Hotel Profile: Douneside House, Tarland, Aberdeenshire

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!

 

The portraits of three wee lads in the entrance hall of Douneside House.

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.

The statue of ‘MacRobert’s Reply’, the Stirling Bomber, in the grounds of Douneside House.

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.

A home from home in Douneside House.

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 scots2travel@hotmail.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. 

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26 Comments

  1. Reply

    Travelynn Family

    February 13, 2018

    This sounds like a superb idea! Unfortunately with no babysitters, we’ll be settling for a film night in our pj’so 😊

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 13, 2018

      That has its own charm too 🙂 To be fair, it doesn’t need to be Valentine’s Day for me to sign up to a meal like this.

  2. Reply

    Laura Dove

    February 13, 2018

    What a great idea!! My husband and I would enjoy this for sure!

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 15, 2018

      What’s not to love? 🙂

  3. Reply

    Ana De-Jesus

    February 13, 2018

    Lady McRobert sounded like such an inspiring character. Despite being through so much heartache and pain with the loss of her husband and her sons, she stayed strong and always fought to stay alive. But on a lighter note the butternut squash panna cotta sounds wonderful!

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 15, 2018

      You’re spot on, it’s an intriguing mix, you have a wonderful time yet learn a heart-wrenching story. It makes you think.

  4. Reply

    Jess Howliston

    February 14, 2018

    WOW What a beautiful place, definitely looks like somewhere to go without my crazy children lol! x

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 15, 2018

      Children are certainly agree, but I know exactly what you mean!

  5. Reply

    Leta

    February 14, 2018

    Looks like a beautiful place, and stunning food. A real treat.

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 15, 2018

      It felt like a huge treat for us.

  6. Reply

    fashionandstylepolice

    February 14, 2018

    I love the sound of this place. Looks very beautiful.

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 15, 2018

      The devil’s in the detail, and this was very well thought through.

  7. Reply

    Cath - BattleMum

    February 14, 2018

    That sounds like a lovely place for a getawaygand the two desserts sound heavenly.

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 15, 2018

      The two desserts don’t go unnoticed 🙂

  8. Reply

    Claire justine

    February 14, 2018

    What a lovely place to escape too. It looks so peaceful here. Such a beautiful view from the windows. It looks lovely here.

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 15, 2018

      It’s now a RHS partner garden as well. Quite an accolade.

  9. Reply

    What Mum Loves

    February 15, 2018

    Such a lovely place! And the Lady MacRobert suite is gorgeous x

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 15, 2018

      We did feel to the manor born!

  10. Reply

    Rachel

    February 15, 2018

    Wow this looks stunning, love the decor in the rooms, food looks great too! Love the idea of getting away with out children!

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 15, 2018

      Very tranquil and elegant destination.

  11. Reply

    m.f.mceachern91@gmail.com

    February 15, 2018

    That food looks amaaaazing! Lovely post, will need to get to Aberdeenshire soon for a visit 🙂 xxx

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 16, 2018

      It really is something quite special.

  12. Reply

    Lucy Dorrington

    February 15, 2018

    The food looks divine and I love the unique furnishings and style of the rooms. far cry from standard hotels!

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 16, 2018

      A lot of the items belonged to the MacRobert family so there’s a real family feel to the place.

  13. Reply

    Ana Barrera Gordillo

    February 16, 2018

    Such a lovely place! I definitely need to go back on Aberdeenshire 😍

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      February 16, 2018

      Get it on the to-do list!

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