf courses in the area so she wants to ensure they get a good start to their day. No surprise to learn that Sandown House has a very loyal following of repeat guests.
Nairn has been a popular seaside town since Victorian times and has some wonderful large houses of that period along the coastline path. The pristine white sands of west and central Nairn are very impressive and with the backdrop of the Black Isle and the lush surrounding countryside it is well worth a visit. Our overnight taster and foray into the area was very enjoyable so we will definitely return for a longer stay in the near future.
Sandown House and Nairn – highly recommended.