Conde Nast Traveler is the luxury travel magazine. It’s the one you look at and imagine using as inspiration the day you win the lottery. So if its well-heeled readers list a location as worthy of a wander, take note. This year, readers voted the islands of the Outer Hebrides among the best in Europe (up there in the top three, to be precise).
I’ve already hyped the Outer Hebrides a little on here, but I recently discovered a new dimension to this rocky drop on the edge of the Atlantic. These islands are already famed for their pure white strips of sandy coastland, miles of moorland and unique heritage – but now they’re making a name for themselves in the luxury travel market.
One reason is the five star Whitefalls Spa Lodges, set in splendid isolation above the village of Breasclete on the Isle of Lewis. Alongside the likes of Blue Reef Cottages, Whitefalls are introducing the islands to a younger, more adventurous type of traveller.
The experience on offer here is truly unique. Whitefalls has been welcoming honeymooners and high-flying professionals in need of a break for three years now, and has been nominated for a number of national tourism awards. It’s not hard to see why, as the Lodges offer the ultimate experience in luxury, relaxation and seclusion.
Obscured from view from the village, the pair of cedar lodges looks out across Loch Roag to the Uig hills, which when I visit are lit in spectacular shades by the late afternoon sunset. Inside, the floor-to-ceiling windows of the living area frame the same view, providing a picturesque alternative if you don’t fancy the 42” flat-screen, Sky Plus HD TV.
The lodges are advertised as secluded, and they mean it; I would have been lost without direction intervention from the owners. Unfortunately unable to indulge in the complimentary chilled prosecco due to driving duties, I was met on arrival with the offer of a reflexology foot massage in the lodge’s therapy and fitness room, courtesy of Head To Toe Therapy.
By applying pressure to my feet, the therapist could detect issues in the rest of the body, like my sore shoulder or the fact I had recently had a cold. Reflexology felt like fortune telling for the feet, and with the massage that followed the treatment, I was sold on it: a suitably soothing start to an exquisite evening.
The spa bathroom is Whitefall’s speciality, although ‘bathroom’ is an inadequate description for this dedicated relaxation room. Under-floor heating kept the stone floor warm underneath my feet as I made the most of the amenities, and the LED candles placed strategically around the room provided a relaxing, romantic feel – I can see why the honeymooners hide out in here!
First was the infra-red sauna, where I laid back, warmed up, and listened to some chilled out tunes courtesy of the sauna’s integrated sound system. The huge, wet room-style rainfall shower followed for a cool down, before I relaxed in the Kohler Riverbath. Raised above the rest of the room with a view out across the lochs and moorland, the two-person spa bath has several settings (including whirlpool and waterfall) that create massaging sensations, with changing chromatherapy lights that accentuate the experience. To add to the ambience, a touch-sensitive tile on the side of the bath switched off the main lights, leaving me to luxuriate by chromatherapy and candlelight.
It was wonderful. I could have easily soaked in the spa bath all night, but decided to see what else Whitefalls had to offer. Fluffy white bath sheets, an Egyptian cotton bathrobe and slippers accompanied me into the sumptuous boudoir-like bedroom. It is stylishly decorated in autumnal colours with artful purple accents: a painting here, a pillow there, a vase of flowers in front of the full-length mirror.
There is another enormous flat screen TV on the wall opposite the super king-size (and super soft) bed. I tested it out (for research purposes, of course) and was lucky I didn’t fall asleep right there after my relaxing Riverbath. If I had, the special ‘bon soir’ electric blackout blinds would certainly have ensured a restful night’s sleep. During the day the seating area by the large corner window gives an uninterrupted view of the nearby waterfall and expanse of moorland that reaches to the horizon. Next door, a separate space encompasses the en-suite and dressing room.
Equally impressive was the open-plan living area. Spacious like the rest of the lodge, it boasts oak floors in the seating area and granite tile in the self-catering kitchen. Colours are carefully chosen, with turquoise, greys and greens adding an attractive finish to the modern decor. Feeling rejuvenated and relaxed, I lounged on one of the large leather couches for my last lap of luxury, making use of that 42” flat screen.
The evening was one of pure, unadulterated indulgence. It’s understandable that some of the couples who arrive at Whitefalls Spa Lodges forget about the outside world and stay cocooned inside in luxury: once I was in there, I didn’t want to leave!
From locals to Londoners, people are waking up to the luxury accommodation available on the islands. It proves that you don’t have to go far to find your own suitcase story, or luxury location – it could be right there on your doorstep. Go discover it!
All images courtesy of Lewis-based director and photographer David Nicolson. For more of his work, check out his photography blog here.
Part of this post was originally published in the December 2012 edition of EVENTS magazine