Great Places to Stay
- Farleyer House, Aberfeldy, Perthshire
The article below by Bruce Stannard was originally published in the SCOTS Heritage magazine. This lavishly illustrated and informative quarterly publication is the Journal of the Scots Heritage Society and over the years it has published articles on many aspects of Scotland - including reviews of some great Scottish hotels. The editor has kindly agreed to it being reproduced here.
The SCOTS Heritage magazine is one of the finest (if not the finest) magazine about Scotland. If you want to confirm that for yourself, there is a 30-day free trial subscription offer on their site.
Farleyer House is one of the most delightful country house hotels in Scotland. Nestled on a gentle hillside overlooking the green and golden valley of the River lay, the former Dower House for Castle Menzies offers an irresistible combination -warm country hospitality, splendid Scottish food and an easy informality that makes travellers like Bruce Stannard wish they could stay forever.
It comes as something of a shock to find a pair of shiny new olive green gumboots standing in the splendid oak panelled foyer at Farleyer House. Although they look at first incongruous in that elegant setting with its dignified portraits of former Clan Menzies chiefs, the spotless Wellies hit precisely the right tongue-in-cheek note among city-weary guests who come here with not the slightest intention of sloshing about in the mud. The boots turn out to be clever ceramic objets d'art, which is why they usually provoke a gleeful giggle or at least a knowing smile.
Farleyer House is situated in magnificent Perthshire countryside just west of Aberfeldy - the illustration here shows Strathtay from Aberfeldy. When I arrived late on a golden autumn afternoon, the rushing tea-coloured waters of the mighty Tay looked magnificent as the river dashed through fields dotted with bales of hay set aside for winter silage. Pheasant hens scratched away at the stubble while the brilliant cock birds kept watch from the tops of mossy drystane walls. It was gloriously peaceful. The irresistible smell of woodsmoke lured me up the Beech-lined drive and drew me indoors.
A Log Fire
It is a rare thing to arrive at an hotel and immediately feel completely at ease, but at Farleyer House it happened as soon as I crossed the threshold and found myself being welcomed into what is still essentially a lovely old house. Farleyer's staff were without exception friendly, courteous, and polite. They invited me to 'make myself at home', a suggestion I took literally. I made my way up the handsome pine staircase, past trophy stags staring glassy-eyed from the walls and along a quaintly creaking hallway where I was given a beautiful suite, not with a number but the lovely name, Arisaig. There is nothing quite like the luxury of a decent bathroom and Arisaig, like all the suites, had a bathroom almost as big as the bedroom with a huge gleaming white tub and a powerful shower. Perfect. All Farleyer's suites have names and each is beautifully decorated in comfortable Scottish country-style.
Back along the corridor I discovered a log fire crackling in the sitting room and since I was on my own, I went to the library, serached among the shelves until I found "The Highlander" by Fitzroy Maclean and settled down in front of the fire. Something was missing! Whisky! The honour bar, just of the sitting room conrtains a wonderful range of single malt whiskies and guests are encouraged to make their own selection, pour themselves a drink and note it together with their signature. The honour system assumes a basic honesty among guests and it is a trust which is apparently well placed. In the rather bewildering multi-tier line-up behind the bar I spotted a 10-year-old Aberlour Single Malt, took pleasure in recording 'two-fingers Laphroig' and repaired to my lounge chair by the fire. Perhaps it was the whisky or the combination of the fire, the lounge, the drink and the book, but I soon began to feel that Farleyer House was indeed 'home'. It was a feeling strongly reinforced by the selfish pleasure I took in being left alone. There is nothing worse, in my experience, than being constantly badgered by hotel staff who want to top up your drink.
A Mouth-watering Range of Dishes
Toward evening I was shown a copy of the dinner menu. In all my journeys through Scotland I have never seen anything even remotely approaching the mouth-watering range of the dishes on offer. There were nine entrees, 11 main courses and no less than eight desserts to choose from. I went down to the elegant Glen Lyon room with its crisp pure white linen-clad tables, sparkling silver and glassware (one of three dining rooms all featuring quite different decor) and enlisted the help of Executive Chef, Kieran Grant. What would he recommend as an entree: Cream of Pumpkin Soup, House Smoked Salmon, Hot Aberfeldy Cheese and red onion Filo Parcel, House Smoked Chicken with Quails Eggs and Arran Dressing, Filo Baked Woodpigeon, Tomato and Chilli jam, Seared Skye Scallops, French Beans and Walnut Dressing, Wild Boar and Game Terrine with Spiced Kumquats, Carpaccio of Smoked Haddock or a Fan of Galia Melon with Rhubarb Sorbet?
When Mr Grant ceases to be a chef he should become a diplomat. Instead of making a personal recommendation he discussed each dish and allowed me to come to my own decision, the Woodpigeon. But wouldn't I also like to try a little of the Wild Board and Game Terrine? I did and both were superb. Kieran Grant is happy to embrace a management edict that Farleyer House should serve only the finest quality Scottish fare and where ever possible use the very best local produce including beef, fish, game and vegetables. The result is one of the best dining experiences one can have in Scotland. The main courses included Seared Salmon with Spinach and Herb Mash, Steamed Fillets of Lemon Sole with a Lobster Mouse, Roast Sea Bass Fillet, Roast Breast of Honey Marinated Mallard, Sautéed Rannoch Venison Loin, Barley Risotto, Whisky Jus and Wild Mushrooms, Seared Pork Loin, Red Cabbage and Madeira Jus, Char Grilled Fillet of Scottish Beef, Seared Loin of Heather-fed Lamb, Roast Guinea fowl Supreme.
I chose the salmon and was delighted to see it served so beautifully, so much so that I spent several minutes just looking at the arrangement and savouring the wonderful aroma. Cooked to perfection, it was the kind of dish that remains forever in the mind's eye. Well done, Kieran Grant.
Bread and Butter Pudding
Farleyer House legitimately claims to be the only hotel in Scotland with its own vineyard. It happens to be in faraway New Zealand and it produces some excellent white wines. Rongopai Reserve Te Kauwhata Chardonnay was an inspired choice, crisp, bursting with fruit and easy on the oak. It was perfect with both my dishes. A wiser man would have retired after a meal like that but I'm afraid I couldn't resist the Bread and Butter Pudding especially when I noticed it was accompanied by Brown Bread Ice Cream. I was told that guests travel miles to Farleyer House just for the Bread and Butter Pudding and I must say it was wonderful.
Later, walking in the cool moonlit garden I saw a family of deer moving quietly across the lawns. An owl swooped silently through the pines and far off across the valley came the haunting sounds of a piper's lament. Make yourself at home, I'd been told. At that moment there could be no doubt about it.
For more information or to make a reservation see the Farleyer House Web site or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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