Travel: Ballathie House Hotel, Perthshire

Ballathie House Hotel, Perthshire
Ballathie House Hotel, Perthshire
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SECLUDED amid glorious woodland, Ballathie House Hotel offers an escape from the stresses of modern life and a return to traditional Scottish country living from a bygone age.

THE house itself is a Victorian Baronial pile complete with towers and spires, with a weather vane on top.

In every direction it offers walks amid trees that, during our autumn visit, were losing their golden and crimson leaves and scattering them on the ground around us.

With all this and the River Tay racing alongside the banks of the hotel’s grounds, there is a feel of a real return to nature. The Tay is one of Scotland’s prime spots for salmon fishing, a draw that is so important to the hotel that they turn away weddings during peak season.

We arrived in the Perthshire countryside after driving up from Edinburgh. And after two hours of my partner’s own particular brand of Scottish folk music, and my navigational skills, we were more than ready for a relaxing break.

It was my other half’s birthday and naturally I was hoping to spoil her – Ballathie did not disappoint. The minute we drove through the gates we shed our city-living worries and started to adapt to the country life.

After parking at the front of the mansion house, which looks for all the world like a small castle, we took our bags into the grand foyer. Throughout our visit the staff were warm and friendly. While they checked our suite was ready, we were ushered into the sitting room for tea and shortbread.

The complimentary refreshments told us everything we could expect from the weekend. Ballathie is quaint, cosy and traditional. As the staff explained, it has been extensively refurbished, but done in such a way as to retain its old- fashioned charm.

After checking into our suite we decided to take a walk through some of the woodland along a route recommended by the hotel staff. We strolled through the gardens and down a leaf-covered path, with the water rushing past us. It was early evening and, as the light dimmed, we turned for home.

As much as the salmon in the river are a draw to the fishermen, so the pigeon, grouse, partridge and pheasants, pull in the game shooters.

It was too dark to tell which birds suddenly took flight from the trees around us as we made our way back to the hotel, but my partner jumped more than once at the sudden noises.

Back inside the hotel, and after quickly freshening up in our room, we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink in the sitting room before making our way to the restaurant.

Ballathie has a range of 350 wines, so it is impossible not to find one that complements your meal. The restaurant has won plenty of recognition, including Rural Restaurant of the Year in 2010, and the dishes were beautifully presented.

On our first night I started with a rabbit terrine, while my partner enjoyed the salmon. Sadly, we were to learn, it was not locally caught salmon, but instead hails from Orkney. Wherever it came from – I tried it on the second night – it was a lovely bit of fish with a strong flavour.

We both enjoyed succulent pieces of beef for our mains and I had farmhouse cheeses with oatcakes and grapes to finish. After dinner, we whiled away a few hours in the bar, swapping stories with other guests and staff members, while I sampled one of the hotel’s many whiskies.

The next day was spent trying to walk off a full Scottish breakfast – I think we both gained five pounds at Ballathie – and watching salmon leap from the Tay as they made their way downstream. It was bliss.

•The Facts Ballathie House Hotel is in Kinclaven, Stanley, in Perthshire (01250 883268, www.ballathiehousehotel.com). A suite starts from £115 per night for dinner, bed and breakfast. The salmon fishing season is from 15 January to 15 October, with brown trout from 15 March until 31 October. Preferential day passes can be bought for £30 per person.