Great Places to Stay
- Marriott Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club
Travel writer Vivien Devlin recently had the opportunity to sample the Marriott Dalmahoy hotel and country club near Edinburgh. Here is her review of this popular location - with some comments on how it could be improved!
Marriot International Inc
Marriott International Inc is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2002 and has every reason to be proud of its gradual and successful development, first under its founder J. W. Marriott, and today, J. W. Marriott Jr who is chairman of the board and chief executive. The Marriott hotel and hospitality company manages several other major hotel brand names including the luxury Ritz-Carlton, the budget Ramada and Fairfield Inns as well as Marriott hotels and resorts totalling a total of 2,400 hotels worldwide.
In 2002 the AA presented Marriott with the Best Hotel Group of the Year award. So they must be doing something right!
Location, location, location is today's buzz word. The Marriott Dalmahoy at Kirknewton is just seven miles from the centre of Edinburgh, with the airport about ten minutes drive away. The original part of the hotel is Dalmahoy House, a charming Georgian mansion house surrounded by parkland, a lake, woods, the Pentland Hills and of course the immaculate sweeping greens of the golf courses. There are 215 bedrooms and suites, most of which are in the long rambling extension wings leading off on three levels from the main house. While obviously of modern architecture, the design is sympathetic to the baronial style next door, with attractive corner turrets which provide spacious circular rooms with great panoramic views all around. These rooms are named after classic malt whiskies - with an accompanying dram provided. Full marks for specially equipped bedrooms on the ground floor adapted for wheelchair users.
For a special occasion you may also reserve one of the eight Period bedrooms, such as Her Ladyship's, the Countess, or the Lord Aberdour situated on the second floor of Dalmahoy House, featuring four-poster beds and traditional furnishings.
Our standard room, 309, was rather a trek from reception down long corridors, up and down several flights of stairs, before taking the lift, confusingly, to the 5th floor. The colour scheme and furnishings are very much Marriott branded with pink flower chintz bedspreads contrasting with red/cream plaid armchairs and a diamond pattern carpet, together with two double beds - useful for a family but otherwise taking up a lot of space - and typical dark mahogany-look "hotel" furniture with the TV hidden inside a huge cabinet.
Personally I feel the interior design is all rather "pretty", old-fashioned and shabby and a contemporary new look might be more appealing to the discerning world traveller of today. Beside the bed there is a copy of the Book of Mormon in keeping with the Marriott family tradition - a subtle point, without any sense of preaching which reminds you of this family owned company, personally run to this day.
Why do wardrobes always have to be placed bang inside the door in the narrow corridor between bathroom and bedroom? An open closet-area with rails and shelves would make unpacking and dressing so much more convenient. The room has many home-from home facilities including an iron for that crumpled shirt, trouser press, kettle, tea and coffee and a mini-bar, with ice machines on each corridor, so that you can enjoy a private G&T, but surprisingly there's no wine or bubbly provided - this is only available from room service.
Dining at Dalmahoy - 4 rosettes
Which leads me neatly on to dinner and it is in the superb cuisine where the Marriott Dalmahoy excels. In the beautiful surroundings of the ochre and red Pentland Restaurant, you shall experience a real taste of elegance, style and tradition. Guests are requested to wear smart dress and while most women were glamorous in their little black dress, it's a shame that on the night we were there several men chose to go casual in short sleeved shirts and slacks. Perhaps the rule should be enforced like at the London Ritz where men are lent a jacket and tie if they arrived underdressed! It all adds a sense of occasion that is what staying in a lovely hotel is all about.
We were invited to sit in the fabulous cosy wood-panelled cocktail bar for - appropriately - a cocktail before dinner as we read through the fabulous menu. What to choose! There are six choices for starter and eight for the main course. I would thoroughly recommend the smoked salmon, carved at the tabled served, unusually, with blinis, chopped red-onion, chives and other savoury condiments. Then fillet of John Dory, on a bed of leek and tomato mash and Bouillabaisse Sauce. The cheese board is a huge trolley, wheeled to your table, containing several kilos of ripe French "fromage". A velvet- smooth Pinotage completed a perfect meal. Alternatively, Celery and Stilton soup or Goose liver with Sauternes Poached Pear. To follow, Mignon of Angus Beef, Maize fed Chicken and a selected roast and fish of the day, as well as a vegetarian dish. Puddings include Tarte Tatin, sorbets, ice-cream and raspberry and vanilla crème brulée The chef is Alan Matthews and he deserves every credit for preparing such an original and contrasting selection of inspired dishes, each presented with expertise and style. The service throughout was friendly, relaxed and impeccably attentive.
Golf and Leisure
Leisure resorts are a major focus in the Marriott portfolio and at the Dalmahoy country club golf is taken very seriously with major investment over the past few years to create two championship courses. The aim of the Director of Golf, Iain Burns, who has joined Dalmahoy direct from the PGA, is to develop its reputation as a premier corporate golf venue. Over the years many leading names from the world of golf have played these greens including Ballesteros, Norman, Jacklin and Montgomerie during the Solheim Cup and nine Scottish PGA championships. In addition there's a golf academy, putting green and covered driving range. The contrasting golf courses (par 72 and par 68) and excellent conference, leisure and hospitality facilities, makes Dalmahoy the ideal venue for corporate meetings and special events. There are function rooms and hospitality suites for every business or social occasion, parties and of, course, weddings.
Other sports available include tennis, family putting green and a jogging trail through the grounds. Indoors, there is a heated swimming pool of the lagoon style for a fun dip rather than serious laps, sauna, spa bath, steam room and a gym with fitness instructors giving personal tuition and advice.
If that is all far too energetic then you can also relax with a pampering beauty treatment. Beauty Essentials is a small, compact yet perfectly comprehensive beauty parlour, offering every kind of face and body therapy, from a manicure to the current phase, Botox. On a wet Sunday morning I booked a one hour facial and was thoroughly exfoliated, toned, moisturised and massaged; under Emma's careful fingering I experienced one of the most relaxing and (hopefully) rejuvenating treatments ever. Liz Wishart superbly manages beauty Essentials as a franchise under difficult surroundings; the salon is curiously situated upstairs from the leisure centre, between the busy bustling Café and the bar. Spa, beauty and health treatments are extremely popular with hotel guests worldwide and thus big business in country house hotels today. Improvement in location, design and extended facilities for this beauty salon should be on the agenda for immediate action. Compared to the increased popularity of Spa hotels elsewhere, this is where investment would be worth making.
The Marriott Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club is just that - a busy and popular golf resort with many sports and leisure activities for all ages. For the non-sporty, just along the road at Livingston there's the famous MacArthur Glen discount shopping mall - well worth a visit. And the city of Edinburgh is just twenty minutes away. This is a four star hotel, not 5 star, however hard it tries to promote its luxury country house hotel image in the brochure. The standard of comfort and personal service is not top class and in fact rather disappointing in some respects.
If you would prefer a lie in and not dash down to the dining room, Breakfast may be served in your room - but this is not an experience I would recommend. A simple order of a pot of coffee, hot milk, orange juice, toast and marmalade seemed to be impossible. The tray arrived after 45 minutes, not half an hour as promised, with coffee accompanied by two Danish pastries. There was a tiny jug of tepid milk, (suitable for one cup), no orange juice, no toast and no marmalade. The missing items were then brought up. The "freshly squeezed orange juice" on the menu tasted like reconstituted dried powder, not even a good supermarket brand of fresh juice. The coffee was equally poor in taste and strength. The cost? Around £12 per person plus £ 2.50 for service. No, I don't think so. If you wish a cooked breakfast, there is little choice - just a full British fry-up of eggs, bacon, and the works, for £ 2.00 more.
If service was improved and standard bedroom furnishings updated then this could be enjoyed as a first class luxury hotel. Meanwhile, the location, the fabulous cuisine in the Pentland restaurant, golf courses and Spa facilities all provide a great place to stay for all the family.
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