We first visited 2 Quail in 2011 and since then readers have regularly told us that they would go well out of their way for the experience.
Dornoch, on the north-east coast of Scotland about 50 miles north of Inverness, is not exactly a mainstream destination, but a useful stopping place on the route to the far north-east, Aberdeen and the Orkney Islands. It is also an interesting place in its own right, with one of the top ten golf courses in the world, a cathedral dating from the 13thC and a castle. If you don’t play golf you can still observe the skill that goes into landscaping a great golf course by walking the edge of it, next to the sea. It’s a ‘links’ course, meaning it’s on the transitional land that links the shore and the hinterland – a fascinating environment of dunes, poor soil and special plant life.
The house is a handsome flat-front in a sandstone terrace near the centre of town, and as you step inside you soon absorb the well-ordered but relaxed atmosphere. It’s furnished almost entirely with mid Victorian to Edwardian family pieces: not everyone’s choice, but in keeping with the building itself and full of character. Antiques of different styles and periods almost always work together, and here is no exception – in fact we think it’s refreshingly different these days to go the whole hog with period pieces. The three bedrooms are in the same style as downstairs – ours had a fine wrought-iron bedstead and comfortable mattress.
It’s run by Michael and Kerensa Carr, natural hosts for whom nothing is too much trouble. The only change in this place marked out by its consistent quality is that Michael, after a spell as chef at the golf club, is now back to cooking for guests in the small dining room on the ground floor. (Before he cooked at the golf club, he and Kerensa ran 2 Quail as a restaurant with rooms.) Guests start with drinks in the cosy library-sitting room – where they can enjoy a log fire in the cool months. His food is unfussy, thoughtful and reliable, using local produce and home grown herbs when able – a similar style to that shown in Claire MacDonald’s in Highland Hospitality. They charge a reasonable £27 for three courses.