Former Highlands ambassador Grant Macnicol returns to Dornoch Castle Hotel after a Scottish Culinary journey

– Head Chef re-joins popular Whisky Hotel where his award winning career first began – – News from dornoch castle hotel

Dornoch Castle Hotel – home to Europe’s first hotel based Gin and Whisky Distillery – is welcoming back its former Sous Chef, Grant Macnicol, as new Head Chef for the business.

Grant (34), from Halkirk, trained at North Highland College, and in Brora and Helmsdale, starting his career with Dornoch Castle Hotel in 2004. Going on to win Scottish Young Chef of the Year in 2007, he also become a Young Highlands Ambassador. In 2008 he was appointed Head Chef at the hotel, run for the past 18 years by the Thompson family, but after a stint in charge of the kitchens, decided to leave to pursue other avenues, and, in his own words “see what the rest of Scotland had to offer.”

What followed was an impressive culinary journey as he opened a Gastro Pub in Turriff, became an executive chef at Simpsons on Queens Road, Aberdeen, spent five years at Mediterranean themed restaurant, Byzantium, in Dundee, and took two AA rosette positions, at Rufflets House Hotel in St Andrews, and Fonab Castle in Pitlochry, a five star, 3 rosette resort.

“It’s been a fantastic ten years since I left Dornoch but I am absolutely delighted to be back where it all began for me – here at Dornoch Castle Hotel,” said Grant, who explained that after a recent spell as a consultant chef in Fife, he was approached by Dunkeld House Hotel to become their Head Chef, but decided to take the position at Dornoch instead.

“Not only will Dornoch Castle always hold a very special place in my heart as the place where I first honed my culinary skills and won two major awards as a young chef, but now the Hotel has the fantastic Dornoch Distillery Company up and running, it offers me huge potential to flex my culinary muscles even further,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to developing some amazing paired menus with our own signature “mill to still” organics gins. It’s really exciting and so in vogue at the moment. Being from the Highlands never leaves you and although I very much enjoyed my journey south, it was time to come back to my homeland, and once again make use of our stunning natural larder here.”

Added Grant: “I want to give Dornoch Castle Hotel and its customers from all over the world, a taste of what I have learned along the way.”

Commenting on the appointment, Colin Thompson, Managing Director of Dornoch Castle Hotel Ltd, said: “We are thrilled to have Grant back here as Head Chef once again. The business is at a really exciting stage with the Distillery, operating in the hotel grounds out of our old historic Firehouse, doing really well exporting its unique gin all over the world to a hand picked customer base of aficionados and specialist buyers.”

“We’ve always placed high importance on the quality of our food offering too. We are effectively selling Scotland on a plate to the many overseas visitors who come here, especially from the U.S. Grant clearly showed promise and a precocious talent when he first worked here, and has more than proved himself to be one of Scotland’s finest chefs over the past ten years. Fife and Tayside’s loss is the Highlands gain!”

Colin Thompson, who runs Dornoch Castle with his wife Ros, and two sons Philip and Simon, went on to declare that he was confident Grant would rise to the challenge of pairing the Distillery’s organic gin, which incorporates ingredients such as roasted green tea, berries and seaweed, with a variety of menu choices.

“Grant is already working closely with Philip and Simon, who oversee the Distillery, to develop the unique paired whisky and gin menus which will appeal to foodie guests and boost us as a culinary, as well as a whisky destination hotel,” said Colin.

“Our organic gin is produced with yeast from rare yeast banks rediscovered from decades ago,” he added, “The distillery also worked with a well known London based tea blender to develop some of the innovative flavour combinations, so there is huge scope. We can’t wait to see what he comes up with!”
Dornoch Castle Hotel is a former Number One International Whisky Hotel, and also picked up the Scottish Licence Trade News Whisky Bar of the Year title in 2014 and 2016.
Further details on Dornoch Castle Hotel call 01862 810216, email or check out the web at


Share Your View

Hotel Industry Magazine: | Articles (RSS) | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions
© 2015, Jamieson Media, a UK Registered Partnership