It is easy to see why the Scottish highlands are one of the most romantic destinations in the UK. The picturesque scenery and beautiful wildlife creates a fantastic environment for a weekend getaway.

Scottish Sunset
What’s on offer at the Hotel
It isn’t just fishermen that flock to the Altnaharra Hotel.  Our remote and rugged location draws couples who are looking for a quiet place to rest and relax in each other’s company – whatever the time of year! We have a number of cosy lounges with roaring log fires, a bar, an a la carter dining room and even a library for you and your other half to make the most of.

Romantic Altnaharra

For those couples not looking to get too adventurous but still craving the great outdoors (and with the likes of Ben Hope and Loch Naver on our doorstep who wouldn’t?) there is a whole host of activities to take part in, including Falconry, horse riding, walking and even star gazing!

Click here for more details on activities and days out available in the local area.

If you fancy something a little more private then why not consider one of our self-catering cottages. Located within the grounds of the hotel, the cottages were originally 19th century barns that have been into extremely cosy and well equipped holiday lodges. The kitchens contain everything you need to cook up a leisurely breakfast in bed or to open a bottle of wine in the evening. All guests staying in our cottages have access to the hotel bar and restaurant if required.

A Great Gift

Things to Do for Couples in Scotland

If you are stuck for a gift for your partners Birthday, Anniversary or other special occasion, then why not consider one of our sporting holidays? Whether they love fishing, deer stalking, clay pigeon shooting or walking, the Altnaharra Hotel can put together a bespoke weekend package (or longer) for you both to enjoy.
Click here to find out more about our fishing and shooting holidays.

Altnaharra is a pretty special place, and you may have spotted our little village in the news recently when the Altnaharra weather station recorded the highest wind temperatures in the UK during the storm in early December, with winds whipping up to 90mph!

Our isolated, northern location means that the weather in Altnaharra is often extraordinary, and more often than not the most extraordinary in the country! The lowest temperature ever recorded in the UK was recorded here in Altnaharra, a freezing -27.2°C on 30 December 1995. Our most recent extreme temperature was recorded in January 2010, where temperatures plunged to an icy -22.3°C.

These cold temperatures may bring a nip in the air, but they also give you some of the most spectacular wintry views in Scotland. The highlands look even more beautiful when frosted with snow, the lochs more captivating when turned to ice.

Here are some of our favourite pictures of the Highlands in the snow:

Highlands in the Snow
Snowy Highlands
Snowy Highlands
Winters have been getting colder over the past few years, and in 2010 the extreme cold and snow left many villagers homebound for ten days!

It’s not all chills though; Altnaharra has also been the warmest place in the UK! On March 20th 2009, the weather station recorded a balmy temperature of 18.5°C, making Altnaharra a hot spot for the very first time!

We wouldn’t be grabbing our Speedos and sunglasses any time soon, but due to the geology of the village’s location, we do have unusually warm summers for Northern Scotland.In May 2012 the BBC reported “Altnaharra Warmest Place in UK as Temperatures Soar Across Scotland“.
Live information from the weather station

If you’re a keen birdwatcher, fisherman or just a wildlife nut, Altnaharra is the ideal location for satisfying your interests. With a vast array of animal species inhabiting its stunning landscape, there is always something to look for or observe.

The best of the birds The Dipper

The Forsinard Flows are a vast area of peat land and bogs, that are now regarded as being rare across the remainder of Scotland. As a registered Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) reserve, the birds that inhabit this area are in a safe, protected environment that is regularly maintained by a team of staff and volunteers. As such, this is a desirable area for the birds to live and breed in comparison to surrounding areas.

The ‘Flows are filled with numerous bird species, but one of its star species is the Dipper. This bird is a short-tailed and plump species, that flies low and bears a white throat and breast against a dark plumage. It also delves into and under water in search of its food, which consists mainly of freshwater shrimps and insect larvae.

Also popular in the area is the Dunlin, the most common small wader on the coast. Yet, despite being the most common on the coast, it is a globally threatened species that has suffered more than a 50 % decline in the UK over the last 25 years. Meanwhile, The Golden Plover was in a similarly sorry state in the past, but has seen a recovering population double in size over the past 25 years. Consequently, it is a popular bird on the Altnaharra peat lands, with a distinctive black and gold plumage that turns white in the winter months.

A final prominent species in the area worth noting is the under-threat, bird of prey – the Hen Harrier. With its main food intake consisting of small birds and mammals this stunning pale grey bird has been the centre of conflict, thanks to its effect on the numbers of grouse available to shoot in the UK and Scotland.

Beneath the waters

Scotland’s waterways are famed for their population of migratory Salmon and Sea trout, but the waters around Altnaharra also contain vast populations of Brown Trout.  In fact they are present in all of the numerous rivers and lochs surrounding Altnaharra including lochs Naver, Hope, Meadie, Loyal and Staing where the Altnaharra Hotel has some of its nine permanent fishing boats.
OtterAnimals elsewhere
Seals and Otters are two other prominent species close to Altnaharra, and make their main habitat close to Smoo Cave, Durness. Common and grey seals are the featured breeds in the area, and make for joy-filled observation as they roll around on the coastline. Despite their vast size, these wonderful creatures can often be spotted swimming quickly and gracefully in the sea next to their smaller, Otter friends. Although Otters are shy creatures, those out walking at dawn and dusk are likely to see these graceful animals as they leave V-shaped wakes in the water.

This is only a handful of wildlife that can be spotted around Altnaharra, but the area also boasts the likes of Puffins, Bottle-nosed Dolphins and Gannets in its fauna portfolio. All in all, Altnaharra is a free zoo, guaranteed to satisfy any animal lover. 

Tucked away deep in the highlands by the brooding and atmospheric Loch Naver is Altnaharra – a stunning getaway where you can be sure of peace and tranquillity. It is a haven for those who  yearn for quiet, and attracts many tourists and anglers who come looking for serenity. However if you fancied branching out for a day or two why not let Altnaharra be your base and take a tour of the Highland’s greatest whisky distilleries.

Old Pulteney

old pultneney

Over on the rugged far eastern side of the mainland on the North Sea coast lies the beautiful town of Wick, and it is here you will find the world famous Old Pulteney distillery. Steeped in maritime tradition, this is really worth visiting if you fancy tasting some salty sea air and learning about a world class dram (recently given 97/100 by whisky guru, Jim Murray). The distillery was founded in 1826 during a fishing boom and before any roads or transportation links had been created. The history of this distillery, and town, is fascinating – but I won’t spoil it for you; check it out for yourself! 



Originally built in 1819 (at a then massive cost of £750) Clynelish is the closest whisky distillery to Altnaharra and is located in the coastal holiday town of Brora. Visit the distillery, enjoy breath-taking views of the North Sea and try one of Clynelish’s lovely smoky malts. You can get a guided tour, a glass of Clynelish 14 and £3 off the price of a bottle of your choice all for a very tempting £6.


Located on the shores of the Firth of Cromarty, Dalmore have been producing their exceptional, rich, amber malts since 1839 and are instantly recognisable for their iconic ‘stag’s head’ emblem – an innovation of the distilleries original owners, the Clan Mackenzie. Glowing copper stills will greet you on the tour, and you can expect to be wowed by the skill and expertise used to create this fine whisky. Bookings can be made online and Dalmore advise to book in advance to avoid disappointment.

Scotland is singularly unique for its production of whisky; there is literally nowhere else in the world where you fill find such a concentrated network of distilleries. Steeped in tradition and rich in history, come and see for yourself why they call it the ‘water of life’.

If you’re new to fishing in the Highlands you might be wondering what a Ghillie is.  Well, the word ‘Ghillie’ is Gaelic for man-servant, and this is essentially what the role entails.  The Ghillie is your personal assistant while you are fishing!  The fishing Ghillie has centuries of history behind him and has helped form Scotland as one of the world’s greatest game fishing destinations.

An experienced Ghillie will have expert knowledge of fishing on the local lochs and rivers, knowing how their seasonal rises and falls can change their characteristics and the locations where the fish will lurk.  He will be able to advise you on casting techniques and general salmon fishing skills, such as which fly is most suited for fishing that day.  And if you’re out on a boat on the loch he will steer you to the best spots on the beat, which will allow you to focus on your fishing and improve your chance of landing a really good catch.  Similarly, if you’re wading he will have knowledge of the river or loch bottom so that you can fish as safely as possible.

While it’s the Ghillie’s job to be on hand to help you catch the Atlantic Salmon and Sea Trout that migrate up the Scottish rivers every year and to lure the resident Brown Trout, it’s also his job to look after the fish in his locality. He will know the rules of the lochs and rivers he regularly visits, including the catch and return regulations, which vary from area to area – for example he’ll be able to identify if you have caught a hen salmon as these must be returned to the water to spawn if caught later in the season.

Rules and regulations aside the Ghillie will also have an endless supply of fishing stories and local knowledge.

If you’re thinking of coming up to the Altnaharra for a fishing break, have a chat with us if you think you might need a Ghillie and we can book one on your behalf.

Fishing on Loch Naver

I’m a 17 year old girl and have been visiting Altnaharra Hotel with my family every year since it reopened. We go at Easter which I really love because it’s actually quite warm but you don’t get the midges! On my first visit in 2010 I wasn’t expecting much but I really was pleasantly surprised!

It’s usually quite an active holiday for us; we often go on walks in some amazingly beautiful places, which isn’t hard in an area like the Highlands. The chef at the hotel packs a lunch for us so we can make a day of it. We also cycle using the hotel’s mountain bikes, although there are a lot of hills so you need some energy!

I also tried fishing for the first time in Altnaharra when my dad took my sister and me out on Loch Naver in a boat. Our hopes were high to catch a huge salmon but when my line tugged I was so excited it didn’t matter what it was. As it turned out my sister and I caught 12 brown trout that day, the larger of which we took back to the hotel and the chef cooked it for our dinner. It was the best brown trout we’ve ever eaten!

The best thing I’ve ever done on my holidays in Scotland is horse-riding on the beach which the hotel arranged for us. We drove up to Bettyhill where there are stables and anyone can have a go. I have hardly ridden in my life but I was pretty eager to jump on. My horse was well suited because she was quite old so she wasn’t going too fast and it really was great fun. There were much sportier horses for regular riders, and maybe I can try one of those next year.

And even when the weather’s not so good there are still things for us to do. At the hotel there is a games room in the log cabin where we play table tennis, table football and snooker which is great because we have tournaments and we’re all pretty competitive so the rematches can go on for hours…

Obviously, being in the Highlands, you feel very secluded but I only realised the extent of that on a crystal clear night when I looked up at the stars. It was absolutely incredible, the entire sky was completely showered in them which was the most amazing sight and really let you know just how far away you are from cities further south, it’s a great feeling! I saw the Milkyway for the first time but not the Northern lights – although I gather they can be seen by those lucky enough to get their timing right, which one day I hope will be me!

So, from a less-than-convinced teenage girl three years ago on my very first visit, I’m now a regular. Our trips to The Altnaharra are part of our annual calendar and the whole family really look forward to them… including me!

Dapping fly - 'Furnace'

Dapping fly – ‘Furnace’

For those of you that may never have tried this fly fishing technique, I thought we might best start with the formal Dictionary Definition:In angling, letting the bait or lure bob lightly and repetitively down onto the water surface in the manner of certain behaviour patterns of gracile flying insects such as craneflies, mayflies, caddisflies and others.

Whilst this is an accurate description, it does very little to convey the sheer fun that can be had using this little used technique.

As John Humphrys (of Today Programme and Mastermind fame) wrote in an article for Trout and Salmon following a stay at The Altnaharra:
“The origins of dapping are interesting. In the old days, the boatman or gillie dapped with a hookless fly to tease the fish up. When he caused one to rise, the guests in the boat would cover it with conventional flies.

Later, it was the province of ladies who could not cast a fly all day. To sit at ease in the boat wafting your dapping rod was a lovely way to spend the day. At last the men, being slow on the uptake, gradually realised that the women were catching more fish than they were so they, too, took up the gentle art and abandoned their fly rods.

Dapping allows you to fish a fly as you have always wished you could fish your top dropper and I soon got the hang of it, taking pride in making the big fly sweep back and  forth, trickling it with the wind, furrowing the water, pausing, lifting lightly off and dancing down again.”

So, what are the basics?
Starting at the business end with the fly, here we’re talking big and bushy – some say the bigger the better – and ideally something that imitates a daddy-long-legs.  Onwards to the leader, this rises vertically from the fly, so the breaking strain of the two or three feet of monofilament needed is not really an issue as the fish shouldn’t see it – I usually use about 8lb line.  Above this is about 6-10 feet of dapping floss, which is needed to catch the wind to take the fly away from the boat and to hold the leader vertically from the water.

From there on its simple – 10lb monofilament leading to any type of reel (fixed spool or centre pin) and a telescopic dapping rod of between 14-18 feet.

For sure you need a breeze – but then there aren’t many still days in The Highlands.  Anybody will get the hang of it in 10 minutes which from then on, in some, will lead to a lifetime addiction and days and weeks of fun.  You will see every nibble, swirl, tail-flap, lunge or leap-right-out-of-the-water that the fish make at your fly – albeit if you can catch one in every two or three of the numerous takes you will generally get, you will have had a good day.

Most of the more addicted guests tend to bring their own equipment but for beginners, don’t worry, you can hire everything you need from The Altnaharra and an expert local ghillie can be arranged to steer the boat and lead you to the fish.

I caught my first ever salmon dapping on Loch Hope and on the same holiday my then 10 year old brother caught a seven and a half pound sea trout – upon landing which he exclaimed ‘WICKED!’ – apparently the highest level of proclamation a 10 year old can ever bestow!

Try it – I will challenge you not to get as hooked as the sea trout, brownies or salmon you will inevitably catch!

Duncan Mason
Owner, Altnaharra Hotel

Loch Hope

Photo taken by one of our guests on his ascent of Ben Hope looking down on Loch Hope

If you’re looking for a challenge in 2013 or you’re already a Munro bagger then look no further than The Altnaharra as your base for climbing the two most northerly Munros.

You’ve probably heard about The Munros.  They’re the mountains dotted around Scotland which are over 3,000 feet in height.  There are 283 of them in all and they’re so named in honour of Sir Hugh Munro who first catalogued them.

Here at the Altnaharra Hotel we’re lucky enough to be practically a stones-throw from Scotland’s two most northerly Munros.  We have a view of the stunning Ben Klibreck (3,156ft: 961m) from many of our windows and Ben Hope (3041ft: 927m) is just a short, and very picturesque drive away.  So if you’re a serial Munro bagger, or a newcomer looking to set yourself a 2012 challenge The Altnaharra is an ideal choice for your luxury base-camp.

Every year, quite a few of our guests climb one or both of our local mountains.  Ben Hope is an isolated monolith with a relatively easy ascent to the south.  More challenging approaches can also be taken, however whichever route is taken, the view of the lochans and moors is fantastic on a clear day.   The slightly higher Ben Klibreck has numerous ascent options, from Crask to the south, Altnaharra to the north or by the easiest and most popular route from the A836 to the west.   In good weather, it is possible to climb both mountains in the same day and we can supply our guests with a packed lunch.  However if you’re taking a more leisurely approach, just do the one and join us for a great pub lunch in our Ghillies Bar!

Check out more details about Munro climbing on or  Both sites have good tips, advice and reviews of ascents of both Ben Klibreck and Ben Hope.  The munromagic site is particularly useful for its location maps, safety tips and weather reports.  Clearly it’s recommended to take particular note of the weather before attempting to climb a Munro as walking is done at entirely your own risk.

The Scottish Highlands is one of the most well known landscapes in the world. With its rich and colourful past, the mere mention of the Highlands evokes images of large men in kilts charging into historic battle (albeit led by an Australian with blue face paint!). They are one of the most vast and distinctive rural area in Britain and yet incredibly the proportion of us Brits that have actually experienced the Highlands first hand is minimal! It’s amazing really – we travel all over the globe in search of new and edifying sights, and yet we seem to have forgotten that one of the worlds’ best is right on our very doorstep!
Altnaharra is situated in the North of the Highlands; it epitomises the very best of Scottish country life and the hamlet boasts truly remarkable views of both Loch Naver and Ben Klibreck. It first opened its doors in 1820 – just a few months after the birth of Queen Victoria – and ever since that time the area has become a popular destination for both fishing/shooting enthusiasts and mountaineers, as well as those just looking to get away from stress and torment of city life.

Of course, as wonderful as the natural beauty of Altnaharra may be, there can be no overestating the comfort offered by an open fire and fresh dinner at the end of a long day outdoors, and that’s where the Altnaharra Hotel really comes into its own. Combining the traditional style and decor of the original building with all the mod cons that you might expect in a brand new hotel, the 14 luxury en-suite bedrooms are guaranteed to provide the perfect base while you enjoy the Highlands at their most authentic.

For more information about the Altnaharra Hotel or to discuss your perfect break in the wilderness, email us today at or call 01549 411222.