In time for Valentine's Day I'm offering up a post about a No Tots Child-Free escape in Aberdeenshire. If you love your food, Scottish country hotels, not-for-profit organisations, and you're not opposed to emotive history, then I've got an ideal recommendation. Did I mention the Tasting Menu?
Children are very welcome here, but it's a delightful escape if you can secure babysitters!
Douneside House near Tarland in Royal Deeside is truly unique. It once was the country estate of the MacRobert family, then it became a rural retreat for serving and retired military personnel. Completely refurbished, it only opened as a country house hotel in June 2018, and it’s something special.
Check-In – After driving through the country roads of Royal Deeside we arrived at the appealingly isolated Douneside House. In the entrance hall I passed portraits of three beautiful little boys, I spotted a stunning Louis Vuitton travel case in the lobby, as well as family photographs on the walls, and ceramics and artworks dotted around every surface. I felt like I’d stepped into a personal space, not just another hotel. You could tell there was story here. Check In was swift and polite, and we were taken to our room.
Accommodation – We were settled in the ‘Lady MacRobert’ suite , one of the most sumptuous rooms in the house. Decorated in calming green hues, with a beautiful bay window looking out across the Deeside countryside, it was a refined, elegant space. The refreshment tray was notably good, with a mix of loose leaf teas, and coffee and a cafetiere. The Molton Brown toiletries were also a treat, sitting pretty on the roll top bath. It was beautiful room, but it begged the question who was Lady MacRobert? Some of the other rooms had simple names like ‘Iain’, ‘Alasdair’ and ‘Roderic’. It turns out that Lady MacRobert is a truly fascinating character with more than a dash of adventure about her. She met her older Aberdonian husband aboard a liner travelling between India and the UK (as you do). Upon marriage in 1911 she suddenly was party to a glorious Aberdeenshire estate, which she inherited when her husband passed away in 1922. The union had brought them three gorgeous wee boys, whose portraits and photos greeted me at every turn in the house. They grew into strapping lads, but by 1941 she’d lost all three of them. One in a civil air accident, two in service to the RAF during the Second World War. Lady MacRobert’s private suffering must have been crippling, but what of her public response? She donated £25,000 to the RAF for a bomber bearing the family crest. A very strong reply to Hitler if ever I saw one. This mother had spirit and fire, despite such heavy losses.
Dining – Naturally the history of the house stays with you wherever you go. We had pre-dinner drinks in the bar, decorated in the blues and greys of the RAF. There the dining experience began, with an amuse-bouche of salmon avocado salsa cone, blaggis bon bon (black pudding and haggis) and potato fondant.
In the restaurant the excellent food continued as we threw ourselves into the six course tasting menu. Douneside House is a Triple AA Rosette establishment, the only one of its kind in Aberdeen and shire. We decided to accompany our meal with the wine flight as we sensed the staff would make discerning yet colourful choices.
Our first course was butternut squash panna cotta, with a glass of champagne – a delightful start. A sweet PX sherry accompanied the second course of wood pigeon. For the third course we savoured Loch Duart Salmon, followed by Highland Venison as the fourth course. The Mango Espuma with Coconut Sorbet was such a fresh dessert, and we finished with a White Chocolate Parfait. For busy parents, to indulge in this manner was absolutely heavenly. It felt like a real departure from everyday life. The portion size was ideal, the service was attentive and the waiters had excellent knowledge about the dishes they were serving.
Location – Douneside House is a destination in itself. The following morning we explored the grounds and noted the proud statue of the Stirling Bomber in the gardens. The Walled Garden, with its glasshouse, produces much of the fresh fruit and vege that makes its way into the chef’s larder. The gardens feature curious rock pools, waterfalls and statues, and a further accolade is that it’s recently been accredited as a RHS Partner Garden. There’s a small playground for little ones, and sweeping views for all ages to appreciate. The Health Club is another asset; including a swimming pool, steam room and sauna.
When Lady MacRobert passed away the family’s commitment to the armed forces never wavered. The MacRobert trust oversees the estate, hence for around forty years it offered a retreat to serving and retired personnel. Today the armed forces still receive a healthy discount if they book at Douneside. It’s a not-for-profit organisation, so it felt strange to be simultaneously indulging yet giving something back.
The story of the house broke my heart, but Lady MacRobert will inspire me for a long time to come.
Our Story – We drove directly from Aberdeen to Douneside House. Since we visited a new monthly Dining Club has been established with a notably affordable room rate for its guests. Self-catering accommodation is also available – click here to discover more. If you wish to treat yourself Douneside is a well considered option.
If you like what you read then don’t miss a post, enter your email address in the follow box and You’re In, or join the conversation on Facebook. For any queries or opportunities please email email@example.com. We received complimentary dinner, bed and breakfast for review purposes, we paid for the wine flight. It’s always a privilege to experience such history.