Three Chimneys restaurant and The House Over-By review: Skye’s sumptuous rural hideaway

“There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.” If there was ever a time and a place for this oft-quoted phrase it is winter on the Isle of Skye. 

The largest island in the Inner Hebrides is incredibly popular in summer when, despite occasional showers, the undulating peaks of its rugged landscape are quite often bathed in beautiful sunlight. 

Inevitably, though, this means footfall – or should that be carfall – to the island is at its highest during the summer months. Figures show that at the height of the 2023 tourist season, the equivalent of the island’s population drove to Skye in a day. Equally most businesses, restaurants and hotels on the island cater for the summer demand, leaving those that do stay open in January to be a port in the storm, sometimes quite literally.

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(Image credit: Three Chimneys Restaurant)

Why come here?

Enter the Three Chimneys restaurant and The House Over-By. Our stay in January saw us battling every element just to reach the restaurant and the six guest rooms, all nestled on the shores of Loch Dunvegan, with the dramatic backdrop of the Duirinish peninsula of Skye. It is about as rural as you can get on the island, with the peace and quiet only occasionally punctuated by the sound of sheep being herded across the wilderness. 

In terms of the hotel’s interior, Scandi minimalism is the order of the day, with the stripped back lounge area remaining cosy and intimate. When we arrived mid-afternoon on a Tuesday there was already a group sitting in front of the roaring fire with a bottle of wine and you got the feeling they’d be there for some time.

The rooms

While the interiors were stripped back, the welcome we received was anything but. With beaming faces at reception and restaurant staff who ensured our every whim was catered for, our three-day stay went by in the blink of an eye. 

In terms of the lodgings themselves, they all come with rustic charm and panoramic views of Loch Dunvegan. It feels like the team have really thought of everything – as we enjoyed the binoculars for bird-watching almost as much as the smart TV and Bose bluetooth speaker. It really is one of the island’s most perfect places to switch off but for those who don’t have that luxury, free high-speed Wi-Fi is available throughout the building, while each day a selection of complimentary snacks and refreshments were brought to our room. Our split-level room added a touch of grandeur to the proceedings, with steps up to a huge and enveloping bed.

Eating and drinking

Most people, of course, travel all this way for the food – and it didn’t disappoint our high expectations. Over the course of our two evenings we were taken on a culinary tour of the restaurant’s surroundings through both the a la carte menu and the extra special kitchen table tasting menu. Chef Scott Davies‘s offering really is a perfect marriage of tradition with innovation, with easy transitions between familiar home comforts such as whipped potatoes to the more adventurous double hand dived scallops with venison salami.

On the first evening, when we were dining a la carte, we had between us some of the most exquisite seafood we’d ever tried. While the aforementioned Sconser scallops were a highlight, the Dunvegan crab was paired perfectly with a Jerusalem artichoke royale, while the langoustines were fresh and sharp and coupled with a delightfully rich oyster mousse that provided a delicious depth of flavour. 

While part of the appeal is, of course, the fact that you are eating seafood that comes from a loch that you can see out of the very window you sit next to – when the weather allows at least – there’s an ease and warmth in which the food is served that also speaks to the quality of the dining experience. Too often places with this sort of menu can feel stuffy or staid, but the Three Chimneys has a quality offering that comes with an air of relaxed confidence – instantly appealing and relaxing in equal measure.

This is particularly the case if you choose the chef’s table kitchen dining experience. We were lucky enough to be there on a night when we were the only people dining in the kitchen and so we did feel like we had walked into an episode of “The Bear” – albeit with fewer calamities and even fewer American accents. The Skye Land and Sea menu, as the restaurant calls it, very much lives up to its name, with 10 courses that take you all over the island. Ten courses, of course, can seem a little daunting but each one feels like a little adventure while the whole menu itself has something of a narrative arc.

Three Chimneys Skye main

(Image credit: Three Chimneys Restaurant)

Beginning with cured monkfish and herring ice cream as a palette cleanser and then taking in oysters, mussels, langoustine, scallops, venison and finally an apple souffle, each dish left you feeling satiated yet also excited for what was next. 

Despite featuring many of the same seafood and meat ingredients you can find on the a la carte menu, the Skye Land and Sea menu provides interesting twists and delicious innovations. The brown crab XO sauce that came with the grilled potato bread managed a delicate balance of tangy and umami, while the roasted venison came with a dreamy combination of blue cheese and pear. Finally, a special mention must be made for the bread and butter – the restaurant’s sourdough is nine years in the making and comes with smoked and salty butters that in any other restaurant would be the absolute highlight. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a restaurant worth returning to – and in this case it was the bread and butter.

If you can afford it and you have some interest in wines then the wine pairing is a must. A lot of care and attention has gone into the pairing, with some fascinating wines from across the globe, including Germany, Australia and Morocco. There was also an immaculate English sparkling wine, going some way to proving that even the English and the Scots will put aside their differences in pursuit of a good drink. 

A special word must go to the sommelier, too. All sommeliers have a depth of knowledge but ours became something of a mentor over the course of the evening. Since our time there we have returned again and again to the Poire Granit he recommended – a sparkling pear wine that blew us away. But beyond his excellent wine recommendations, his sunny disposition and passion for the wines he was serving left us feeling like we were in the company of a knowledgeable friend rather than a sommelier.

In fact that was our experience across the whole stay as the Three Chimneys and The House Over-By provided us with all the comforts of a stay with friends along with the luxury of a restaurant and hotel at the top of its game.

Chef Scott Davies from Three Chimneys Restaurant

(Image credit: Three Chimneys Restaurant)

Things to do

Beyond the comforts of the hotel, guests are invited to explore the natural wonders of the Isle of Skye, from its windswept cliffs and cascading waterfalls to its ancient castles and fairy pools. Whether embarking on a guided hike through the Cuillin Mountains or simply strolling along the shores of Loch Dunvegan, there’s no shortage of adventures to be had amid Skye’s rugged beauty.

If you’re a whisky lover, Three Chimneys has teamed up with Skye’s oldest distillery, Talisker, to create the Three Chimneys at Talisker pop-up dining experience at the distillery’s newly designed waterfront space on the shores of Loch Harport. Diners can enjoy a bespoke tasting menu called the Journey, inspired by the maritime character of Talisker whisky. 

Jamie Timson was a guest of the Three Chimneys restaurant and The House Over-By. A ‘Wee Winter Break’ at the Three Chimneys and The House Over-by includes overnight accommodation and breakfast for two guests in one of six beautifully appointed rooms. The package is £305 per night with dinner available in the restaurant on the fixed price four-course menu priced at £95 per person.