"Charming, unique and delightful- this sums it up". I wrote this in my journal after staying at the Knockomie Inn in Forres. It has the classic ingredients of a Scottish country house hotel. There's antlers, wood paneling and a bar stocked with over 80 single malts. It's also got a relaxed and homely atmosphere.
Knockomie is around a mile south of Forres town centre. It is set in 4 acres of gardens.
The architecture of the building is Arts and Crafts. It was built in 1812 as a villa for visiting judges. It was later owned by the Fraser family who made their money from tea plantations in India.
There are 15 rooms, all with their own style. Mine had a neutral and calming decor. There are original features like the fireplace with an old servant bell and the large sash and case window.
My favourite thing in the room was the writing desk. I sat here in the evening and kept my travel journal up to date.
The only sound that could be heard inside the room was birdsong from the garden, a delight to wake up to in the morning.
The small restaurant is cosy, the staff welcoming and the atmosphere informal. I felt like I was a guest in the home of a good friend, rather than some anonymous hotel.
The starter of smoked salmon roulade with capers tasted sharp and fresh. For the main course I could not resist trying a fish n' chips with haddock in whisky batter. Although I couldn't detect much in the way of whisky flavour this was still a very good piece of fish and fluffy chips.
The dessert was the highlight. A chocolate ganache that was rich and seriously chocolaty.
Knockamie is in the Speyside whisky region. Benromach distillery is just 2 miles from the hotel, so I tried the 10 year old single malt. It has a golden colour and a wonderful flavour combination of fruit, malt and a hint of smoke.
The lounge with the real fire is the choice spot to relax with your drink.
The owners of Knockomie, Penny and Gavin, have gone to great efforts to make this place feel relaxed and informal. Although there is an air of luxury and grandness in the architecture and decor, you never feel that its stuffy.
Gavin told me that they get a lot of cyclists staying here. This put me at ease as I always feel a bit self-conscious turning up at places like this. Especially after hours on the road and looking a bit dirty and disheveled.
I had poached haddock, served with a few grinds of salt. The fish was delicious and really didn't need anything else to go with it.
Then a warm croissant and coffee. In these surroundings it is impossible to rush breakfast. Enjoy the architecture, the large windows where the morning sun floods in and the birdsong from the garden.
Forres is famous for its floral displays and gardens.
It's around 30 minutes by train from Inverness to Forres. I cycled here on National Cycle Route One.