Great Places to Stay
- Boath House, Auldearn, near Nairn, Inverness-shire
Location and Introduction
Located just outside Nairn on the Moray Firth and a convenient 20 minutes drive from Inverness Airport, it's the perfect place to stay to explore this beautiful north-east coastline. This is often regarded as the sunniest place in Scotland. There are historic places to visit (like Fort George, illustrated here), sports and leisure for all ages and interests - Loch Ness, dolphin watching on the Moray Firth, the Highland whisky trail, Culloden Battlefield, Cawdor Castle of Macbeth fame, and no less than 28 golf courses within a one hour radius.
Once described as "the most beautiful Regency House in Scotland," this Georgian mansion was designed for the Dunbar family around 1820 by Archibald Simpson of Aberdeen, reputed to be the leading architect of his day. A 15th century tower, mentioned in the court circulars of Mary Queen of Scots, formerly stood on this site. This Grade A listed property was on Historic Scotland's 'endangered list', in the early 1990s when Don and Wendy Matheson found it, fell in love with it, and set about restoring the house to its original architectural splendour.
Talk about the Wow! factor. Without any exaggeration whatsoever, Boath House is simply a stunning and magnificent country mansion - a kind of Palace in miniature - which will take your breath away. As you meander up the drive, surrounded by twenty acres of woodland and elegant landscaped gardens, you'll catch your first glimpse of the Palladian pillars of the entrance porch. The crunch of the car tyres on the pink stone gravel brings a young man out to assist with luggage and we are led inside the spacious grand hall, stuffed with antique furniture, portraits and contemporary art. There 's no reception desk at which to check in or the bother of bedroom keys so it was straight up the blue carpeted curving staircase to our beautifully decorated bedroom. We can relax here later but it's time to explore the house and garden. Downstairs there are two cosy and comfortable lounges beautifully furnished with antiques and paintings. We sit having Earl Grey tea and home-made cake in the sunny drawing room at the front of the house with its traditional fireplace, Indian rugs and sink-into sofas and curl-up and-read-armchairs. The colour-scheme is in warm rich tones of gold, terracotta and tobacco brown, and everywhere - from floor to ceiling - oil paintings, watercolour landscapes, sculpture, ceramics and art work.
The Mathesons have established - and keep adding to - their own personal collection of superb contemporary art which offers a permanent exhibition in their home for all of us to enjoy. In addition, there is a seasonally changing display of art for sale, displayed all around the house, in the lounges, hall, library and dining room. As well as filling the house with vibrant style and colour, the in-house gallery is a superb opportunity to promote Scottish artists to visitors from around the world.
The garden is a work of art in itself. As well as renovating the house, the Mathesons have painstakingly restored the extensive parkland, herbaceous flower borders and Victorian walled garden back to its period landscaped design. So take a wander around the gardens with immaculate lawns, trickling streams, a large trout lake with families of swans and ducks, through the Kitchen garden - where much of the fruit, vegetables and herbs are grown - and over to the woodland with its charming row of beehives (taste the home-made honey for breakfast!). In the summer you can sit outside on the terrace for a coffee or chilled drink and play croquet on the lawn.
Apart from the art exhibitions, the Mathesons are also keen on music and arrange seasonal concerts and recitals.
And So To Bed
This intimate Dolls' House of a hotel boasts just six bedrooms and suites. No wonder it has such a homely ambience. Every bedroom has been individually and meticulously decorated to offer the most sumptuous fabrics, drapes, cushions and furnishings. There are extremely spacious Lake View rooms with Four-poster beds and equally enormous bathrooms. For a touch of luxury reserve Lake View room number 3 with gorgeous crimson bed drapes and chaise longue complemented by honey coloured tweed upholstery and furry cushions. The stylish terracotta bathroom has a freestanding bath and separate shower cubicle. The grandest room in the house is probably Lake View room 2 where the bathroom offers the wow factor all by itself. This boasts twin freestanding Victorian claw-foot baths for the ultimate, romantic hideaway for the weekend, environment.
Other bedrooms - equally pretty and charming in style and décor - have garden and woodland views, 7 foot King Size beds and luxury bathrooms. For a little more privacy and space, check into the Mickle Cottage suite hidden down the garden path with separate lounge with leather sofas, bedroom and two bathrooms. This is accessible for wheelchair users and being on ground level is ideal for those who don't wish to climb stairs. All bedrooms feature the old and new - antique furniture as well as a modern CD-Player, ensuite bathrooms, soft white towels, bathrobes and top quality Aveda toiletries, television, direct dial telephone and tea and coffee tray.
Dining at Boath House is a gastronomic experience. Multi-award winning Head Chef Charles Lockley has maintained 3 AA rosettes for several years and received a Very Highly Commended certificate at our 2005 Scottish Hotel awards. A smart casual dress code is required in the crimson red Georgian Restaurant, which offers a quiet, romantic mood with candlelight and views over the trout lake. Lockley and his team create an innovative, modern Scottish five-course table d'hôte menu (a very reasonable £45) featuring top-notch local seafood, beef, poultry, game and artisan cheese with home-grown fruit and vegetables. This is a place for foodies yet it's not over the top. It's all about freshly cooked dishes, composed and presented with true passion, imagination and flair. Wendy Matheson, also a trained chef, is leader of the Slow Food Movement in the Highlands and Morayshire convivium. At Boath House knowing the source of food is not just important but essential.
Newly opened in 2005 is the Orangerie, a sunny conservatory, for casual dining, where a two or three course lunch is served.
The daily changing dinner menu describes the provenance of many dishes - for example you may taste Sweet Potato, Carrot and Garlic soup, West Coast Seared Scallops on a bed of crushed peas and coriander, Fillet of Seabass with puy lentils with caper berry dressing, or Organic Lamb from Shetland served with cassoulet of black beans and kidneys. Then the cheese board, precisely labelled, Strathdon Blue, Orkney Grimbister and Cheddar from the Isle of Mull. Finish with a very light but mouth-watering dessert such as a creamy Pannacotta with Rhubarb and orange crisps. The wine list offers a good selection under £20 and house wines at around £15.
Breakfast, quite rightly, is treated with the same respect as the superb dinner the night before. Everything is served at the table with no buffet. This is a feast for royalty - expect really fresh orange juice, creamy porridge (the fat oats are from Golspie) with a drizzle of cream and honey, then Devilled Mushrooms (picked from the garden), or scrambled free-range eggs (collected from their own hens) served with smoked salmon from Achiltibuie and home made bread. Have I whetted your appetite?
Weddings and Functions
For a very romantic and intimate wedding day, Boath House is happy to organise and host your special day from the ceremony or blessing to the reception. With just six bedrooms, the house is perfect for all-inclusive use. There is a boardroom for small business conferences and meetings.
Boath Spa, Sport and Leisure
Boath House has its own compact yet comprehensive Aveda Health and Beauty Spa, which adds even more glamour to this wee country house hotel. The Spa features a double Jacuzzi and a sauna. Give your mind, body and spirit a real healthy boost with an Elemental nature facial, an Essential back treatment, or a stress relieving massage. There are half and full day packages for (literally) top to toe treatments or why not indulge in a Himalayan Rejuvenation Treatment based on ancient Indian healing arts to release tension and calm the mind.
There is a host of leisure activities and visitor attractions nearby - two local championship golf courses, historic castles, Culloden battlefield (including the original Leanach cottage, illustrated here, which survived the battle), Loch Ness, whisky distilleries and beautiful beaches and open countryside for walking, hill climbing, cycling, horse-riding, as well as rivers and sea firth for fishing and sailing.
The Mathesons spent ten years as a labour of love on this major restoration project and they deserve every accolade for architectural heritage but also in creating an utterly unique place to stay. Every aspect of the hotel is simply exquisite - homely and relaxing without faff and fuss yet with a touch of genuine glamour and artistic style. No wonder Boath House has been named by the AA as one of the top 200 hotels in the UK. Wendy and Don are delightful, welcoming hosts who personally look after guests, serving drinks in the lounge, waiting at table, valet parking cars and carrying luggage. It does not feel like a hotel at all - their beautiful home creates a private house party atmosphere as if staying with friends. And the icing on the cake - eating and drinking at Boath House is a gastronomic joy and an inspiration.
For more information or to make a reservation see the www.boath-house.com/.
UPDATE - Boath House has a covetted Michelin Star and 4AA rosettes, which puts it firmly in the top four restaurants in Scotland and one of the most notable in Britain. Then in 2010 Boath House received the AA’s award of ‘Scottish Hotel of the Year’.
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