One minute you’re at Inverlochy Castle, guzzling fizz beneath crystal chandeliers and eating dishes devised by Michel Roux Jr on furniture gifted by the former king of Norway. The next, you’re e-biking into a soggy smirr, trying to work out where Ben Nevis has gone. Yes, this was a trip of contrasts, but – surprisingly – no compromises.
Five-star travel can come with a high price tag, for both you and the environment, so for some time I’d wondered whether I could have a luxurious holiday without totally blowing my carbon budget. Scotland seemed an obvious choice if I was going to put my plan into action: in 2021, VisitScotland became the world’s first national tourist board to sign up to the Tourism Declares climate initiative, and the country is gunning for net-zero by 2045.
Furthermore, my tailor-made, carefully thought-out small-group trip, organised by Wilderness Scotland, would combine castle stays and gourmet dinners as well as activities designed to connect with nature; it would also have an accurate carbon score, worked out via the company’s robust labelling scheme, with the impact offset via carbon mitigation projects.
My mission began aboard the Caledonian Sleeper. I didn’t sleep much, but didn’t care, happily cocooned in my cabin, snug and eco-smug as half of Britain slipped by outside. We rolled into Perth and, soon after, into Murrayshall Hotel. This baronial stone pile, dating to 1664, emerged beyond towering trees and golf tees in the mist-hung November dawn.