The Amhuinnsuidhe Castle Estate covers seventy square miles of the wildest and most spectacular scenery in Scotland. Situated on the Isle of Harris in the Western Isles it is one of Europe's last unspoilt wildernesses, a paradise of mountains and remote glens, lochs and rivers, islands and white sand beaches, undisturbed for generations, safeguarded under European legislation for its outstanding plant and bird communities, and world famous for its sea trout and salmon fishing.
Amhuinnsuidhe Castle (pronounced 'Aven-suey'), built for the Earl of Dunmore in 1867, is now the home of Ian Scarr-Hall. It has been refurbished to a very high standard and provides luxurious accommodation for up to twenty guests. The castle and its grounds enjoy a commanding setting overlooking the sea with breathtaking views across the Sound of Taransay to South Harris and the islands beyond. It also has its own secure anchorage.
Harris is a traditional crofting community and Harris Tweed is still manufactured locally. The climate is exceptionally mild and benefits from the proximity of the Gulf Stream.
Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, the most westerly castle in the British Isles, was designed by the Victorian architect David Bryce to take full advantage of its romantic location. The impressive public rooms are light and well proportioned and enjoy dramatic sea views to the south and west, as do the bedrooms. All the rooms are beautifully decorated and furnished with antiques and pictures belonging to the family so that the castle combines every modern comfort with the atmosphere of a family home.
As with many Scottish houses of the period, all the principal rooms are on the first floor. In addition to the drawing room and panelled dining room there is a library, billiards room, grand hall and a small sitting room with television.
The castle is fully staffed and all meals are provided under the supervision of resident chef, David Taylor, the emphasis being on fresh local produce, which can include mouth-watering seafood (lobster, scallops and langoustines) as well as salmon and sea trout, and the island venison and lamb. Any special requirements can of course also be catered for.
The North Harris Estate possesses some of the finest salmon and sea trout fishing to be found in Scotland. In contrast to other parts of the west coast where runs have all but collapsed, numbers of fish have remained fairly consistent for the past three decades with big sea trout (up to nine pounds) still a feature. The salmon tend not to be large (usually between four and eight pounds) although one of sixteen pounds was caught recently. They are, however, plentiful.
There are six separate fresh water loch and river systems, of which Loch Voshimid is most famous, all in remote and beautiful surroundings, the haunt of golden eagles and red deer. Except when the rivers are in spate, the fishing is mostly done in Hebridean fashion from a boat. There are five resident ghillies or stalkers to look after the guests, and their company and local knowledge are a major factor in the day's enjoyment. Fishing is by fly only. Dapping, given the right conditions, can be most effective. Spinning and trolling are not permitted.
The fish start to run in June and continue until the end of the season on 15 October, with July, August and September being the best months; watching the fish gather in the sea in front of the castle is a most impressive sight. The castle and fishing are let by the week to parties, usually of ten to fifteen people, who enjoy all the facilities on offer including David Taylor's excellent cuisine. Stalking is available from September onwards.
Excellent sea fishing is available on the estate's substantial sea fishing boat, which can also be used for trips to the outlying islands and shell sand beaches.
Red deer stalking is available in September and October. The estate can normally accommodate three rifles at any one time.
The purpose of the cull is to maintain the herd in optimum condition and prevent over-grazing. Forty stags and a similar number of hinds are shot each year. For the welfare of the herd, the cull is concentrated on the old and poor conditioned animals.
The North Harris stags are not large by mainland standards (although they are better eating) but the remoteness and grandeur of the forest provides some of the finest red deer stalking in Scotland. The scenery is spectacular in the extreme, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and interspersed by deep glens, craggy summits, steep braes, hanging corries and numerous lochs and burns, providing the stalker with variety and challenge not to be exceeded anywhere.
One of Europe's last unspoilt wildernesses
Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, Isle of Harris HS3 3AS
Situated on the west side of the Isle of Harris, Amhuinnsuidhe boasts an enviable situation amidst some of the wildest and most remote landscape and seascape to be found anywhere in Europe. It is not however as inaccessible as it might at first appear.
British Airways fly direct to Stornoway from Glasgow and Inverness operating two flights a day Monday to Friday, with one flight on a Saturday. There are no flights on or off the Island on Sundays with the exception of private charter. Inverness and Glasgow have regular connections with London, major European airports, and the rest of the world.
Caledonian MacBrayne are the principal ferry operators to the Islands and provide car services from Ullapool to Stornoway from Uig (Skye) to Tarbert (Harris) and Lochmaddy. Further information about ferry times can be obtained from: Caledonian MacBrayne in Gourock on + 44 (0) 1475 650 100.
For the more adventurous there are other means of getting to Amhuinnsuidhe. For those with their own yacht there is a safe anchorage in front of the castle, while private planes and helicopters from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness are other options.