Stay in a Scottish Castle
Ballathie House Hotel

Ballathie House

What is it about the verdant-green fields, the earthy musk-sweet scent of hedgerows and woods amidst the gentle, undulating waves of the Perthshhire hills that suggests a true sense of romanticism in the clear, fresh air? Not surprising then to learn that Burns and Wordsworth amongst many others have waxed lyrical about its rivers, forests and quiet glens -

"This is calm, there cannot be, a more entire tranquility."

Now, travel writer Vivien Devlin shares her experience of this idyllic setting.

Getting There
We turned off the A9 just north of Perth and took the meandering B9099 through the village of Stanley and just a few miles on, surrounded by 1,500 acres of woodland at the end of a long, winding drive lined with tall, noble trees and rhododendron bushes, you catch your first glimpse of Ballathie House Hotel. This is a charming twin-turreted greystone Victorian mansion, perfectly situated, with lawns sweeping down to the banks of the "silvery Tay."

A Sporting Estate
Previously the family home of the Coats family from Paisley, renowned in its Edwardian heyday as a sporting estate where eminent visitors and royalty were entertained, it was converted to a hotel almost thirty years ago, yet is still essentially a "private" country house. With its old fashioned classic style, Ballathie is the ideal spot for that romantic, rural retreat. As soon as you walk in the front door, there is a relaxing home-from-home atmosphere, with spacious lounges, log fires, comfy `curl-up-and-read-a-book` armchairs and cosy window nooks with views across the gardens and down to the river. For the more active the hotel has its own private salmon fishing beat, tennis, putting, croquet and clay pigeon shooting with several golf courses within easy distance.

Surrounding Countryside
Kinnoull Hill
The beauty and serenity of Ballathie is very much due its natural backdrop - miles of river, hill and woodland walks - where you may spy a rare red squirrel - right on your doorstep. Just a short drive away on the outskirts of Perth is the Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park (pictured here), with the choice of the Nature, Tower, Jubilee and Squirrel walks, each graded according to difficulty but none too strenuous. You can also cycle or go horse riding through parts of these woods with a countryside ranger on hand to point you in the right direction.

Work up an appetite for lunch by climbing 783 feet to the top of Kinnoull Hill, and marvel at the view down the Tay estuary, with Ben More in the west and look North east towards Lochnagar. Alternatively drive a few miles north to Dunkeld and explore the Hermitage, a delightful woodland path along the River Braan, described by Wordsworth as " the pleasure-ground". What exact pleasures he may have enjoyed here we may never know but he was particularly in awe at the sight of the Black Linn waterfall -

"the torrent breathing showers, ... thundering down a rocky wood, what pains to dazzle and confound, what strife of colour, shape and sound ..."

Classic Scottish Cuisine
Ballathie House Dining Rable The popularity of Ballathie House may also be due to the creative genius of the young award winning chef, Kevin MacGillivray - Scottish Chef of the Year, and Scottish Thistle "Flavour of Scotland" award 2000. This is classic Scottish cuisine with a contemporary twist, the emphasis being on fresh local produce - Tay salmon, west coast seafood, Scottish beef, lamb and game, and home grown fruit and vegetables. We enjoyed a relaxing cocktail or two - served with delicious canapés - in the intimate wood-paneled bar before dinner, while studying the four course menu.

CorkI began with a creamy goat`s cheese tart with peppery rocket salad and red pesto dressing, followed by a delicious smooth asparagus soup and Roast monkfish on a bed of tagliatelle and artichokes. For my partner, a savoury salad of mozzarella, anchovies and olives, and then a delicately poached fillet of Tay Salmon [ probably caught that morning]. The desserts tend to be a tad rich and sweet : Sticky Toffee Pudding or Treacle Tart, as well as ice creams, sorbets and a good selection of cheeses, served with celery and walnuts. To accompany your meal there is an impressive wine list of around 300 wines; claret is a speciality with over 60 vintage wines.

The Hotel
There are 27 bedrooms in the main house, each unique in size and character from standard doubles, spacious master rooms to the sumptuous, romantic Inverness suite, with a four poster bed and spacious period bathroom. Many rooms have superb views over the river. Everywhere there are elegant and stylish furnishings and drapes in soft shades of green, blue, ochre and cream. Last summer saw the opening of the Riverside Rooms, a two-storey white-washed Lodge House, just above the river and purpose-built with rod, gun and drying rooms. Each of the attractive 16 bedrooms, featuring country-style old pine furniture, has either a door directly on to the riverbank or a balcony - private, secluded, with a perfect, natural outlook.

The Gardens
Hemerocalis The next morning we take a wander through the delightful Victorian hotel gardens, with its pond, water lilies and the calming sound of the fountain. There is an abundance of colour and blossom-scent with an exotic mix of plants and flowers such as orchids, ferns, primula, the Japanese Maple - it`s now a rich purple in early summer but, chameleon-like, it will turn dark red in Autumn - and the Himalayan blue poppy.

We take a leisurely walk together along the river and hear the haunting, plaintive call of the oyster catchers as they swoop across to the far bank; We pause, listening to the myriad of sounds around us, .... " Admiring nature in her wildest grace, The eye with wonder and amazement fills, The Tay, meandering sweet ...." just as Burns recalled from his own happy journeys in the vicinity.

On the old railway route from Glasgow to Aberdeen, there was a private Ballathie Halt for family and visitors, but this has long gone. There is now however a helicopter pad. Might be useful if Michael Winner deigns to visit - I don`t think he will be disappointed.

Facts About Ballathie House Hotel
Address: Kinclaven, Perthshire PH1 4QN
Telephone 01250 883268
E-mail address
Double room: B&B from £79
Double room Dinner, B&B £110
Master room Dinner, B&B £130
Suite Dinner, B&B £130 pp
Check the Ballathie House website for seasonal offers and reservations.

Places to Visit and Things to do
Perthshire Tourist Board
Perth - the Fair City; St John`s Kirk, founded 1126; Fair Maid`s House, fictional home of Sir Walter Scott`s heroine; The Museum and Art Gallery; Fergusson Gallery; Sculpture walks; Branklyn Gardens; Black Watch Museum.
Pitlochry Festival Theatre each season with six plays, classics and comedy including J M Barrie, Moliere, and Rattigan.
Golf - at Rosemount, near Ballathie, St. Andrews, Carnoustie
Walks - The Hermitage, Dunkeld; Kinnoull Hill; River Braan; Black Linn Falls; Ossian`s Cave.

Return to the Index of Great Places to Stay in Scotland.

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