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Highland hospitality, fabulous food and ravenous red squirrels

Stunning Cairngorm scenery.
Stunning Cairngorm scenery.

Looking for a place to recharge your batteries as you make your way along the A9? You could do worse than stop to see what Kingussie has to offer the weary traveller, as Stewart Lloyd-Jones and his partner, Linda, discovered.

On April 17, 1746, the day after their defeat at the Battle of Culloden, an army of 3,000 Jacobites under the command of Lord George Murray assembled at Ruthven Barracks with the intention of continuing the fight.

Instead, the Highlanders received a message from Bonnie Prince Charlie telling every man to save himself. With no cause to fight for, they set fire to the barracks to prevent them from being used as a base for Hanoverian repression. The barracks, built following the 1715 uprising, are today much as they were when the departing Jacobites left them, standing vigil over our destination, Kingussie, part of the Cairngorms National Park.

Our drive over the moors from Tayside was uneventful and tiring, and the sight of The Cross at Kingussie, our home for the night, nestling beside a fast-flowing wooded burn at the end of a narrow road, was truly welcome.

We were greeted by the very friendly and knowledgeable Richard, who told us of The Cross’s history as a tweed mill as he led us to our pleasant and spacious corner room, which came complete with a very comfortable king-sized bed, flat-screen TV and a large bathroom with a bath and walk-in shower. Our room overlooked the burn and a woodshed with several bird feeders at which a family of red squirrels was feasting.

The owners, Celia and Derek, who took over The Cross in 2012, have spent that time busily refurbishing the bedrooms and residents’ lounge and perfecting their Michelin-rated restaurant. Their concern for their guests is clear and they will always try to contact them before arrival to find out if they have any special dietary requirements and will prepare a menu accordingly. Wine lovers can lose themselves in the award-winning list of more than 150 wines from all around the world while whisky connoisseurs will not be disappointed with the gantry of 40 single malts.

A Highland paradise.
A Highland paradise.

As we had a few hours to spare before dinner and the sun was making an effort to break out, we decided to work up an appetite by going for a walk. We followed the Gynack Mill Path, which starts beside The Cross, through a small wood running along the Gynack Burn then joined the Golf Course Circular path that follows the road through the golf course before veering up an embankment and along a forest path to a clearing with views over Loch Gynack. From there the path turned uphill through a forest of thin birch trees before descending and opening out to finish beside the road back to The Cross. We arrived three hours after we left – sore-footed and hungry, and with all the cobwebs blown away.

After freshening up we went down to the comfortable restaurant with tables spaced to ensure privacy and intimacy. While perusing the menu we were brought a board of savoury canapés. This was followed by a platter containing four different types of warm bread and an appetiser of espuma de vichyssoise with smoked salmon and cucumber. For my starter I chose the grilled red mullet, tuna ballotine, aubergine caviar, smoked haddock beignet and sauce verde followed by wild sea bass, crispy chicken wing, broad bean and girolle ravioli, crushed peas, glazed onions and roast chicken jus, while my wife chose the asparagus, pickled mushrooms, white truffle and pea shoots starter then violet artichoke, broccoli, young spinach, wild mushroom and parmesan cream lasagne from the specially-prepared vegetarian menu. I rested before tackling a dessert of rhubarb cheesecake, rhubarb sorbet and pistachios. The meal was rounded off with a fine cheese board, a generous glass of port and a very agreeable Spey malt whisky from the nearby Speyside Distillery. The dishes had a wonderful range of flavours, the portions were perfect and the service attentive yet discrete: an establishment fully worthy of its Michelin rating.

The crumbling ruins of Ruthven Barracks.
The crumbling ruins of Ruthven Barracks.

Our all-too-brief stay ended with breakfast in the restaurant, where guests can help themselves to freshly-squeezed orange juice, grapefruit, cereal and yoghurt followed by a cooked breakfast accompanied with home-made toasted bread and croissants with homemade jam and marmalade. I had a full Scottish breakfast, which included the best black pudding I have tasted, while my wife had scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. We were sorry to be leaving so soon, but my wife assures me we will be back to eat breakfast beside the burn while being watched by a family of red squirrels. Relaxed and refreshed, we were once more ready to face the challenges of the A9.

For those with time to spare, in addition to the Ruthven Barracks and the Kingussie path network – which has routes for all abilities – nearby attractions include the Highland Wildlife Park, home to some of the most endangered animals of the world’s colder climates, and the Highland Folk Museum, which offers a glimpse of Highland life over the centuries.


Stewart and Linda were guests of The Cross at Kingussie where rooms cost from £110 per night B&B or £200 per night DB&B. The restaurant is open to the public, with a three-course meal costing £55 per person. For more information, visit