CRIANLARICH, Scotland — Dining experiences in the United Kingdom too often blur into a melange of predictable pub food accompanied by a pint, a neighboring patron’s cigarette smoke and a motorway view.

The Ben More Lodge Hotel — not far from the legendary West Highland Way hiking trail — interrupts that trend.

Its stunning mountain views, local cuisine and the unique character of its wall full of signatures and a map highlighting the walking trail make this roadside restaurant a stark departure from the gammon-steak-and-quiz-night fare.

The Ben More Lodge is located near the junction of the A82 and A85 highways, the gorgeous main thoroughfares that snake through the heart of the Scottish Highlands.

It’s a convenient stop-off point for tourists en route to the Highlands’ unofficial capital of Fort William or those traveling the opposite way toward the can’t-miss William Wallace monument in Stirling.

It’s also not far from the region’s largest body of water — Loch Lomond and its bonnie banks.

From the scenic front patio, patrons can enjoy the views of evergreen pines and purple wildflowers that sprawl over the gently rising mountains. Fare such as salmon steak or Scottish lamb can be washed down with wines imported from France, Germany or the New World.

While most visitors pop in off the road, the lodge welcomes hordes of hikers who descend from the West Highland Way — the 100-mile trek that follows cattle routes and old military roads built to control the Jacobite Clans.

The lodge is family-run, and it shows with the prompt, professional service and homemade meals that speak to a time before franchised eateries and their universal dishes came to dominate the industry.

We ordered two appetizers and two pints, but lingered around the bar long enough to have enjoyed a five-course meal. Sadly, we failed to etch our names onto the wall full of signatures and notes made by people who came from as far as California and Tokyo.

For those looking for a place to stay overnight, the lodge offers 11 bed-and-breakfast rooms and will even allow pets, with prior notice.

Ben More Lodge

Location: Near the intersection of the A82 and A85 roadways.

Food and drink: A diverse menu of local cuisine as well as a full bar.

Ambience: Traditional rustic Highlands meets artsy folk house with a touch of Scottish class.


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