Our country houses – Alltshellach

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For mountain views, olde-worlde charm, and somewhere comfortable to sleep, our stately Scottish house in North Ballachulish has an enviable setting right on the shores of Loch Leven. The walking opportunities here are as every bit rugged and romantic as you’d expect, especially around Glen Coe, the Mamores, Kinlochleven, Bidean nam Bian, and Ben Nevis – the 1,345-metre-high peak towering above glistening lochans and glacial valleys in the northwest highlands. Here’s what makes staying at Alltshellach so special.

The early years

Designed in the early 1870s by Inverness architect Alexander Ross, Alltschellach (meaning ‘stream by the willows’) was built for Lady Alice Ewing – fourth daughter of the 19th Earl of Morton and the second wife and widow of Alexander Ewing, a former Bishop of Argyll & the Isles. Their daughter, Margaret, married Liberal MP Alexander Crum while their granddaughter, also Margaret, married William Thomson (later known as Lord Kelvin) who was one of the most important physicists of the 19th century for determining the absolute zero on any temperature scale.  

The house remained in the family thereafter, with notable architectural additions including a private chapel, coach houses, stables, and five cottages built from Kentallen granite to house the groomsman and servants. It has been part of our HF Holidays line-up since 1929 (we purchased the property in 1953) and was used as a military hospital during WWII. 

In November 1880, a life-sized carved wooden figure of a female with quartz pebbles for eyes was found in the grounds of Alltshellach when workmen were removing peat to prepare foundations for a wall. Known as the Ballachulish Goddess, the carving is on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and believed to date back to 600 BC.

Superb facilities

Open from March to November and during the festive season, there’s 38 well-appointed guest rooms in three categories (Classic, Premium, and Superior). Room 23 on the second floor is known as the Bishop’s Room for its small prayer area, but this was most likely to have been the children’s bedroom as the bishop would have slept in one of the larger rooms on the first floor.  

You’ll find three comfortable lounges (the area with the small stained glass window at the end of the entrance hall was probably the private chapel), a dining room for a wide range of dishes made with fresh and seasonal ingredients, and a licensed bar with a superb Scottish whisky selection. 

Elsewhere, there’s a handy boot and drying room, books and games to borrow during your stay, and beautiful lawns and wooded grounds leading down to Loch Leven. There’s also a wide range of easy-to-follow routes, maps and local information available in our Discovery Point for self-guided walks in the local area. 

Linger for longer

Whether you’re enjoying one of our guided or self-guided walking holidays, there’s plenty to see and do within easy travelling distance of Alltshellach. Here’s some of our favourites:

Ballachulish: Split into three (North Ballachulish, South Ballachulish, and Ballachulish Village), the village was once famous for its slate. Nowadays, one of the best-known attractions is the 9-hole Woodlands Golf Course, formally known as The Dragon’s Tooth. 

Jacobite Steam Train: Making its way through beauty spots such as Loch Eil, Glenfinnan and Arisaig as it travels to the fishing port of Mallaig, riding this Hogwarts Express-style steam train is a must for Harry Potter fans. Trains run daily and early booking is recommended. 

Fort William: Nicknamed the Outdoor Capital of the UK, this West Highland town on the banks of Loch Linnhe is a 25-minute drive away. The town centre has a high street with an excellent selection of shops selling outdoor clothing and walking equipment. 

Oban: The unofficial capital of the West Highlands of Scotland and the Gateway to the Hebridean Isles, this harbour town is a great place to try freshly caught Scottish seafood. It’s just a 45-minute drive away and the climb to McCaig's Tower rewards with spectacular views across Oban Bay to the Atlantic Ocean. 

Isle of Mull: Reached by car ferry from Oban or Lochaline, this Inner Hebridean island is home to Tobermory - the colourful town featured in children's TV series, Balamory. Don’t miss Duart Castle, the ancestral home of Clan Maclean – one of the Scottish Highland’s oldest families. 

Isle of Lismore: After hiring bikes at Port Appin, a 30-minute drive away, it’s just a short ferry crossing to this quiet and rural island. Must-dos include making the most of the walking and cycling opportunities, spotting all manner of wildlife, and visiting the Lismore Gaelic Heritage Centre. 

Eilean Donan Castle: Claiming to be the most-photographed Scottish castle, this ancient stronghold is worth the 80-mile drive. It opened to the public in 1955 and has since become one of the country’s best-loved attractions. Most interesting is the banqueting hall, kitchen, and main keep.


4 Night Scottish Highlands Guided Walking

Departures: Apr-Oct 2024, 4 nights

Price from: £649pp

Book now or call 020 3974 8865

Ben Nevis Challenge

Departures: 1 Jun 2024, 24 Aug 2024, 3 nights

Price from: £515pp

Book now or call 020 3974 8865

7 Night Scottish Highlands Self-Guided Walking

Departures: Feb-Oct 2024, 7 nights

Price from: £899pp

Book now or call 020 3974 8865

7 Night Scottish Highlands Discovery Tour

Departing: 22 Jun 2024, 7 nights

Price from: £1,429pp

Book now or call 020 3974 8865

Published 29th November 2023