Conquering what felt like a mini-Ben Nevis, I turned to look at the sprawling, snowcapped peaks, mighty rolling hills, desolate lemon-tinged landscapes and the vast Scottish loch behind me - my millennial mouth whispered a "wow" in gleeful awe.
I'm in Torridon, not far from the small village of Achnasheen in Wester Ross, climbing a very wet Munro. Beyond the muddied rocks on which my basic yet fashionable Dr Martens stand, sit the great remnants of regal Scottish Victoriana: The Torridon. Buried in among the wild splendour of the Scottish Highlands, this so-called "luxury hotel and inn" will be my very British retreat for the night.
Set on the shores of Loch Torridon, surrounded by towering slopes and ancient woodland, this remote lodge was once the country home of William King-Noel, the first Earl of Lovelace and his wife, the renowned scientist (and Lord Byron's only legitimate daughter) Ada Lovelace.
With hunky spires, Rapunzel-worthy towers and charming gardens, The Torridon could easily be ripped from the pages of a fairy tale. Throughout, you'll find nods to Queen Victoria: there's a baronial entrance emblazoned with Latin dedications and a zodiac ceiling - the Queen had a passion for all things astrology. Original features, such as the painstakingly polished wooden panels and creaky floors, retain just the right amount of the hotel's old-world charisma; the rest has been tastefully brought into the 21st century.
The estate has its own chickens, pigs and Highland cattle and, although owners Dan and Rohaise choose not to shout about it, it functions on genuinely sustainable lines. Woodchip and timber biomass is used to power the entire resort, while rhododendron wood keeps the fires roaring throughout the year. Minibars are stocked with reusable glass water bottles filled with water from a borehole on the estate and all in-room toiletries come in dispensers as opposed to throwaway plastic bottles.
With all the comfortable eco-concious rooms, cosy snugs, well-stocked bars, a posh restaurant and an overwhelming amount of snuggly sofas, The Torridon is a poetically romantic love nest, whose majesty competes with nearby natural landmarks.
There are just 18, all with their own unique design and quirk. Though each retains many of the lodge's original features, some have embraced modernity (think: bold, purple velvets) more than others, so it's worth taking the time to select a room that suits your taste before you check in. Roomy king-size or generous super-king beds are part of the deal, along with larger-than-life Victorian-style bathrooms stocked with toiletries from Cowshed. The super-bougie Master suites are undeniably the hotel's headliners. The best of these lies opposite the period oak staircase, simply known as "Room 3". Regally inspired, it was in here that the original laird (lord) slept. Vast and roomy, it's the definition of "a room with a view" with large bay windows overlooking the absurdly beautiful mountains and loch, as well as comfy sofas and chairs (prime reading territory) and a super-king bed crowned by the most over-the-top headboard I've ever seen - super-high, super-wide and with super-detailed etching. Aside from the stellar views, mish-mash antiques and Tunnock teacakes hiding in the minibar (I scoffed both as soon as I saw them), the bathroom is another standout. After days spent hiking and walking, a dip in the freestanding Victorian-style tub instantly cured my throbbing, delicate city feet. If you've got the cash, it's worth upgrading for this sweet 20 minutes of hot, hot bliss alone.
What's for breakfast?
Lots. A small cold buffet of cakes and pastries sit next to granola and quintessentially Scottish porridge bowls, stacked next to freshly squeezed juices and all the other continental suspects. Cooked delicacies include a posh Scottish brekkie featuring Highland back bacon, black pudding, haggis and eggs benedict layered with smoked salmon. Devour in hotel restaurant 1887 or in your own room. The coffee is also very good.
What about lunch and dinner?
Lunch and afternoon tea take place in the lounge or at the neighbouring Torridon Inn, and includes everything from hearty sarnies to traditional pub fare. Dinner, however, is a destination experience served up inside hotel restaurant 1887, which is headed up by chef Paul Green. As the hotel runs a sustainable ship, the table d'hôte menu changes according to all the micro seasons in the Kitchen Garden and farm, the hills and in the loch. The bonus? You'll rarely eat the same thing twice. During my stay, knockout beef tartare, cod and venison were delivered to my fanciful table by swishy waiters and waitresses, clad in all their fineries. Gold star to the chocolate mousse and rhubarb-laced desserts - both made my eyes roll with pleasure. The culinary experience ends in the bar, home to 365 different kinds of whisky of varying strengths. A gin collection numbering 120 bottles is also on hand for "tasting" into the early hours.
The Torridon was designed with the outdoors in mind and, over the years, has built a reputation for its award-winning activities centre. Making the most of the hotel's wild surroundings, there are tons of extracurriculars in which to dabble, from archery to Munro bagging, clay-pigeon shooting, whisky tasting, stargazing, kayaking, guided walks and gorge scrambling. Guests get dibs on one experience per stay, all run by activities master Ben Sharp.
Things you should know
The hotel is located roughly 65 miles west of Inverness along winding picturesque roads through the Highlands. If you're there for a few days, it's best to rent a car to see as much as you can. Hotel shuttle transfers are also available on request. The Torridon's WiFi is slow, and in many places in and around the hotel, cellular connection is scarce. Advice: embrace the digital detox. Service, meanwhile, is impeccable. Staff are attentive, and importantly chatty and chummy compared to the stuffy service you might experience at other, more antiquated Scottish lodges.
Within a short walk you'll find
The beauteous thing that is Loch Torridon and, beyond that, wilderness. Pack a picnic and extra comfy walking boots.