Great Places to Stay
- Kinnaird, By Dunkeld, Perthshire
Kinnaird imbues a true sense of distinction, blending gracious living and fine hospitality - as experienced by travel writer Vivien Devlin.
One of Scotland's Top Ten Hotels
Kinnaird was recently selected as one of the top ten hotels in Scotland and one of the top 200 hotels in the UK by the AA Hotel Guide. This is certainly a prestigious accolade but that's not all. Add to that an award for the Best Small Hotel in the World 2002 from Gallivanter`s guide to idyllic places for dedicated travellers. And further recognition of excellence comes from the one and only Andrew Harper, the renowned American travel writer. He compiles a Connoisseur's guide to peaceful and unspoiled places. In December 2002, Kinnaird won a Harper Hideaway of the Year grand award, the only hotel in Britain to be selected from a total of 24 hotels worldwide.
A Perfect Hideaway
Kinnaird is certainly a perfect hideaway offering peace and relaxation. Located just off the A9 about 12 miles north of Perth, it is hidden within its own 9,000 estate down a winding country lane. The majestic soft-grey stone ivy-clad house is surrounded by manicured lawns, woodland, gardens and walks down to the River Tay.
This elegant mansion, dating back to the late 18th century then further extended around 1880, it's always been a family home and fishing and shooting lodge. The Hon Lady Ward purchased the house and estate in 1927. When her daughter in law, Constance inherited Kinnaird 60 years later, wishing to preserve the house, its style and atmosphere, she decided to open its doors to a select number of guests who come for fishing, country pursuits and relaxation.
Indeed, there are only nine luxuriously furnished bedrooms which therefore delightfully retain that special private house party atmosphere. Accommodation is also offered in eight charming estate cottages, sleeping two to eight guests for the ultimate rural retreat.
A Warm Welcome From All
Arriving in the early evening we are greeted by the charming host and manager, Douglas Jack and two immaculately uniformed staff who pull our luggage from the cavernous boot. We are next welcomed at the front door by Fionn, a docile and very friendly golden retriever, tail wagging. Over the weekend, wherever we may be, strolling over to the walled garden, sitting outside on the lawn, Fionn is sure to be around, like a silent guard dog watching home and guests to ensure that all is well.
There are eight bedrooms and one suite, offering different views, design and character, all graciously furnished and stuffed with homely comforts. Fire lit, home made shortbread, decanter of Highland Heater (a special ginger whisky family recipe), teddy bear on the bed (place outside your door for privacy). The spacious bathroom has blue "K" monogrammed white fluffy towels and bathrobes, Bvlgari toiletries - what more could you wish for ?
Bathed and changed into our glad rags, we saunter down to dinner. First of all an aperitif in the cosy Cedar drawing room, with comfy sofas, Ward family antiques, porcelain and paintings, log fire burning. A flute of champagne in hand, nibbling olives and canapés, we peruse the extensive menu. Chef Trevor Brooks has been awarded 3 AA rosettes and RAC Gold Ribbon so we are sure to be in for a fine feast.
Indulge in an amuse bouche of Celeriac veloute with truffle oil and poached quail's egg, served in a tiny white porcelain coffee cup. Then perhaps an appetiser of Lobster Ravioli, a platter of Scottish Oysters or Ballotine of Duck and Foie Gras with cider and apple jelly. Then a selection of main courses including Roasted Monkfish with Langoustine on a gratinée sauce, Salmon with wild mushrooms, artichokes and tomato confit, Guinea Fowl with fine beans, asparagus, peas and roasted gnocchi and Venison with dauphine potatoes. A pause before a sweet or savoury end to dinner - Prune and Armagnac Soufflé, Mango Tart with Asian fruit ice-cream, or Farmhouse Cheese. The wine list is as you would expect from such a country house, extensive and well selected, from classic French Bordeaux to the fresh young Californian and Australian wines.
The descriptions of each dish may speak for themselves - taste, texture and presentation is deliciously exquisite. Every mouthful requires and deserves time to savour, it is all so artistically and culinary perfect. In the elegant pale cream and gold dining room, service is unobtrusively attentive and smooth.
After dinner, we retire for coffee in the Cedar Room. Other guests play snooker next door while a young couple is engaged in a competitive game of backgammon. Another homely touch is the piles of books and glossy magazines (from Vogue to Whisky).
Back to our pretty room, we find the bed has been turned down, fresh towels laid in the bathroom, curtains drawn and the fire lit. And so to sleep, perchance to dream: superbly comfortable mattress, feather pillow heaven, and cool cotton sheets with the ubiquitous "K" on our Emperor sized bed.
Breakfast in the Grand Scottish Tradition
In the morning if you do not wish to dress and take breakfast downstairs, then complete the breakfast menu for room service. Remember to place the "Do Not Disturb" teddy outside your door and you will be left in peace. With a taste of understated luxury, no wonder Kinnaird has also won an award as best Romantic Getaway from Travel & Leisure magazine.
Breakfast is in the grand Scottish tradition - freshly squeezed ice cold orange and grapefruit juice, porridge and cream, kippers, kedgeree, eggs and bacon, and scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. The egg yolk is bright yellow indicating fresh organic farm eggs. Much of the produce used in the kitchen are grown at Kinnaird. Huge pots of tea and coffee arrive for each person and it's proper leaf tea - the sign of fine taste - and strong Columbian coffee, along with toast, croissants, home-made marmalade, honey and jam, everything served on delicate pink Villeroy & Boch Petit Fleurs, bone china.
An Idyllic Time Capsule
Staying at Kinnaird offers that elusive sense of homely relaxation and personal care which pampers you in an atmosphere of old-style gracious, aristocratic living.
This is due to Douglas Jack's meticulous management and his enthusiastic young staff. In the wings Mrs Constance Ward watches over her home with care and warm affection, preserving its genteel Edwardian country house manner, as experienced at Kinnaird for generations. She and her late husband Alexander Ward always enjoyed carrying on the family tradition of Autumn house parties for friends (and their dogs) during the fishing and shooting season. Guests would also play tennis and croquet and after dinner, a game of bridge, backgammon or billiards. A cousin of Mrs Ward's described Kinnaird as remaining in a time capsule, like "Brigadoon."
Today this idyllic way of life continues in much the same way for individual guests. But of course, Kinnaird is just the perfect size for your own exclusive house party, for a wedding, birthday, anniversary or corporate event.
Families and groups of friends may prefer the cottages on the Kinnaird estate. Two Courtyard cottages, Keepers (two double bedrooms) and Jock Scott, (one bedroom), near the main house offer that extra privacy and seclusion, each with living room, kitchen, dining room, outdoor sun deck. Six other farmhouses and cottages further away up the hill and down by the river sleep three to eight guests.
A member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux, Kinnaird imbues a true sense of distinction and fine taste with unpretentious, genuine hospitality which brings guests back time after time from across the UK, Europe and, due to its American heritage, from the United States.
We Shall Return!
Sadly we must leave for the journey home. Back on the motorway, CD entertainment playing at the touch of a button and the "time capsule" spell of Kinnaird is quickly broken - it is back to the future, back to the city and a rather more ordinary life as usual. A return visit to Kinnaird is definitely on the cards in the near future.
For more information or to make a reservation see the Kinnaird Web site.
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