**Disclosure: We were guests for two nights at Mackays Hotel. Regardless of this, please be advised that all opinions expressed in this blog post are genuine and authentically our own.**
2020. What. A. Year. Barry and I knew that it was time to do a research trip within Bonnie Scotland in order to gain a better understanding of what travel looks like nowadays in the country. It was a no brainer that we would focus on the North Coast (NC) 500 and go further north than already explored as there was no restriction on travel within this area of Scotland and there was no limit on travel distance.
Our ultimate destination was to be the Orkney Islands, an archipelago off the northeastern coast of Scotland as neither one of us had visited before. Our first leg of the trip comprised of driving up to Wick in Caithness which is 4.5 hours away (204.2 miles) from Aberdeen. After a long, fun packed day of research, we reached our destination by 7:00pm.
Mackays Hotel – A Perfect Stopover
We arrived to Mackays Hotel located smack in the center of town (address - Union Street, Wick, Caithness, Scotland, KW1 5ED.). Upon seeing the hotel’s blue outdoor lighting, turn-of-the-century architecture and flatiron shape, I could not help but think of the mysterious ‘Continental Hotel’ seen in the neo-noir action-thriller films John Wick, in which ironically the main character’s surname shares the town’s name. I liked what I saw. However, knowing that it was erected in 1883, I had a hunch that the 2-meter distancing rule would prove challenging in this lovely building.
Parking was not an issue as we found curbside parking in front of the hotel. This was in early October and the hotel’s bistro was very busy. Upon arrival, we received a warm, friendly welcome from the proprietor, Mrs. Ellie Lamont, whose family has owned Mackays Hotel for over 60 years. We were instructed on the hotel’s enhanced safety procedures which comprised of : 1) a one-way system throughout the hotel, 2) arrows and signage to help manoeuvre throughout the building, 3) enhanced sanitation procedures pertaining to payments, room cards, and hand sanitizing stations, 4) safe check-in and check-out, including staggered dining times, 5) hotel room disinfecting per Covid-19 cleaning guidelines, and 6) supporting the track and trace scheme.
As a mother of a toddler who has been extremely cautious and wary while resuming daily activities as safely as possible, I genuinely felt comfortable and safe inside the hotel’s reception area. Ythan George, our son, was elated as he was greeted by two large stuffed teddy bears while I thawed out sufficiently to allow a smile to appear as I approved what I saw in terms of efforts of helping guests and staff to maintain a safe distance.
Ellie kindly gave us a quick tour of the hotel’s one-way system and guided us over to the small elevator which would be an issue for someone solely restricted to a wheelchair. Walking through the hotel I got the feel of the past and the present merging into one – an old-fashioned hotel intertwining modern amenities. This was the case when we huddled together up to the third floor, swiped open the front door to our room and checked out the spacious room which held one queen bed, one single bed, a desk, two armchairs, and one large bathroom with a tub and a shower head with plenty of towels. Plus, it had a digital television, free Wi-Fi connection, a hair dryer, complimentary toiletries, a telephone, a large bottle of water, a few packets of cookies, and coffee and tea making facilities. Bottom line – the three of us would perfectly coexist as space and comfort would not be an issue. Phew! Later on that evening we would find out how comfortable, clean and cozy the beds were, and how quiet the room was even with our window open. We all three had a good night’s sleep and that was priceless.
No 1 Bistro – Located on the Shortest Street in the World
The smallest street in the world happens to span the width of the entrance to the hotel’s restaurant, No 1 Bistro. At just 6ft 9in, Ebenezer Place is a place for tourists to go and take their photos. However, that is not the only reason No 1 Bistro is popular. Once settled, we tried out the restaurant as we had booked in advance for it was required in order to uphold the safety procedures of staggering dining times.
Upon arrival, the staff made us feel incredibly welcomed, especially with our little one. Our server was very interactive with Ythan George, and she did not skip a beat in taking our order and bringing our drinks and meals. The restaurant was packed although it was largely from locals wanting to enjoy a great meal. It was obvious that No 1 Bistro was the place to go to in Wick for that. Tending to be a small-sized restaurant, the tables were well spaced out yet giving it a cozy and intimate setting. I felt very relaxed all throughout our three course meal which I must add was absolutely d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s. Although we do not have any dietary requirements, we were made aware that they could cater to any requests. Naturally, I was impressed. Everything we savoured was a party in our mouths. Compliments to the chef and the amazing kitchen team! The restaurant sources locally thus no doubt the freshness of the food prepared. This was fine dining in the Highlands.
The Most Important Meal of the Day
Our research trip had us getting up bright and early the following two mornings as we had many places to discover. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and we were not disappointed with the free breakfast offered as it had a good choice of cereals, oatmeal, fruit and juices. The cooked Scottish breakfast was made to order and well prepared without being drenched in oil. The servers always had a friendly approach, especially towards Ythan George, and the coffee pot was always going around for refills. I loved looking out the breakfast dining room window each morning while sipping on my cup of joe as the River Wick flows right next to the hotel. It was a lovely way to start our mornings.
In a Nutshell
Mackays Hotel did not disappoint with its excellent customer service, exquisite food, comfortable bedroom, cleanliness throughout the entire building, spot on location for day travel, and dog-friendly attitude which we later found out when we saw the proprietor’s dogs, Max and Bria. It was always a nice feeling when returning in the evening as we felt at ease and safe to decompress. Unfortunately, we did not have the time to enjoy their traditional Highland bar, Mackays Bar, but it will definitely be something to look forward to next time we manage to squeeze another visit to Scotland’s most north eastern part of the North Coast 500.
Take the challenge, discover what is in your backyard, whether you live in Scotland, in the other parts of the British Isles or even Europe, venture into the fairy tale land of Bonnie Scotland.
Join us next time when our family adventures continue as we explore more of the attractions of the NC500. Until then, happy reading and safe travels.
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