A HIGHLAND hotel has made it on to a global list of 28 unique places “to stay at before you die.”
The Atholl Palace in Pitlochry, Perthshire, has been described as one of the most “jaw-dropping” places in the world to stay by tourism website TravelGround.
It is ranked alongside a volcano-like lodge in Chile, underwater rooms off the coast of Zanzibar and cottages perched on the limestone cliffs of Negril in Jamaica.
The four-star hotel, which offers views to nearby Ben Vrackie, is placed at number 22 and is the only hotel in the UK and Ireland to make it on to the list.
It is noted for its turret suites, manor house rooms and formal gardens.
Last May, a £5.5 million refurbishment plan was announced to upgrade the baronial hotel which overlooks Pitlochry, after a funding agreement was reached with HSBC.
Anthony Kelly, business development director at the Castle Hotel Group, which includes Atholl Palace, said: “TravelGround has a massive global following and we are absolutely thrilled that Atholl Palace has been recognised amongst the most ‘jaw-dropping’ hotels in the world.
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“To be the only hotel in the UK and Ireland included in this exclusive ranking makes the accolade all the more prestigious, not just for the hotel but also for Scotland as a world-class destination.”
Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: “With its spectacular scenery and grand architecture, Atholl Palace is certainly worthy of its place on this truly ‘jaw-dropping’ list.
“Popular among leisure and business visitors alike, it is a fine example of the kind of outstanding hotels we have in this country.”
The 108-bedroom Atholl Palace Hotel was acquired by Castle Hotel Group in October 2001 and upgraded.
Run by majority shareholder Fionn MacCumhaill, the Dublin-based chain operates three hotels in Dublin city centre, one in County Mayo, one in County Kildare and one in North Wales.
Mr Kelly said of the group’s “ambitious plans” for Atholl Palace: “We’ve gone through a period of significant growth over the past 12 months, and are looking forward to continuing to attract leisure, wedding and conference guests to Pitlochry, which we believe to be the most aesthetically beautiful town in Scotland.”
Regarding the investment in Atholl Place, Mr Cantlay said: “It is marvellous to see that HSBC [bank] is facilitating Castle Hotel Group’s investment in Atholl Palace. This will encourage even more visitors to come and experience the true beauty of Pitlochry and the surrounding area.”
The hotel first opened in June 1878 as the Athole Hydropathic, a centre for healing and restoration, before being transformed into a modern hotel in the 1880s.
Under its initial guise, alcohol was not permitted, the menu was healthy and Turkish baths were built in the east and west wings. However, by the 1880s the hotel was struggling and the building was purchased in 1886 by William Macdonald of Perth for £25,000.
The name was changed and its rigid rules on alcohol were relaxed.
The grounds were landscaped and sporting activities developed, with the Highland Lawn Tennis Championship being established there in 1896.
In 1915, girls from Queen Margaret’s School in Scarborough were moved to the Highlands and stayed in the hotel for the rest of the First World War, while boys from the Leys School in Cambridge were evacuated to the Atholl Palace for the duration of the Second World War.
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