The Highlands are truly magical and never more so at dusk and at first light. Shifting the paddles as far up the 8-gears as possible, I’m thankful for the responsive yet not harsh braking power – especially useful in light rain. The stats say that braking distance is 62 to 0mph in 36.5 metres which is about right. We didn’t want to risk whiplash with an emergency stop but touched the brakes hard after the stag made its appearance.
We also see the largest pig I have ever come across. “It’s a wild boar!” yells my co-pilot with excitement. Expecting to be gored any second we stop the car to investigate. The beastie is actually a massive snorting pig who is clearly upset at our presence. What a beauty. Up above us through the sunroof we spy eagles, while ahead of us on the roadside, groups of pheasants out on their evening constitutional.
The GPS and 8.8-inch infotainment screen are easy to read, while the sound – especially the base – from the 14-speaker Harmon Kardon (900 watts in one subwoofer for the techies) means that you can be cocooned in music and immersed in the driving experience.
We are serenaded by an extraordinary pink sunset as we speed along the single track back to the hotel. And so to the wonderful Monachyle Mhor hotel. Sixteen beautifully styled bedrooms, including a two-room suite and even a showman’s wagon and converted ferry terminal – all perfectly located on the hillside overlooking Loch Voil with Christmas tree-filled mossy green hills behind it.
The laird here is the irrepressible Tom Lewis. A true force of nature, Tom expertly guides us through a whisky and oyster pairing in the snug smoke room in the hotel grounds. We taste oysters and three aged whiskies (the 18-year-old Glengoyne my favourite) which is rocket fuel and stings my lips already wind burnt from the elements. The fire is hot and so is my throat as the amber nectar warms every cell on its way to my stomach. Which by this time is groaning for supper. Warm in the cosy dining room we tuck into a feast: Partridge, Scallop or Crowdie (Scottish cheese) starters, followed by a white bean and onion soup, lamb, monkfish or veggie fennel dish with pine nut crust, before segueing into an intriguing garlic ice cream with pear frangipani.
My delicious wine – a Sicilian Il Barroccio – is the perfect accompaniment. An extended nightcap – all you need is whisky and Champagne – under orders from Dr Lewis – and it’s bed for me. Upon perfect pillows, divine mattress and a moonlit view of the mountains and the loch. I am about as far away from London in body and soul as possible. Heaven.