Great Places to Stay
- The Marcliffe at Pitfodels, Aberdeen
Marcliffe of Pitfodels has a high reputation in the north-east of Scotland. People like Prince Charles, Prime Minister Tony Blair, The Sultan of Brunei, Sir Alex Ferguson, Rod Stewart, Charlton Heston and Mikhail Gorbachev have all called in to sample its delights. So Edinburgh-based travel writer Vivien Devlin drove up to Aberdeen to try it out for herself - and she was not disappointed.
A Gracious Country House Hotel - In the City
With its rather baronial-sounding name, The Marcliffe at Pitfodels implies a very traditional and gracious property with stylish old fashioned comforts and service. And this is exactly what you will find. This is a most charming and homely country house hotel, yet in the city on the south side of Aberdeen on the A93 heading towards Banchory. The elegant white washed mansion, originally built in 1846 amidst eight acres of gardens is privately owned by the Spence family. The property had lain uninhabited for some time when they took it over in 1991 when they invested in major refurbishment to create a comfortable drawing room, a bright and airy conservatory restaurant and elegantly furnished bedrooms. The Spence family had previously owned other hotels around Aberdeenshire and therefore a fine collection of antique furniture, paintings, porcelain and artifacts can be found scattered throughout the house.
Glamis, Balmoral, Fyvie, Dunnottar
Arriving up the sweeping drive to the front door under the porchway, you would have no immediate concept of an extension wing of bedrooms and a series of spacious banqueting rooms, carefully hidden at the back. The open lobby and reception is most welcoming with a huge vase of flowers and large sofas giving a homely ambiance. The 42 bedrooms are all individually designed and come in all shapes and layout but all offering a larger than average room, with armchairs, Satellite TV, top quality fabrics in traditional plaids, colourful checks, pretty chintz and rich colours of burgundy and greens. The rooms are given attractive Scottish names, not numbers, such as Glamis, Balmoral, Fyvie, or Dunnottar taken from castles and historic places around the region.
With bedrooms situated in the original house and new wing, there are no more than four or six bedrooms on each hall way, providing peace and privacy. On the ground floor of the new wing the bedrooms have a French window opening out on to a garden patio. All bedrooms have facilities and service not normally offered in such a small hotel. Here you can expect bathrobes, refrigerated mini-bar, basket of fresh fruit, a pile of magazines and an evening turn down service. While you are at dinner, your room is tidied, fresh towels, curtains drawn and bed prepared for the night.
Due to demand there are four newly refurbished suites offering a more contemporary style and featuring a separate sitting room, large bedroom with king size bed and, even more welcome, a large marble luxury bathroom with a separate power shower as well as a good sized bath. Toiletries are by Molton Brown - a luscious selection of relaxing bath foaming gels and oils, pure soaps and shampoo.
Small Luxury Hotels of the World
The Marcliffe at Pitfodels is a member of the prestigious group of international hotels, Small Luxury Hotels of the World - and no wonder. This is a very special place indeed where you are sure to feel at home. In contrast large anonymous city centre top 5 star hotels with long empty corridors with endless rooms, are very often not relaxing in that sense because with hundreds of guests, there are insufficient staff to offer personal attention.
As a privately run hotel, many of the managers and front of house staff have been at the Marcliffe for many years and perhaps worked with the Spence family in their previous hotels. And that family team commitment shows through in the observant, personal attention which is friendly and genuinely caring.
The Conservatory Restaurant
The spacious circular conservatory is filled with sunlight, flowers and plants, wicker chairs and pretty pink and white tablecloths and there are French windows directly out to the terrace with white garden tables and chairs, where in fine summer weather you may also choose to dine. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the Conservatory and the bright, airy setting offers a casual "holidaying in the South of France" mood. The superb à la carte menu, however, is far from casual. This is fine dining gourmet style and there is an exceptional choice with a separate list of daily specials. While many restaurants will state they use "local produce", the Marcliffe proudly lists their suppliers by name to prove that the beef, seafood, game, vegetables and fruit all comes from in and around Aberdeen.
Starters include excellent home-made soups, classic Caesar salad, wild Smoked Salmon, Scallops, and an unusual and very tasty King Prawn and Crab Ravioli with salsa verde - a generous portion too as an appetiser.
The House speciality is the Char Grill for steaks: "Certified Scotch Beef from McIntosh Donald of Portlethen." If you enjoy a good steak, then this is where to come: choose from Chateaubriand (24 oz for 2 people), Fillet, Rib eye, Sirloin and Cote de Boeuf. This part of North East Scotland is of course renowned too for the best fresh fish and seafood and local lobster, either grilled with butter or as Lobster Thermidor is very rarely off the menu. The Fillet of Sole was delicately grilled and served with sautéed calamari, pak-choi and rice, once again a large platter - Aberdonians must have healthy appetites. The chef seems to enjoy inventive creations such as Fillet of Rarebit Haddock [ melted cheese on top], on a bed of crushed peas with sauté potatoes - in other words, fish `n chips with mushy peas. Vegetarians are equally well treated with a wide choice of pasta, risotto and savoury dishes. Usual selection of desserts, ice-cream and cheese and a well priced wine and champagne list with house wines from a very reasonable £ 14.50. The Marcliffe prides itself on its extensive wine cellar of over 200 wines. After dinner, retire to the lounge, sink into a comfy sofa beside the roaring log fire and relax with coffee and a nightcap.
Weddings and Functions
The Marcliffe is renowned for its reputation for arranging private dinners, cocktail parties and weddings. There's a small dining room for a private lunch or dinner party, as well as a choice of ballroom and banqueting suites catering for up to 400 guests. The beauty of the banqueting suites and function accommodation wing, is that it is totally separate from the original house to ensure the peace and privacy of other resident guests.
Overall Verdict - "A Wee Touch of Class"
The Marcliffe at Pitfodels has welcomed many repeat guests over the years as well as some well kent faces from royalty to rock stars: Prince Charles and Princess Margaret, Prime Minister, Tony Blair, The Sultan of Brunei, Sir Alex Ferguson, Rod Stewart, Charlton Heston and Mikhail Gorbachev - to name a few. If it's good enough for them it's good enough for Rampant Scotland to warmly recommend.
The Marcliffe has a "wee touch of class" about it - a small intimate luxury hotel offering a true quality of comfort and hospitality with an exceptionally fine restaurant - for the discerning traveller, this is a delight to find.
For more information or to make a reservation see the Marcliffe at Pitfodels Web site or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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