H.Y. Hanna
H.Y. Hanna
H.Y. Hanna
H.Y. Hanna

Afternoon Tea in a Scottish Castle... (Book research in Scotland - Part 3)

If you missed Parts 1 and 2, you can catch up here:

***

It’d be almost impossible to pick the highlight of my recent trip to Scotland for book research, but having afternoon tea in an ancient Scottish castle would certainly rank amongst the top experiences!

And in fact, it was my visit to the gorgeous Inverlochy Castle Hotel in the Scottish Highlands – and an encounter with a particular armchair in a very special games room! – that was the inspiration for A HIGH WHISK SITUATION, the 12th book in the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries.

When English tearoom owner, Gemma Rose, finds herself on an unexpected trip to Scotland, she is delighted by the chance to stay in a beautiful Scottish castle—complete with mounted stag heads, cosy fireplaces, and misty mountain views. She’s looking forward to a relaxing weekend in the Highlands, sampling traditional Scottish baking, trying her hand at fly fishing, and learning to enjoy a “wee dram” of whisky.

But when she stumbles on a dead body in the castle library, Gemma quickly becomes steeped in a country-house murder with a distinctly tartan feel! Luckily, the nosy “Old Biddies” are on hand to help with the sleuthing, and even her cheeky tabby cat, Muesli, is keen to lend a paw. But with a castle full of quirky guests, the list of suspects is long, and everyone has something to hide. Can Gemma untangle the web of lies and motives, and reel in the killer before it’s too late?

Filled with humour, suspense, and unexpected twists, A High Whisk Situation is a delightful read for fans of cozy mysteries and traditional English whodunits. So put the kettle on, grab a scone (or a shortbread, we won’t judge), and get ready for a hilarious, entertaining adventure in the Scottish Highlands.

Like the fictional castle in my story, Inverlochy Castle Hotel is situated in the foothills of the largest mountain range in the Highlands – in this case, at the foot of Ben Nevis, the tallest peak in the British Isles. While it is a hotel, you can visit just to enjoy their signature Afternoon Tea or have lunch or dinner in their award-winning restaurant, without having to stay here.

Just like my heroine Gemma, I was awed by the stunning landscape of the Scottish Highlands on the drive there…

… and the beautiful entry to the estate – via a long driveway – even before we reached the castle itself!

 

(Of course, filtered through a mystery writer’s imagination, things become slightly more dramatic! 😉 )

The winding driveway made its way through beautifully landscaped grounds, backed on one side by a small loch, its waters sparkling in the afternoon sun, and on the other side by mature woodland which stretched up into the foothills of the Grampians. The brilliant yellow of gorse glowed from the undergrowth as we drove past, interspersed with the tall spires of wild foxgloves and pink willowherb swaying in the breeze.

“Summer is probably one of the nicest times to be in the Highlands,” said Ewan enthusiastically as he steered around a bend in the drive. “You can—”

He broke off with an exclamation as another car came shooting round the bend from the opposite direction.

“Look out!” Cassie screamed. “It’s going to hit us!”

Ewan yanked the steering wheel with desperate force, cursing viciously as he swung the car sideways to try and avoid a collision. I clutched frantically at the car door, feeling the seatbelt dig into my chest as I was thrown to one side. The Land Rover veered sharply, almost plunging off the driveway into the ditch alongside, before wheeling around and narrowly missing a stump of moss-covered oak by the roadside.

The other car careened past. It was a cream Rolls-Royce, its powerful engine gunning as it sped by. The driver was a young man, sitting back with one arm draped negligently along the open window frame, his head turned towards his companion, a voluptuous brunette lounging in the front passenger seat. He barely spared us a glance as he drove recklessly by.

(from Chapter 3 of A High Whisk Situation)

Well, I’m pleased to tell you that we didn’t encounter any murderous Rolls-Royces coming in the opposite direction and we arrived safely, gliding through a majestic carriage arch, to alight in front of the castle…

Inverlochy Castle Hotel is a 19th century Scottish baronial mansion, set in a gorgeous 500 acre private estate with its own loch. It isn’t a huge castle but I felt like I was walking into a fairytale setting, with its romantic turrets and crenellated battlements, and stunning views of the Highland mountains from the windows.

The castle terrace where guests could sit out to enjoy the spectacular Highland landscape…

And inside, the castle was even more impressive, with a magnificent Great Hall that had soaring ceilings decorated by blue frescoes and dominated by crystal chandeliers. I think I must have taken over 20 photos of the Great Hall alone (!) but none of them really seem to capture the majestic splendour of the place…

It was the perfect setting for a “country house murder”, with a cast of characters practically ready-made! There was a wonderful mix of people staying and/or dining there, from all over the world (the guestbook made fascinating reading!) and I had great fun imagining who could play the role of a murderer…

The room that really captured my imagination, though, was the games room, with its mounted stag heads and sense of stepping back in time. It was just the kind of beautiful, creepy, atmospheric place to fire up a mystery writer’s imagination! I kept walking around with my mouth open, feverishly thinking: “Ooh… what if…? What if…?” 

I did make a few tweaks in my fictional version, of course, such as making the room larger and turning it into the castle library, but it was all inspired by the wonderful ten minutes I spent in that fascinating room.

And I was particularly inspired by an unusual leather armchair that I discovered in a corner of the room!

I’d never seen anything like it before – have you? It’s just the kind of thing that a mystery author would LOVE to have in a corner of their study! Wouldn’t you love to curl up in there and read the afternoon away…?

Well, my husband literally had to prise me out of that armchair 😉 but I couldn’t dawdle any longer…

It was time for the “main event”: the castle’s famous Afternoon Tea!

This was served in the absolutely gorgeous Drawing Room, with its gold Rococo mirrors and sweeping views of the Highlands countryside.

 

 I don’t think I’ve ever had afternoon tea in such grand surroundings and the Scottish certainly know how to bake! Everything – from the dainty finger sandwiches to the miniature Dundee cakes – was delicious. Nothing was overly decorated or fancy, the way some modern Afternoon Teas are these days, but everything was just freshly baked and of wonderful quality, full of rich, wholesome flavours.

As for the scones… well, I have to say, these were probably the best I’ve ever tasted (yes, even better than ones from tearooms back in the Cotswolds – shhh! 😉 ) and my husband, who is a hardcore scone connoisseur, heartily agrees!

You know, afternoon tea never seems like much – all those tiny bits of finger food don’t seem like a proper meal – and yet, I always find it surprisingly filling. In fact, it took us over 2 hours to finish the whole tea and I certainly didn’t need dinner that evening!

It was an absolutely amazing experience, enhanced by the magical surroundings… just look at the view from the Drawing Room window:

The staff at Inverlochy Castle Hotel were wonderful and so patient with all my questions – and I must say, they were the one thing that didn’t inspire fictional versions in my book – haha! Especially the manager, who was nothing like the castle manager in my story!  😉 She was warm and lovely, and so helpful; she even showed me the hidden door in one of the castle walls.. can you see it??

I actually walked past it several times and never even realised! It leads into a secret inner chamber, which serves as the castle’s library and also as a private dining room. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite make my plot fit around it otherwise I would have loved to include it in my story… Never mind, I’m sure it’ll be tucked away as inspiration for a future book!

I really didn’t want to leave the castle – I could have stayed there for weeks, probably, soaking in the atmosphere. It felt like there was creative inspiration around every corner!

In fact, as the hotel guests – formally attired for the gourmet five-course dinner – assembled in the Great Hall for pre-dinner cocktails, they were joined by a young lady playing a harp… something which set my imagination racing again! 😉

And as we were leaving, a glimpse of a metal fire staircase fitted to the outside of the castle had me smiling to myself as I suddenly imagined four nosy old ladies creeping up those steps, on a mission to snoop in one of the castle suites…

Well, if you’re visiting the Scottish Highlands and are in the Ben Nevis/Fort William area, I highly recommend stopping at Inverlochy Castle Hotel and sampling their wonderful Afternoon Tea.

And if you want to see just how my time there was transformed into a country-house whodunit, then come and join my tearoom sleuth, Gemma Rose, her naughty tabby cat, Muesli, and the meddling “Old Biddies” in their latest adventure! 😊

A High Whisk Situation (Oxford Tearoom Mysteries ~ Book 12)OUT NOW!

 

 

For more fun facts and background about the series:

8 Things You Didn’t Know About the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries

 

 

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
225 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Laraine
Laraine
1 year ago

What a beautifull place which will grace the subject of any novel. If previous books are anything to go by this will be another winner. Please keep them coming.

Jane
Jane
1 year ago

Can’t wait for the audible version too!

Alicia
Alicia
1 year ago

Amazing! I’ve never had tea before, but I can’t think of a better place than in a castle.

Carlyn Johnson
Carlyn Johnson
1 year ago

Looks like you had a wonderful vacation, and I can see where the inspiration for your next book came from. You found a very beautiful and idyllic place. No matter what you do, please never get rid of the Old Bitties. They are my favorite characters!

Lynn
Lynn
1 year ago

Really looking forward to reading the book.

Bre
Bre
1 year ago

Such beautiful photos, the scenery is so green and lush looking! I’m very much looking forward to continuing the series 🙂 they’re always a fun read.

jean123
jean123
1 year ago

I have read all the books in the series and can’t wait to read this one too.

Christina
Christina
1 year ago

Thank you for sharing your creative process with us. I hope that I am lucky enough to win a set of your books with the original covers ❤.
Regardless, I am happy to have found all your wonderful books.

Sue S
Sue S
1 year ago

Oh wow! Your pictures really capture the beauty of this place. I can see why you were so inspired. Can’t wait to read the book!

Cayte
Cayte
1 year ago

Such a fabulous building and glorious scenery … I’m not surprised you found it inspiring. Looking forward to seeing what the gang get up to out if their home environment!

Jeannette Gibbons
Jeannette Gibbons
1 year ago

I had afternoon tea in London when I visited it ( and yes, I didn’t need dinner that night), but the scenery couldn’t begin to compare with what you had I. Scotland.

Kroll
Kroll
1 year ago

Looks absolutely beautiful there I hope to get there some day. Never had an afternoon tea. Looks delicious. Love your books can’t wait for the new one😀

GeraniumCat
GeraniumCat
1 year ago

That chair is called a Porter’s chair – they used to stand by the front door so that the porter who would admit guests to an establishment would be sheltered from drafts. I associate them with Golden Age detective novels, so I guess they must feature in a couple. I can certainly imagine Lord Peter Wimsey handing his hat and gloves to the porter as he walks into his Club.
I look forward to the book! And the audio versions are excellent – beautifully read.

Hurdler.girl86
Hurdler.girl86
1 year ago

I really like the new covers! Seeing a real person on it helps my imagination for when I read the books. I wish you can have your books turn into movies. That would be awesome!
the pictures of the afternoon tea look amazing! They opened a restaurant for afternoon tea where I live in USA. When I tried the scones and clotted cream I immediately thought of your books. I was “ohhh this is what she is talking about”
The hidden passage for the secret room was very cool. I keep telling my husband I want a secret room in our house but he thinks I am joking.
I really like your books. I can not wait to read the new oxford mystery one, by the way I pre-order it on Amazon already.
take care, hope your cat is doing ok.

valartist
valartist
1 year ago

I loved reading this blog post about the Highlands and the Ivernochy Castle. I’d love and hope to get to visit myself one day. Thank you for sharing the pictures and your high tea experience.

Jane
Jane
1 year ago

A place on the must see list for the next time I visit Scotland. It is so beautiful.

Maggie
Maggie
1 year ago

I dearly love the Tea Room Mysteries! They allow me to get a feel of the places which due to Parkinson’s I won’t be able to visit. The descriptions are just so vivid. Please keep them coming.

Debbie
Debbie
1 year ago

I love all your books and can easily picture everything in my mind while reading them. These all need to be made into movies or a series! Come on BRIT TV or ACORN or NETFLIX!

Vibeke
Vibeke
1 year ago

I am counting down the days to this book arriving on my kindle – no matter what I am currently reading, when one of your books arrive I skip directly to yours!😍😍😍

Mary Ann
Mary Ann
1 year ago

Oh, what a delight! I would have loved having tea in that gorgeous place. I need that leather surround chair!! Thanks for sharing your travels!

Kay
Kay
1 year ago

I am so excited to read this book. I love the series.

Isa
Isa
1 year ago

I’ve been to this part of rhe Highlands. Its just utter perfection. Such a gift to be able to drive to this tranquil place.

Paulette A.
Paulette A.
1 year ago

What a wonderful experience! Your pictures are amazing-I’m going to go through them again! I would love to visit Scotland and it’s so great to get a peek at it through your eyes. I love your books and look forward to reading this one.

Amanda Bibble
Amanda Bibble
1 year ago

Can’t wait for the new book, my favorite versions are on Audible because you have a fantastic narrator that brings your wonderful stories to life! I would love to go have tea and eat those delicious looking scones!

Maria Elena
Maria Elena
1 year ago

I’m super excited for the audible version, this is one of my favorite series 😊 I am very glad to see you got the Pink Afternoon Tea… everything is better with champagne!! xxxx

Laurie
Laurie
1 year ago

Such beautiful pictures! I can only imagine how inspiring it was to be there. I love the chair too! I had a cat that would have claimed it as his own personal throne😊. The afternoon tea would be worth the journey by itself!

Sue
Sue
1 year ago

Lovely pictures and details of castle, looking forward to reading the book on Tuesday.

KFJ
KFJ
1 year ago

We love the “old school” book covers! Seeing Muesli on one of these covers years ago was what first caught my eye, and now my daughter and I are hooked and have read all of your books. Technology is convenient, but our bookcase is craving a new series…… Thank you for responding to these posts, what a wonderful experience!

Cynthia Sacks
Cynthia Sacks
1 year ago

Inverlochy Castle Hotel looks so beautiful, and I am glad I can stay in it vicariously through your writing! Minus the murderous Rolls Royce, as you mention.

Margie H-L
Margie H-L
1 year ago

Love and enjoy each of the books – And have to admit;have also loved the artistic covers. Definitely will miss them. Many thanks for your updates, and please enter me in the latest giveway re: the soon-to-be former covers – Thanks and all the best!

Mary
Mary
1 year ago

Thank you for sharing your trip with us! Absolutely gorgeous scenery and the castle is amazing. Can’t wait to read the book! Thanks again!

Kathy
Kathy
1 year ago

I can hardly wait to read the next adventure for Gemma!

Lois
Lois
1 year ago

Wow! I love all your photos. Maybe some day I will get to visit the castle. I think an afternoon tea would be wonderful even if Gemma can’t be there too. I have greatly enjoyed this series and am eagerly awaiting the next book. Keep up the amazing work:)

Cathy
Cathy
1 year ago

Your photos really bring the Highlands and the castle to life! Can’t wait to read the book. I especially love that Muesli got to come with you – after losing my kitty recently, I adore reading about Muesli’s antics.

Fussypot15
Fussypot15
1 year ago

Looking forward to finally reading the next episode- but I hope Kindle does not update my covers, the new ones look like tacky teen romance stories! I hope the old biddies are not such an interfering nuisance this time! Pre-ordered, ready and waiting!

Michele
Michele
1 year ago

Great mysteries!

Linda M
Linda M
1 year ago

I have listened to the audio version of every one of the Tea Room mysteries and they are amazing !

Linda Semler
Linda Semler
1 year ago

What lovely pictures!! Such beautiful rooms!! My favorite pastime is having afternoon tea with my friends. I am having the greatest time traveling with you. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures.
Sincerely, Linda

Loulou
Loulou
1 year ago

Love all your books regardless of cover!! And I always learn something! I am just an old lady, who has lived my entire life in Pennsylvania.

Jane
Jane
1 year ago

I am so excited to read this latest installment in the Tea shop mysteries! Plus, I am more than a little jealous of your trip to Scotland for your research. Thank you for sharing this with us!

Dawn MN
Dawn MN
1 year ago

What a fabulous experience! I love how the castle actually looks inviting from the outside. Not cold looking. The inside though, Wow! I’ve put it on my bucket list. Cannot wait to devour the book! 🫖 🍰 🏰

tjk
tjk
1 year ago

I always look forward to reading your books because I enjoy your writing style and your plots. First Class A+

Charlotte
Charlotte
1 year ago

What a stunning location! I adore High Tea-and I’m a scone addict!-so will definitely add this castle to my ‘must visit’ list if I ever go to Scotland

Melanie
Melanie
1 year ago

I can’t wait to read the next installment of Gemma’s adventures! The pictures of Iverlochy Castle Hotel are so beautiful, I’m ready to book tickets from across the pond, if nothing else just to have the scones. Thanks for always transporting us to beautiful destinations while we’re stuck at home! Keep them coming!

Katie
Katie
1 year ago

Oh this made me chuckle a few times. ^_^ lol That looks like an absolutely awesome place to visit! I know exactly where I’m going to go if I ever save up enough to travel to Scotland. It’s gorgeous! And I LOVE afternoon tea! We have a place in town here (midwest America) that has that. A small taste of Britain. I go there every week because I can’t get enough of the wonderful food. And you’re right, those little bits of food are so filling! I was disappointed when I first had it because I thought I’d still be hungry, but I was so full by the end. I’ve never made that mistake again. lol

Susan
Susan
1 year ago

My young son and I would be constantly fighting over that armchair! Looking forward to more of Gemma’s adventures!

Sarah
Sarah
1 year ago

The photos are gorgeous and looking at the menu, I wish I can go to the Inverlochy castle too someday! Will the end-of-book recipe be one you tried during your research trip?

Carol K
Carol K
1 year ago

Thank you so much for sharing your pictures. This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

Sue
Sue
1 year ago

Research for a book must be so much fun!

Christy
Christy
1 year ago

I love the pictures you shared. It is wonderful to see your inspiration for the new book. The afternoon tea does look delicious. Thank you for sharing.

Where to Buy

  • Buy on AppleBooks
  • Buy on Amazon
  • Buy on Barnes & Noble
  • Buy from Google Play
  • Buy from Kobo
  • Buy from Audible

My paperbacks are also available from Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Walmart, and Amazon in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Germany

My audiobooks are also available from Apple Books.

Also, find great new books to read and authors to love at: