A weekend in Aberdeen is always appealing, but this was the first time that we’d decided to forgo the pleasures of our own transport and let the train take the strain. This was a revelation in itself. We were momentarily flabbergasted by the sign saying that alcohol was banned on the train – until we read the small print and realised it was only banned on the 8am from Aberdeen on a Friday. Obviously, that rush hour commute is quite something. It’s a beautiful journey up the east coast of Scotland and in no time at all you are in the heart of Aberdeen. Most of our Aberdeen memories centre on student days and football away trips, and that naturally means that we hadn’t always seen the best of the city.
This trip definitely changed all that as The Chester is undoubtedly among the best that the Granite City has to offer. Having been spectacularly renovated in 2013, it has had a gentle refurbishment only recently to keep the hotel at the top of its game. It’s the perfect base to explore Aberdeen and the surrounding area.
Budget or boutique?
Whilst not bank balance bustingly expensive, this is definitely not a budget hotel. It has a sleek and elegant design throughout which has a calming and reassuringly soothing effect on residents. Thick carpeting deadens any jarring noises and gives the impression of cocooning you from all the worries of the outside world.
Our room was up in the eaves, away from the main body of the hotel. Overlooking the rear of the hotel and the playing fields beyond, it was beautifully quiet. That was especially noticeable as a warm spell meant that we had the windows wide open. We’ve stayed in more than a few attic rooms and this was the first one that didn’t feel at all cramped. The designers have made fantastic use of the space and at no point do you feel that you are doubling over so as not to hit your head on the ceiling.
Wining and dining
One of the main attractions of the hotel – aside from the soothing ambience and charming staff – is the restaurant. Helmed by award-winning chef Kevin Dalgleish, this is a real foodie paradise. With a menu focusing on fresh, local ingredients – everything from oysters to venison is on offer – the food has the same simple elegance as the rest of the hotel. You can make your own selection from the fish and meat counters and then have it cooked to your specification on the Josper grill – giving your dish a wonderful charcoal flavour. As you would expect from a five-star establishment, nothing is too much trouble for the staff, and you are made to feel as though the success of your evening matters as much to them as it does to you.
Worth getting out of bed for
Everyone knows Aberdeen as the centre of the oil industry in Scotland, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have anything to offer visitors – far from it. Aberdeen sells itself as being at the edge of Castle Country and you are less than an hour from the Queen’s home at Balmoral, from the Disney inspiration of Craigievar and that film set favourite, Dunottar. There’s a Castle Trail leaflet available and you’re encouraged to partake in the new(ish) sport of Castle Bagging.
It’s probably just a marker of getting old, but when we came back to our room at night, neither of us was in the least offended to find a complimentary sachet of Horlicks on our pillow. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that young things get a can of Red Bull for their return in the early hours.
Previous trips to Aberdeen have all been whistlestop affairs for special events or to catch-up with friends. This is the kind of hotel that makes you want to take a deep breath, relax and really enjoy your stay.
Weekend Celebration Booking – £190 per room per night – which includes £50 per person dinner allocation. Available Thursday to Sunday. Chester Hotel,
59-63 Queens Road, Aberdeen AB15 4YP, tel: 01224 327 777, www.chester-hotel.com