Since this review was written, the Loch Leven Hotel has changed ownership, with the result that what is said here may no longer be current. We hope to be able to update the review in the near future. The Loch Leven Hotel stands in the village of North Ballachulish, and its attractive white-painted exterior can be glimpsed from the Ballachulish Bridge as it crosses the narrow mouth of Loch Leven. Reaching the Loch Leven Hotel requires diversion of a couple of hundred yards from the main A82 just north of the bridge, and it is a diversion well worth making.
What you find is a real gem: a lovely little hotel offering a great welcome, 12 guest rooms, a choice of bars, a restaurant and a family room, and simply outstanding food. The Loch Leven Hotel is the sort of place you would without hesitation recommend to family and friends, and you leave feeling you've made a real find. You can read our dining review for the Loch Leven Hotel here.
Although today's traffic crosses the bridge and largely bypasses North Ballachulish, it wasn't always so. Construction of the Ballachulish Bridge was completed in 1975. Before then anyone travelling between Oban to Fort William had to make a 19 mile diversion inland via Kinlochleven, or use the Ballachulish Ferry. The ferry operated between two slipways. One can still be seen on the south shore of the loch just to the west of the bridge, while the other is on the north shore a little to the east of the bridge, immediately below the Loch Leven Hotel.
The core of the Loch Leven Hotel can be dated back to the mid 1600s and it grew to serve as a coaching inn and a terminus for the ferry. It has developed organically since and the immediate impression as you arrive today is homely and welcoming. The hotel very successfully caters for a number of different markets, and these are reflected in the way the public rooms are arranged. The front of the hotel, overlooking Loch Leven and the mountains above South Ballachulish, is occupied by the Loch View Restaurant at one end, and the Family Room at the other. In front of the Family Room is a wooden decked area with seating.
The hotel also has two bars. The lounge bar is found behind the restaurant and offers the chance of a quiet pre or post dinner drink. Meanwhile the public bar occupies the old heart of the original inn and simply oozes character. On the walls are hung the scale of charges for the Ballachulish Ferry in 1975, while a second sign gives prospective passengers information about the ferry and the area. Next to the public bar is the games room, complete with video games, a juke box and a pool table. The final public room is the Victorian Breakfast Room, which can double as a function room.
There are 12 en-suite guest rooms at the Loch Leven Hotel. They include family rooms, doubles, twins and a single room. Eleven of the rooms are in the first floor of the hotel. The twelfth is on the ground floor and has a bathroom that is suitable for guests with mobility difficulties. The hotel's website offers a virtual tour of each guest room, and all are comfortably furnished and well equipped. Rooms vary in size and outlook, and the main distinction is between those offering views over the loch at the front, and those overlooking the courtyard at the rear of the hotel.
The hotel promotes itself as a wedding venue and these can take place either in the restaurant or in the breakfast room. Each can accommodate up to 50, though 35-40 guests is the ideal size for a civil ceremony. Below the hotel, attractive gardens extend down towards the ferry slipway, and these provide an ideal backdrop for wedding photography. A range of other functions can also be accommodated.
Disabled access is good. There is a disabled parking space and the whole ground floor of the hotel is on a single level. As noted above, one of the guest rooms is on the ground floor and has a bathroom that is suitable for guests with mobility difficulties.
A lot of different elements come together to make the experience of staying at the Loch Leven Hotel such a thoroughly enjoyable one. The way the hotel actually works has been extremely well thought through, and the public areas are welcoming, comfortable and varied. The quality of the service on offer is especially good, and this covers every aspect of the operation of the hotel from the meal and bar service to the exceptional standard of the housekeeping. And as already noted the food is outstanding: you can read our dining review for the Loch Leven Hotel here.