Great Places to Stay
- Knock Castle Hotel and Spa, Crieff, Perthshire

St Andrews Bay

The Hotel
The 'wow' factor knocked in as soon as we had made our way up the drive and saw the imposing exterior of the hotel. It is a 23 carat gem of a Victorian mansion built in the Scottish Baronial style, complete with turrets.

The building dates back to 1885 and is located in the pleasant and affluent town of Crieff in Perthshire. It is one of my favourite parts of Scotland blessed with excellent scenery but within easy striking distance of both Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The hotel has been in the ownership of the Henderson family since December 2007 and by all accounts the transformation from its previous incarnation has been little short of remarkable. The previous regime was firmly a teetotal and vegetarian but now meat, fish and wine are firmly back on the menu and the emphasis is on a providing a relaxing experience in a high-class environment.

Currently there are two dining rooms with several menus on offer. The Oak Room on the ground floor is for fine dining and is used at weekends. The Rooftop Restaurant (see illustration) is less formal although there is a good range of dishes available from scampi and chips through to Scottish classics such as venison.

Classic and Contemporary Cuisine

The emphasis is on locally sourced materials and Perthshire is known for top quality produce and a good range of meat, fruit, vegetables and seafood can be obtained from the locality or from neighbouring counties

Our evening meal started auspiciously as the weather had been kind and we were treated to stunning views of the Earn Valley and the distant mountains which were clearly visible. My wife started off with fresh hand dived scallops ceviche was complemented by a crab tian and served with a lime crème fraiche along with a Parmesan crisp and finished with a sweet chilli dressing. The scallops were succulent and the combination of flavours was excellent. My cauliflower and smoked cheese soufflé served with a hazelnut dressing was also a success. I had never had this dish before but hope that I can repeat the experience as it was light and flavoursome.

For our main course we both opted for Scottish Highland fillet steak with rosemary scented fondant potato with sautéed wild mushrooms, laced with a red wine sauce. It was impeccable. The meat was top-quality and had been cooked to perfection. The sauce was rich and luscious and the overall combination, including the light potato fondant was truly excellent. It was one of these dishes that one savoured and had some regret when it was finished.

We still had some room for a Glayva and pear brulé which was also successful. Jason Henderson has cooked in some of Europe's most prestigious restaurants and his attention to detail and flair shows through. It was a memorable meal in the most wonderful setting.

Although there is an extensive wine list, we opted for a couple of glasses of inexpensive white wine with the starter and red with our steaks. It was clear that these had been selected with great care and they were some of the best house wines we have tasted.

Commitment and Passion

Jason Henderson, who combines the roles of General Manager and Head Chef has a passion for the business and a clear view of the experience he wants guests to enjoy. He is committed to providing excellent levels of accommodation, food and service in a way which will help guests to relax. The family have invested heavily in the property and the standard of furnishing is high.

We were lucky enough to be housed in the Lady MacBrayne suite which had its own sitting room where one could relax in great comfort and enjoy the views. The four poster bed in the adjoining room was impressive and great fun. Some hotel rooms are let down by substandard mattresses, but this was one of the best we have encountered and we had an excellent night's sleep. It was the first time I had used a jacuzzi bath and I liked the experience.

Our visit was a brief one and we did not have time to make full use of all the facilities but I enjoyed my time in the 'Egg' relaxation pod. Within a few minutes of entering the pod, the lights dim and relaxing New Age sounds, possibly of distant whales, make for a soothing atmosphere and the high -tech mattress starts off giving you a massage. I felt very relaxed after only a few minutes.

In addition to an impressive swimming pool and a small gym, there are a number of treatment rooms where guests can benefit from a range of treatments, including massage, body wraps and some device which claims to alter your body shape. If outdoor pursuits are more your thing, there is a great choice of golf courses within easy reach and a whole range of water sports are also nearby. It is an excellent area for walkers and photographers who can make the most of this delightful part of Scotland.

An Adult Experience
The hotel has recently relaxed its ban on under 18s. One critic described the hotel as a 'gin and tonic kind of place' and I think I know what they mean. It offers a reasonably sophisticated experience which is far more suitable to adults than for young children.

Despite its heritage which goes back to the nineteenth century, this hotel is a fairly new entrant to its chosen market. It is a four star establishment aimed at people who enjoy a high quality product. It will probably take some time before it becomes fully established but I feel that it deserves to do well.

It is set in a gorgeous part of the country. On a good day you will feel better even walking from the car park to the front door. The owners have a commitment which shines through in every dimension of the hotel. In the hall there are two very distinctive high-backed chairs, in the style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. They were left to the Hendersons by a guest who was particularly fond of the hotel. I think this speaks volumes about the special quality of the experience.

More Information
You can obtain more information and make a reservation via the hotel's own Web Site or Email The postal address is Knock Castle Hotel and Spa, Drummond Terrace, Crieff, Perthshire PH7 4AN. Telephone number 9in the UK) is 01764 650088. Useful Links

DL, Travel Writer

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