Embo House: “5 star” self-catering in Dornoch

Embo House: 5-star self-catering accommodation in Dornoch

We are delighted to report that the Scottish tourist board have awarded Embo House a 5-star self-catering rating, making us the only Dornoch 5-star self-catering accommodation. As you may gather, we are rather proud of this!

For the House to achieve the 5-star rating, we had to fulfil many challenging criteria and pass a detailed inspection by the man from “Visit Scotland” – who was obviously charming, – but that didn’t stop us being very nervous!

The property is Grade 1 listed and had been beautifully modernised by our predecessors as a private house, so we always felt that Embo House deserved a 5-star self-catering rating. Our job has been to turn it from a 10-bedroom 6-bathroom house – to one with 8 generous double bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms. We completed that job this spring.

“Dalmore” & “Wolfburn” suites completed 2019

All our mattresses are pocket-sprung and then have toppers for extra comfort. The bed linen is 200 thread-count, pure Egyptian cotton and we have 100% woollen throws on top, sourced from Kingcraig in Dornoch. We also ensure all rooms are provided with complementary robes, tartan slippers, hairdryers and a bluetooth sound system, so our guests can stream their favourite music.

“Glen Ord” & “Balblair” suites completed 2018

Downstairs, we have everything you might want to celebrate in style, including real table-cloths & napkins, crystal glassware and a bone china dinner service. (Of course, if you’d rather be more casual, we also have easy-care alternatives.) We are also happy to arrange for a chef to come in in cook you dinner. So Embo House 5-star self-catering in Dornoch doesn’t have to be hard work!

In addition to Embo House’s 5-star self-catering award, we have also achieved a “Golfers Welcome” and “Walkers Welcome” accreditation from Visit Scotland. The primary extra requirements for these schemes is that we have a secure, indoor “Club store”, adequate space to store all other outdoor equipment such as jackets, golf shoes and boots – and a “Drying room” – where equipment can be dried overnight. So please come and challenge us! We think we will have everything you need.


As part of our celebration for achieving Embo House’s 5-star self catering award, we made a short video, showing a little of what it’s like to stay in Embo House. Paste this link into your browser to watch it if you like!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuC3J7DujvY


Christmas Family Celebrations at Embo House

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Embo House, as we prepare to welcome our first guests over Christmas and New Year.

The Christmas Tree in the Hall of Embo House

Embo House is really ideal for a multi-generational Christmas family holiday or celebration, as there’s enough space for the kids to play snooker, table-tennis or play station games, whilst their parents or grandparents enjoy a quiet jigsaw, a book or even a snooze in front of a fire! 


This is our “First Christmas” since starting to let Embo House out for self-catering holidays in May 2018 and it will indeed be a venue for multi-generational family Christmas and New Year holidays this year. As part of the deal, we decorate the house for our guests, which has been great fun!

The dining room is also ready for a celebratory Family Christmas dinner, and some of our guests have opted to have a chef-cooked dinner made for them in the house.

As part of the whole experience, this multi-generational family gathering has also asked local Embo resident and Pipe Major from the Dornoch Pipe Band, Mr Willie Fraser – to pipe them in for dinner! Wow! Would love to see it!

If you have never stayed in Dornoch over New Year, we can highly recommend it. The Ceildh in the town square on New Year’s Eve finishes with a piper on the castle ramparts at midnight and a simply fabulous firework display. And on New Year’s Day a contingent of extremely brave people take a swim from Dornoch beach! Are you brave enough to join them?

We would like to wish all our Embo House guests a fantastic Christmas and Happy New Year. Maybe they will inspire future guests to try their own Dornoch multi-generational family holiday.



Embo House is now a Dornoch wedding venue!

Embo House is starting to show its capability as a Dornoch wedding venue, with the very lovely Agne and Jerry using it as the base for their celebrations in October 2018. Luckily, it was a fabulously dry and warm weekend, even though it was nearly November.                                

I was thrilled to be able to be around to take a few snaps, as preparations got underway. A marquee was erected in the back garden, on the circular lawn and its transparent sides allowed the sunshine and the garden views in.

Embo House as a Dornoch wedding venue


It is also possible to erect a tent on the front lawn, looking out to the Dornoch Firth, but this couple decided that was where they wanted to take photos, as their guests (and priests) looked on! These two had previously been married in St. Finnbarr’s Scottish Episcopal Church in Dornoch, though there are in fact a number of churches in the town, (plus of course the beautiful, 13th century Cathedral) to choose from. And don’t forget that in Scotland you can also be married anywhere you can get the local registrar to agree with, including in Embo House, or on the beach.


…and as Jerry decided to carry his bride towards the sea, for some more “rural” shots!

Meanwhile, back at the house, the food was nearly ready, drinks were flowing and the party was about to begin.



As I left our guests to their party, the evening sun came out with real warmth and I reflected what a lovely Dornoch wedding venue this really is.


If you would like to use Embo House as a Dornoch wedding venue, or indeed as a venue for other kinds of events, please do get in touch. We would be delighted to discuss your requirements with you and see what we can do to accommodate you.

Simply the best Dornoch Firth View!

Well I know I’m biased, but I do (not so) secretly believe that here at Embo House we have the best Dornoch Firth view there is! Those canny Georgians who built the house at the end of the 18th Century, knew a good thing when they saw one, so the front of the house faces the sea and nearly all the rooms have a great Dornoch Firth view – including seven out of eight of the bedrooms. Which means you can lie in bed, open the shutters and see this, as the sun rises in the morning over the firth:

Dornoch Firth View at Sunrise

My favourite way to make the most of the morning is then to take a bath with – of course, a Dornoch Firth view!

The best Dornoch Firth view in Embo House

This bathroom is bang in the centre of the house on the second floor and affords the most magnificent Dornoch Firth view we can provide. I can sometimes see people walking along the old railway line at the top of the dunes between Dornoch and Embo, but I’m fairly sure they can’t see me!

We have some spectacular viewpoints in the grounds too, since a wonderful old “haha” surrounds the front of the garden and gives us an uninterrupted view, without the need for walls or fences. Jim particularly likes the Dornoch Firth view from the Tree house, (though he’s actually looking the wrong way to catch it, in this photo!)

Platform in the garden at Embo House  

But it seems we are not alone in admiring this Dornoch Firth view. Excitingly, we have now had a number of young couples coming to see the house as a potential venue for their wedding. And yes, it is normally that wonderful Dornoch Firth view which sways them in our favour. There is a wooden structure which you can just see to the right of the picture below, which we think is the perfect spot to take an important vow. Hope you agree!


Garden Golf Practice at Embo House

Coul Links Golf & Embo House

A Coul new Top Class golf course for Embo/Dornoch!
Yesterday we heard some extremely exciting news regarding the future of golf at Embo House. No, it wasn’t that our reinstated golf practice area which includes a couple of water hazards and a lovely new bunker (replete with 10 tonnes of sand) – is working well, – though we do love that…. Even more excitingly, the Highland Council gave its permission for the new Coul Links Golf Course, just a mile or so down the road. Coul Links is a beautiful site, on the coast just a little to the north of Embo village. So this will be no ordinary development. It will be extremely sensitively managed to preserve and enhance environmental conservation and at the same time, the involvement of Mike Keiser of Bandon Dunes fame, and renowned golf architect Ben Crenshaw, ensures that once complete, our little village of Embo (300 souls according to Wikipedia) will host a world top-50 golf course. That means Embo House will be sit equidistant between two, amazing, championship golf courses, since the incomparable Royal Dornoch Golf Club lies a mile or two to the south. We believe the Embo’s new Coul Links Golf Course should be fully functional by 2020/21. Wow! Full credit to Todd Warnock, proprietor of The Links House Hotel in Dornoch and his team for coming up with this inspiring idea and painstakingly undertaking the huge amount of difficult work to shepherd it through the planning process.


Practice golf on Embo House pitching area   –   And Coul Links as it looks today.

Dornoch Firth Golf Tours at Embo House

So the Dornoch Firth area will be even more of a Mecca for lovers of links golf!  Royal Dornoch is currently ranked no 5 in the Golf Digest world ranking, but if you haven’t played Golspie, Tain or Brora yet then you are also in for a golfing treat.  An excellent way to do it is to use a Dornoch Firth Golf Pass which for £40 provides a 25% saving on visitor green fees for all five courses (including Royal Dornoch’s second ‘Stuie’ course) on the Dornoch Firth. www.dornochfirthgolf.co.uk. We highly recommend asking 8 good friends (and their partners) to create your own, bespoke Dornoch Firth Golf tour, based at Embo House.

And there are some excellent courses a little further afield/still easily accessible from Embo House. Castle Stuart – host of the Scottish Open – is just an hour away.  There is also a lovely course at Rosemarkie (I saw dolphins when I last played there), whilst Stath Peffer boasts spectacular panoramic views across the Cromarty Firth.

Royal Dornoch Golf Holidays

Royal Dornoch Golf Course – near Embo House

Embo House: A great base for golfing trip

So Embo House is genuinely a great base for a golfing trip.  With eight luxury double bedrooms, each with private bathroom, we can accommodate a decent sized group.  In addition to the practice pitching area, we have indoor facilities that all golfers would expect, including a generous boot room, club store and drying facilities.  After your round you can relax in the whisky bar, perhaps watching golf on Sky Sport!  Though Embo House is for exclusive hire – rather than a hotel – we are happy to arrange for breakfasts or evening meals to be cooked and help with tee reservations.  In addition, Embo House and Dornoch is really a super place for non-golfing partners to relax and enjoy all the Scottish Highlands has to offer. Please come and see for yourselves!

The Whisky Bar at Embo House


Spring at Embo House

It is almost unbelievable how the carpet of snowdrops which surrounds Embo House from January, gets supplanted by a veritable host of golden daffodils in April. We had been away to our niece’s wedding, and arrived back to find that Spring had definitely sprung in Dornoch.


Spring flowers (and Nala) in the garden at Embo House.

In the herb garden, the mint, sage and rosemary are sprouting – and it looks like we will have a forest of chives. Fruitwise, the Rhubarb is starting to go bananas and in the summerhouse, the peach tree is in bloom, and the apricot tree and grape vine are not far behind


It’s not just the Spring plants which are active – It’s the birdlife too! We seem to have wild ducks nesting on an island in the pond (safe, but only just, from our inquisitive dog) and there are oyster catchers all over the place, making their wonderfully exotic call. Jim has spent lots of time in the tree house, trying to spot them.


And in the house, we are nearing the end of the building work we have been doing. Two new bathrooms have come to life, which means a storm of dust needs to be cleared out. So Embo House is having a HUGE Spring clean!

Summer Painting Course at Embo House

We are really delighted that August 2018 (9th – 16th) will see the first painting course being held at Embo House. The tutor will be Jonathan Shearer, the well-known landscape painter based locally in the Scottish Highlands. Jonathan graduated from Grays school of Art in 1993. He currently has an exhibition at Inverness Castle Gallery “Journeys into the North-West Highlands, – A Bothy Too Far“, but we came across him last Hogmanay, when we went to his studio in search of a picture for our Dining Room at Embo House – and came away with a glorious painting of Dornoch beach! For more information on Jonathan, see his website: www.jonathanshearer.co.uk


The Course & Embo House

The course is suitable for all levels from beginners upwards, as Jonathan teaches on an individual basis and will identify each student’s needs. Students will be able to use whatever media they wish, but plein-air landscape painting will be encouraged, as will the use of sketch-books as source material. Students will bring their own materials and lots of advice is available on this beforehand. There will be 5 days of teaching, with a free day mid-week to give the option for local exploration.

Full use will be made of the stunning landscape around Embo House. The sea is a short walk away and we hope many of the students will find inspiration there, as Jonathan has done, many times!



…..Embo and Dornoch Beaches have many different moods!

In addition, the house is very close to the wonderful area of Loch Fleet (Site of Special Scientific Interest).


At Embo House, there is studio space adjoining the main house and the garden and grounds are full of interesting corners for artists, such as the Tree House, Terrace and Conservatory.

Course Arrangements

Clare Blois and Jane Weston are looking after the nuts and bolts of this course at Embo House, with most of the cooking done by Jane, who has a legendary reputation in the Highlands. Accommodation will be in the double bedrooms in the house. Non-painting partners are welcome; they can enjoy golfing, fishing, walking, birding etc – see “local” section of this website. Clare and Jane have run painting holidays together in the past and between them have many years experience of managing Scottish house parties.

Prices include 5 days painting tuition (one free day) and all meals and drinks. Arrive afternoon of Thursday, 9th August, leave morning of Thursday 16th August.

Single occupancy of double room with ensuite/private bathroom:      £975

Per person sharing room with ensuite/private bathroom:                     £775 for a painter, £525 for a non-painter

(There are also possible spaces for non-resident painters – please enquire)

Embo House Course Booking and Questions

Please contact Clare at clare.blois@btinternet.com or 07913 033142


Future Recreational Courses at Embo House?

If anyone else out there would like to run a course at Embo House, we’d love to hear from you!

Hogmanay at Embo House, Dornoch

We were so excited when we realised we might be able to have New Year in Dornoch at Embo House. Previous owners, lovely Louise and Joe were celebrating Christmas there, but we managed to effect a switch on 27th December – well 28th really, as we arrived at 4 am, having done battle with horrendous Christmas traffic in England and blizzards in Scotland! Louise had very kindly made us up some fabulously comfy beds, which we literally fell into.

I really can’t imagine anywhere more magical to celebrate Hogmanay than Embo House & Dornoch. The temperatures were icy, but the skies were clear and the sun shone brightly. Having fired up the log-burning stove in the kitchen, we raced down the short path that leads from Embo House to the beach, Nala our very enthusiastic labrador out ahead.

    Walking to the beach from Embo House

                 Embo Beach at Hogmanay

The hills around were white with snow and the top of the beach was frozen, – excellent for walking on! Small birds ran ahead of us and even a couple of seals popped their heads out of the water to say hello.

We have been coming to Dornoch for Hogmanay holidays for the last 30 ish years, so I think I can objectively say, it has been getting better and better as a place to welcome in the New Year. The town puts on an amazing show in Castle St, in the Square, with a ceilidh band and dancing. This year, after a rather good dinner at home in Embo House, we arrived in Dornoch at 11. As well as enjoying the famous whisky bar in Dornoch Castle Hotel, we also greatly appreciated hot gin toddies, featuring delicious Dornoch Gin! Yum! As midnight approached, we danced a final “Gay Gordons” (very relieved to see most other people were about as (in)competent as us!), counted down from 10, and the lone piper appeared on the top of the Castle to pipe in the New Year, Dornoch style! …And as soon as he finished, the sky exploded with a mass of fabulous fireworks.

                Dornoch Hogmany fireworks

Wow! It only remained to sing a few rousing, communal verses of Auld Lang Syne (all with the same lyrics, obviously), and we rolled home happy that we had done full justice to the occasion!

Since then, we have been working hard to ready ourselves and Embo House to welcome visitors, who in turn we hope will be able to enjoy Hogmanay at Embo House & Dornoch as much as we have.

Happy 2018!