The Altnaharra Hotel is a remarkable place, about as close as you are likely to find to the epitome of Scottish country comfort. With 14 guest bedrooms, plenty of attractive and comfortable space in which to enjoy a drink from the guest bar or simply pass the time, plus a restaurant and a public bar, it has everything you could want or need from a welcoming and well-run home away from home. We stayed for two nights at the end of September 2020 and fully intend to return to repeat what was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Intending visitors should note that the hotel is open from March to October each year. You can read our dining review for the Altnaharra Hotel here.
The tiny scattered settlement of Altnaharra is probably about as far from anywhere else as you can find in mainland Scotland. It stands approximately half way between Lairg in the heart of Sutherland and Tongue on the north coast, and on the main road between them. Just to the north of Altnaharra is a crossroads from which a B-road heads north-east then north alongside Loch Naver and through Strathnaver to Bettyhill on the coast, while a very minor road curves north-west then north past Dun Dornaigil Broch and the foot of Ben Hope to reach the north coast near Loch Eriboll. All the roads in the area are single track.
The Altnaharra Hotel opened in the early 1800s (sources disagree about the actual year) and owes its origins to an earlier drovers' inn on the site. The hotel has long been popular with anglers and those visiting northern Sutherland to climb its distinctive mountains. New management has successfully broadened its appeal. It remains popular with those in the area for the fishing and climbing: but the hotel, being just 16 miles from the north coast, is increasingly also seen as a haven for those exploring the North Coast 500 long distance scenic route. The hotel also stands on the usually preferred route for those making the journey - by whatever means - from Land's End to John o' Groats.
The hotel presents an attractive face as you turn off the main road. The entrance is in a rounded "turret" tucked around the right-hand side. Inside the ambience is very much that of a Scottish sporting lodge, albeit an extremely welcoming one. There's a small lounge off to one side of the entrance hall, towards the rear, but the main public rooms are towards the front of the building. The first of these is a lovely lounge which takes as its focal point a large open fire. To one side of it is the hotel reception and guest bar (with another open fire), which serves as a third lounge area under an attractive roof light.
Along the front of the hotel is the restaurant, which in terms of decor and furnishings is more modern in feel but equally comfortable. On the left-hand side of the hotel as you look at it from the road is the Ghillies Bar, the public bar, which is also accessible from within the hotel.
There are 14 en suite guest rooms at the Altnaharra Hotel. You can see photographs of a range of them on the hotel's website (linked from this page). There are four single rooms on offer. This is something you find less often in hotels these days but they are ideal for those fishing (or touring) on their own, or on an expedition from Land's End to John o' Groats. Then there are four double rooms and four twins. We had one of the latter. It wasn't large, but had more than enough room to be comfortable; was extremely clean; and had two very comfortable beds. Plus the usual fittings you'd expect in a good hotel, from TV and hairdryer to the ability to make tea and coffee. The last two rooms are deluxe doubles, which are larger.
Self catering accommodation is also often available in a cottage behind the hotel. The hotel building is old, which tends to have consequences for accessibility. One guest bedroom is on the ground floor, however, and there are plans to improve its accessibility.
We had driven past the Altnaharra Hotel in the past but never called in before our stay. What we found was somewhere that easily lived up to our hopes for it. Looking at the hotel, and knowing a little about its history and sporting heritage, we'd expected somewhere that had a "Scottish country" feel. The hotel certainly delivers on that. What was particularly nice was to find somewhere that was so welcoming, so well-run, so clean and, to use a word we've already used numerous times in this review, so comfortable. You can read our dining review for the Altnaharra Hotel here.