Great Places to Stay
- Atholl Palace Spa Hotel, Pitlochry


Surrounded by the spectacular landscape of Big Tree Country, Pitlochry in Highland Perthshire is primarily a holiday destination year round. Its reputation for attracting visitors developed from the time the Railway station opened 150 years ago. Easily accessible by road and rail, it's the ideal place to stay for a few days to enjoy hiking, biking, wildlife, heritage, and culture.

Atholl Palace Spa Hotel
The Victorian Scots Baronial architecture can be seen in many of the hotels and guest houses. On a hilltop above Pitlochry, Atholl Palace Hotel is reminiscent of a Disney fairytale castle, with its grand redstone turrets and towers, set within extensive parkland.

Purpose built as a fashionable Health Resort, Athole Hydropathic opened on 7 June 1878, and continues today as a 4 star Leisure Resort Hotel - ideal for couples and families with a Spa, swimming pool and parkland gardens. With a ballroom and banqueting hall, the Palace is popular for weddings and conferences, Christmas and New Year parties.

As part of the Castle Hotel Group, Atholl Palace has recently been undergoing major refurbishment. Accommodation ranges from smart new bedrooms decorated in shades of cream and coffee, to superior Four Poster and Turret suites with scenic views down the forested glen. Self-catering lodges offer private holiday homes in the old walled garden.

Verandah Restaurant and Stagshead Bar
I cannot comment on the Pillow Test not having experienced an overnight stay, but when recently staying up the road at Craigmohr Lodge, my partner Ken and I visited The Verandah Restaurant at Atholl Palace for dinner.

First we relaxed in the spacious Lounge bar - extremely comfortable velvet and tweed sofas. The Barman mixed me a perfect dry, ice-cold Dirty Martini and for Ken, a classic G&T. With our aperitifs, we were given a dish of olives and potato crisps.

The Stag's Head is an alternative hotel bar with a pub ambience, good choice of whisky and beer, and where you can relax on leather Chesterfield couches and Club chairs.

The à la carte dinner menu changes daily and emphasises local seasonal produce and traditional Scottish dishes - steak, venison, lamb, seafood. Ken began with a bowl of creamy Cullen Skink, crammed full of smoky fish and chunks of potato. I selected Goujons of Cod, like posh Fish Fingers for adults, served with a tomato salsa. Portion sizes are large, not nouvelle cuisine!

I then selected Scallops served (rather unusually!), with a cheese sauce, mixed salad and basmati rice. The tender, sweet molluscs were rather smothered by all this, and drowned by the strongly flavoured sauce. The tried and tested accompaniment for scallops is cauliflower or globe artichoke to complement textures; here, as a main course, a nest of mashed potato would have been better than a mountain of plain dry rice.

Over the table, Ken was enjoying his grilled fillet of Salmon with new potatoes. To finish we shared a platter of fine Scottish cheese, quince jelly, celery, oatcakes and crackers with a final top up of our Chilean Merlot.

Overall, the food, as well as service, hospitality and ambience, is homely and old fashioned verging on Retro (Ham salad with pineapple). Now that the hotel décor has had a facelift, time for the kitchen brigade to embrace a more contemporary cuisine for today's international travellers. A new Bistro & Grill menu will be launched later in 2014.

"Lunch with a View" (soup, sandwiches, chicken Liver pate, chocolate ice cream), is also served in the Verandah Restaurant, traditional Sunday roast, as well as Afternoon Tea.

Atholl Palace Museum and the Spa

Retaining the heritage of the 19th century Hydrotherapy resort, the modern Lavender Spa offers relaxing massages, beauty treatments, steam rooms, sauna, Jacuzzi and swimming pool. Sports galore - putting green, tennis, snooker.

In order to appreciate the history of the Resort, visit the Atholl Palace Museum downstairs with fascinating vintage objects, kitchenware, photographs and ephemera to give a taste of life (upstairs & downstairs) in its Victorian and Edwardian prime.

Things to See and Do
Pitlochry is an ideal place to visit with so much to see and do nearby - Festival Theatre (pictured here), Salmon Ladder and Dam, Scottish Plant Hunters Garden, Whisky distillery, Loch Tummel, Castles and woodland walks. Tour further afield with day trips to explore east to St. Andrews, south to Edinburgh or north to the Cairngorms for summer hikes and ski-ing in Winter.

Further Information and Reservations
The Atholl Palace Spa Hotel is in Pitlochry, Perthshire and the Postcode is PH16 5LY and phone # is 01796 472400. For more information or to make a reservation see their Web site.

Whatever your reason for visiting Athol Palace - a relaxing leisure break, business meeting or family party, the guest facilities offer a good value holiday or private event. If you are touring the area, call in for a drink in the Stagshead bar, lunch, Cream tea or dinner in the Verandah Restaurant. A fine historic Resort Hotel which has certainly changed in design and hospitality since welcoming the first guests in 1878!.

Recent Guest Reviews

Fabulous Spa break
"We had a fantastic 2 day spa break. Everything was super - our room with views down the valley, Spa treatments, food and staff. Our deal included afternoon tea with a glass of champagne - such decadence - but very good value.

Stunning views and dripping with charm….
Just back from a brilliant weekend. We went skiing at Glenshee just 30 miles away. The hotel interior has a really nice olde worlde charm. Staff are helpful and friendly. Dinner on both nights was superb."

A very special occasion.
"We have stayed at this hotel from time to time since the mid 1980's and it always has a special place in our heart. This time we were celebrating my wife's birthday so we booked the Gatehouse lodge. An extravagance for just two people but well worth it."

Vivien Devlin, British Guild of Travel Writers

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