A former coaching inn in the Perthshire conservation village of Muthill, Barley Bree is an ideal spot midway between Gleneagles and Crieff to enjoy a break in central Scotland.
Budget or boutique?
Rustic boutique. The rooms are luxurious and the food is multi-award-winning but Barley Bree retains the rural charm of an old coaching inn, with bare floorboards and exposed beams and brickwork.
There are six rooms, all with en-suite facilities and Arran Aromatic toiletries. Ours looked out over the ruins of the village’s 15th century parish church and a bell tower that dates from the 11th century.
Wining and dining
Barley Bree is very much a “restaurant with rooms”, run by French chef Fabrice Bouteloup and his Scottish wife Alison. Bouteloup’s Gallic flair combined with local produce has proved to be a winning formula for the husband and wife team, who claimed the Scottish Restaurant of the Year title in 2013 and the Best Restaurant Experience prize at the 2014 Scottish Thistle Awards.
It’s not difficult to imagine the bistro-style dining room as a bustling coaching inn long before the days of the internal combustion engine. On the cold winter’s night when we dined there, the wood-burning stove lent the wooden beams and exposed brickwork a cosy feel.
Bouteloup grew up in north-west France, moved to the UK in 1993 after completing his training and worked in London and Edinburgh before he and his wife bought Barley Bree in 2007.
His menu changes every day and everything is freshly made in his kitchen. One signature dish, however, is always on the menu – his tarte tatin is a must-try for any guest.
The ever-changing menu could include ham hock and pig cheek terrine, west coast lobster ravioli in a Thai bisque or pheasant with pearl barley and chestnut. The kitchen can alter the menu to accommodate vegetarians and guests with allergies.
The menu is complemented with an excellent wine list with by-the-glass and mini carafe options, supervised by Alison, who has hospitality in her genes, having grown up at the family business of Raasay Hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Muthill itself is a fascinating village, three miles south of Crieff. It has more than 100 listed buildings and was largely destroyed and rebuilt during the Jacobite risings.
Beyond the village, the surrounding area is great for walkers and has a wealth of routes to choose from, including the Crieff nature trail and Lady Mary’s Walk by the banks of the River Earn. Nearby Ben Vorlich is a spectacular peak to climb and is the highest in the area. The hotel would make an ideal base for anyone taking part in Crieff’s annual walking festival, Drovers’ Tryst.
Drummond Castle and its impressive gardens, also nearby, are worth a visit.
The village of Muthill happens to be very near Strathallan Estate, the new venue for the T in the Park music jamboree which takes place in July. However, the atypical festival-goer would do well to eschew the traditional mud-splattered tenting pandemonium for the far more civilised option of accommodation at Barley Bree, just a short distance down the road.
All the rooms come with a whisky miniature, mineral water and tea and coffee making facilities. There is also a drying room for guests who may have spent a day getting soaked on a golf course or at a music festival, and there is a police-approved gun cupboard. Breakfast could hardly be classed as an “extra” but the quality of the hearty Scottish fare on offer along with freshly baked croissants and pains au chocolat certainly makes it feel like one.
Guest book comments
Barley Bree provides the perfect base for exploring Perthshire while enjoying some fine fruits from an Auld Alliance between Scotland and France.
Rooms are available from £90 to £150, including breakfast. A la carte menu around £40 per person. Barley Bree, 6 Willoughby Street, Muthill PH5 2AB, (01764 681451), firstname.lastname@example.org, www.barleybree.com