Comfort, elegance and delicious locally sourced food. Mackays Hotel offers all of this in a characterful nineteenth century building in the centre of Wick.
If you stay at Mackays, and even if you don't, make sure to have a meal at the restaurant. Tasting something from the region that you are visiting should be high on your priorities. Number One Bistro at Mackays Hotel excels on this front. The food is delicious, beautifully presented and authentic to Caithness.
My starter of local crab rillette with capers and pickled cucumber salad was creamy, lemony and succulent. It left me wanting more.
The main course of pan fried Scrabster hake with pea puree, capers and brown shrimp butter was sensational. Scrabster is the most northerly port on the Scottish mainland and about 22 miles from Wick. It was a meaty piece of fish with crispy skin that sat on a bed of mash that was creamy smooth perfection. I loved the shrimp with their satisfying chewiness.
The dessert was Halkirk marmalade pudding (hot) with vanilla custard and minted orange segments. Halkirk is a village about 16 miles from Wick. The orange segments had mint leaves torn over them. Such a simple idea but a brilliant flavour combination, it worked so well.
Dine on the shortest street in the world
The meal comes with some nice extra touches. There was brown bread flavoured with onion and white bread flavoured with rosemary. A complimentary whisky liquor from Old Pulteney, Wick's distillery and the most northerly on the mainland, was presented at the end of the meal.
My table was located on the shortest street in the world. This is Wick's most famous quirky claim to fame. The entrance to the restaurant and a couple of the tables are located on Ebenezer Place, officially the shortest street in the world, at 2.06m.
The restaurant is kitted out with marble tables, polite waist-coated servers and a sophisticated, but laid back atmosphere. I liked the old photos on the wall of Wick street scenes. Next to my table the photo portrayed a woman with a massive, ballooning skirt that stretched almost to the ground. There was a man in a flat cap, suit and waistcoat. Behind him is what looks like a whisky barrel dumped at the side of the road. Perhaps this is how whisky was delivered to public houses or had it fallen, unnoticed, from a cart?
Location, location, location
The hotel is in an excellent location next to the River Wick and less than 5 minutes walk from the train station and the town centre.
I love the building. The unique shape reminds me of the iconic Flatiron building in New York. It is this shape that has resulted in the narrowest part of the building being located on the shortest street in the world.
Inside the building, the corridors leading to the rooms have quirky angles that replicate the shape of the building. Plenty of interesting 19th century architectural features remain, including arched recesses.
Special mention has to go to the window shutters. My room still had its wooden shutters, although they were painted over, but I could see that all the mechanism was still there. Perhaps it is just me, but I love traditional wooden shutters. They are really effective at keeping out light and noise and retaining heat in a room, but they went out of fashion and many were ripped out of Victorian-era properties. I think it would be really special if the shutters could be returned to operation at Mackays as I have yet to come across a hotel that still has them.
My room was very comfortable and stylishly decorated with tweed soft furnishings. I found it quiet at night and had a perfect sleep. A nice touch is a copy of a guide book to the North Highlands by Charles Tait. It is great bedtime reading and full of information about what there is to see and do in this part of Scotland.
If you are heading to Wick and Caithness then Mackays Hotel is a comfortable base with really superb food. You can book the hotel using this box which links to HotelsCombined, a site that searches across hotel booking sites to find the best deal: