Links House

Dornoch, Scotland, United Kingdom
Book from GBP Book from £305 per night

Links House

Dornoch, Scotland, United Kingdom

A handsome, honey-hued Georgian manse turned sumptuous boutique hotel set beside the famous golf course in postcard-pretty Dornoch

A handsome, honey-hued Georgian manse turned sumptuous boutique hotel set beside the famous golf course in postcard-pretty Dornoch

Todd Warnock had just played a round of golf at the Royal Dornoch when he spied a For Sale sign among a tangle of vegetation. He knocked on the door and so began the next chapter of this 19th-century sandstone manse's colourful history. What Dornoch needed, he surmised, was a hotel to match the calibre of its course. A few wrangles with Historic Scotland later, and his vision came true. The picturesque coastal town, once a royal burgh, and a handy pitstop on the NC500 roadtrip, now has a luxurious small hotel with outdoor activities on the menu, a gourmet restaurant – celebrating Scotland's legendary larder and seasoned with home-grown garden herbs – and its own bespoke tweed.

The original Georgian house, its façade pristinely repointed, is now flanked by two new builds, The Mews and Glenshiel, which mirror its golden grandeur; across all three are 15 well-appointed rooms and suites. The whole place has the solid stateliness of a high-end American resort, but on a small scale and with character. Antique furniture was sourced from across Scotland, old books on country pursuits were carefully curated and stored in a pine-panelled library, and the artworks on the walls were hand-picked, with antique fishing rods displayed up the staircase. The famous Royal Dornoch golf course is right outside; a stunning beach is nearby. And outdoor pursuits of many forms offer the chance to immerse yourself in this ruggedly wild and beautiful corner of north-east Scotland.

Highs

  • One of Scotland's most spectacular sweeps of wild, dune-backed sand is a short stroll away
  • Borrow putters and balls from reception for the mini putting green between the manse and Mews, or swing around Royal Dornoch golf course
  • The quality of the food in MARA is exceptional. And if you're hiking or biking, the chef will pack a picnic or packed lunch for you – salmon sarnies anyone?
  • Decadent touches are everywhere including complimentary cocktails of hand-mixed mini bottles of Negroni in your supremely comfortable room
  • Don't miss the indulgent afternoon tea with champagne and oven-warm scones, gooey jam and clotted cream

Lows

  • The background music at dinner is a little dated
  • If you like a lingering soak, rooms in the manse have no baths, just showers
  • You have to pad in your robe to the butler's pantry for your early morning caffeine fix if staying in the main house
  • Some might find this a slightly idealised Scottish hotel

Best time to go

Dornoch is on Scotland's north-east coast and has a sunny micro-climate with less rain and midges than the west of the country during the summer. However, the high season is when you're likely to get stuck in NC500 road-trip traffic. Head here in late spring and early autumn to avoid the crowds. Links House is closed Sundays-Wednesdays in the winter months (November-March), and completely in January. Note that Links House is available for exclusive use over Christmas.

Our top tips

Mooch around Dornoch's medieval cathedral; the first service was held in 1239. Madonna and Guy Ritchie christened their son Rocco here before their wedding at nearby Skibo Castle, once owned by Scottish-born American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The stained glass windows on the north side were donated in memory of Carnegie and represent music, peace and literacy.

Great for...

Beach
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Romantic
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 15 rooms
  • Restaurant and bar open daily
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: Sun-Wed Nov-Mar; January
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • Beach Nearby
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Car recommended
  • Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • WiFi
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

There are 15 rooms, suites and apartments split between the three stately sandstone buildings, all named after famous Highland salmon rivers. It's like bedding down in a private art gallery; all the oil paintings have been cherry-picked, the artworks reflecting the location on the door. The five rooms in the original golden Georgian Manse (Beauly, Brora, Helmsdale, Oykel, Shin) have full-length drapes framing elegant sash windows and are opulently decked out with antiques.

In The Mews there are three junior suites (Carron, Cassley, Conon) with frankly gargantuan bathrooms; we stayed in dog-friendly Laxford, the ground floor Mews apartment handily opening onto the gardens. In the other new build, Glenshiel, designed to resemble a Victorian manor, there are five grand suites (Evelix, Fleet, Halladale, Naver, Thurso) and a pine-panelled penthouse apartment (Mallart) with full kitchen, gracious living room and a balcony looking seawards to the Dornoch Firth. Glenshiel also has an honesty bar plus an elegant drawing room for all to share.

The rooms are all beautifully designed down to the bespoke walk-in closets, the Links House logo on the drawers. The beds are Hypnos, the bathrooms marble with twin vanities (in most) and ample showers. Each room's furnishings, from armchairs to headboards and throws, are created around a hand-chosen Highland tweed.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Hairdryer
  • WiFi

Eating

The evening sun floods into the restaurant, MARA, through picture windows as golfers carrying their clubs wander past. The textured gold wallpaper and teal-green ceiling conjure up the sand and the sea, while the gabled cupola, antler chandelier and grand sandstone fireplace create a glamorous backdrop for head chef Kevin Barber's exquisitely pared-back seasonally changing menu.

There's a choice of three beautifully presented starters, mains and desserts, and an optional oyster course interspersed with amuse-bouche and palette-cleansing sorbets. The freshly baked sourdough comes with honey butter sprinkled with pollen and salt and a dish of pumpkin seed oil. Starters include 'Crab Custard', a feather-light mousse topped with apple, fennel and tempura samphire, while a vegetarian main, 'Turnip' is earthily refined, discs of kohlrabi cradling a fermented turnip 'soup' sprinkled with almonds. For dessert? Rhubarb with black cardamom and custard, a tartly creamy concoction.

Breakfast features fluffy American-style pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, along with eggs Benedict with Ayrshire bacon, and eggs Royale with smoked Loch Duart salmon.

Features include:

  • Kids' meals
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian options
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Within putting distance of the Royal Dornoch, for golfers this is a Holy Grail destination
  • But if you're more interested in rugged moorland than manicured greens, there are wild, windswept beaches to comb, hills to climb, mountain biking trails to pedal, and Munros to bag (mountains over 3,000ft)
  • The hotel provides route maps and suggestions for local hikes and bike rides, which take around 3-5 hours, such as the Golspie to Brora back route around Ben Horn, 23km/14 miles as well as full-day hikes
  • Grab your binoculars and scour Loch Fleet Nature Reserve for otters, seals and Scottish crossbills
  • Salmon and trout fishing and deer stalking are also easily arranged
  • For spa services head 5 minutes down the road to the Aspen treatment rooms which offer a range of holistic wellness and aesthetic treatments; in-room treatments can be arranged in most rooms on request
  • Clay pigeon shooting is popular
  • Enjoy distillery tours (the nearest are Clynelish, Balblair, Dalmore, Glenmorangie and the recently re-opened Brora)
  • The hotel arranges half- and full-day guided highlights tours including castles and gardens, such as fairytale Dunrobin Castle with its daily falconry displays, and the Castle of Mey, the late Queen Mother's favourite holiday home on the Caithness coast

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Archery
  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Clay pigeon shooting
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Whisky Tasting
  • Wildlife

Kids

Children are welcome and will love the range of activities on offer at the hotel (although there's no pool) and nearby. Baby cots are available on request, and extra beds can be placed in some rooms for a charge.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

All rooms can fit a baby cot (subject to availability). The Mews Junior Suites can fit two extra beds, so are your best bets for a family of four; the Mews Apartment (Laxford), and Glenshiel Master Suites and Apartment can have a single extra bed plus a baby cot added.

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Children's meals:

While there's no specific kids menu, the kitchen are very happy to cook whatever is required for kids - just ask in advance.

Kids Activities nearby:

  • The beach
  • Castles to explore
  • Wildlife to spot

  • Distances:

    • Airport: 1 hour
    • Shops: 2 minutes
    Kid Friendly:

    Location

    Links House is in picturesque Dornoch, once a royal burgh, a tiny town in Sutherland on the north-east coast of Scotland, famous for its golf course and beach. It's a short detour off the A9.

    By Air:
    Inverness airport is just over an hour's drive south.

    By Car:
    A handy pitstop on the famed NC500 road trip, it's an hour's drive north of Inverness.

    By Train:
    The nearest railway station is Tain, 15 minutes away by taxi, connecting to Inverness via Scotrail. Inverness is served by a nightly (excluding Saturday) sleeper service from London Euston.

    By Bus:
    A bus service between Inverness and Thurso on the north coast stops at Dornoch. It's around two and a half hours to Thurso.

    Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.

    Airports:

    • Inverness Airport 80.0 km INV
    • Edinburgh Airport 313.0 km EDI

    Other:

    • Beach 0.6 km
    • Shops 0.5 km
    • Restaurant 0.4 km

    Rates for Links House

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