After 50 years of visiting Skye, Terry Marsh finally gets to stay at the Uig Hotel and finds it worth the wait.
Today owned and run by Billy and Anne Harley, the Uig Hotel, formerly a coaching inn, holds an avuncular pride of place on the hillside overlooking the ferry port of Uig – gateway to the Outer Hebrides – in the north of the Isle of Skye.
Uig Bay is a broad inlet from Loch Snizort, which itself feeds into The Minch, the often-turbulent stretch of water that separates Skye from the Western Isles. The hotel is a perfect base for a relaxed exploration of this northernmost part of the Island (always with a capital ‘I’!) and lies 15 miles north-west of Portree. This is a stunning location and the locale has been used as a backdrop for many films including Stardust, Macbeth, Prometheus and Steven Spielberg’s BFG.
The hotel comprises two buildings: the original inn and an adjacent lodge. The former has 11 comfortable rooms, many with sea views, while the lodge provides a further 8 rooms. Both buildings are pet friendly.
Originally built in 1831 possibly to cater for the embryonic tourist trade that was beginning to explore the Scottish islands, it later functioned as a coaching inn and post mail hub. At that time, the hotel would have been part of the MacDonald Estate based at Armadale. The entire parish was sold to the infamous Captain William Fraser in 1855 by the Trustee of cash-strapped Lord MacDonald’s estate, and comprised of the whole parish of Kilmuir and part of the parish of Snizort.
It is not clear who the first innkeeper was, but between 1861 and 1871 the position was taken by James Urquhart, a gamekeeper on the estate, who was born in 1829, in Kilmorack, Inverness-shire, a small village on the north bank of the River Beauly, near Inverness. He and his family then ran the hotel for several decades, into the 20th century. The Lodge was added in 1970 on the site of the coaching stables.
Closed, like many hotels, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the owners re-opened in August 2020 having taken stringent steps to ensure full compliance with government guidelines. Among these, the facility to check-in (and out) online – do so and go straight to your room without encountering anyone. When it comes to food and drink, that, too, is booked and paid for online. Use a simple registration, and then order everything on your mobile at your table. Simple and efficient … and thoughtful.
The lounge bar displays a range of malt whiskies that many would drool over, especially those of Talisker, the Skye malt. Local beers are from the Isle of Skye Brewery, the most eco-friendly carbon footprint imaginable since the brewery is in the village, half a mile away, and several beers are offered as part of an Isle of Skye Beer Flight that offers 3 third-pints from the range. If gin is your tipple then you may find the Harris gin to your taste, made from hand-harvested sugar kelp which imparts a taste of the sea.
There is just one dinner menu, which you can take in the restaurant, the bar or even outside in the summer months (midges permitting!). The produce is reliably sourced and the dishes mainstream home-cooking with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets catered for. Sure, it’s pub grub but to a high standard, and the dishes show inventiveness and care, not least the Highland venison with a red wine and juniper berry jus and a couple of thoughtful dishes for vegetarians. The dessert menu is of the ilk that puts pounds on your waistline just looking at it. Venture here at your peril … in the nicest possible way. Of course, you could always opt for the cheese course, and there you’ll have nine to choose from. Some of the finest from around Scotland, as it should be.
Because it was all Covid-influenced we probably didn’t get the best of the place in the sense of appreciating its character and remarkable pedigree. You were just longing for a comfy settee in front of a log fire, chatting with new-found friends, as you sup a peaty Talisker whisky … it’s that kind of place, but it’s hard to achieve with a mask on!
It had taken me 50 years of visiting Skye to finally get to stay at the Uig Hotel, but in a short time, as they say, I’ll be back.
All images (C) Terry Marsh
Tell me more about Uig Hotel, Skye
Uig Hotel, Uig Road, Uig, Isle of Skye IV51 9YE. T: 01470 542 205
Room rates vary from around £145 to £170. The rate for the king room in the Lodge, for example, is £155 per night and for the king room in our main Hotel £170.
Dogs are charged £10 per stay per room.