Situated within view of the River Dee where it merges with a smaller, but equally salmon-rich tributary, the Feugh, Royal Deeside’s Banchory Lodge occupies a truly idyllic setting that’s hard to beat.
Not being car owners, our family ventured north from Edinburgh by rail with a pre-booked cab making the half-hour journey from Stonehaven to Banchory.
At the end of a long and leafy driveway, the white-washed walls of the historic lodge, and the well-tended riverside lawns which flank it, make for a wonderful first impression. A popular choice of venue for wedding receptions and large family functions, it doesn’t take long for the charms of this handsome Georgian-era establishment on Royal Deeside to take hold.
Budget or boutique?
From the outside, Banchory Lodge is convincing as a rural retreat whose vintage might rival that of the nearby rolling hills. Venture inside, however, and a different story unfolds. Yes, there are oak furnishings, exposed wooden flooring and historic-looking portraits, but there’s a chic eccentricity in much of the décor too; flashes of quirkiness and modernity that have been carefully thought out so as not to compromise the traditional country house feel. Here, the Hyndland hipster might feel as much at home as the Deeside gillie.
Wining and dining
For a relatively compact property such as this, there is plenty of choice when it comes to the environment in which you wish to dine. The two lounge spaces offer exquisite views of the Dee, while the bar area is cosy but lively. However, if you’re lucky enough with the weather, you’ll definitely want to venture out on to the terrace. As for the food on offer, ready your compliments to the chef in advance and make sure you’ve enough spare cash on you for tips. Locally sourced salmon and Angus dishes share space with traditional British and Mediterranean fare making for a vibrant menu, wide-ranging enough to cater for all tastes. The bar is well-stocked in its variety of fine ales, whiskies and wines.
Our suite was large enough to comfortably accommodate a family of three for the two nights we stayed. Furnishings of suede, leather, woven cotton and silk coupled with patio doors and semi-private terrace overlooking the river, made for a luxurious experience that won’t be forgotten.
Worth getting out of bed for
Banchory town centre is a ten-minute jaunt by foot, and with its cosy taverns, ice cream parlours and tearooms, it’s a pleasant little place to explore. Keen to make the most of our weekend’s stay, we hopped on to the local bus on the short ride to historic and child-friendly Crathes Castle, with its spectacular landscaped grounds and adventure playgrounds, situated around 3.5 miles to the east. Balmoral Castle is around a 45-minute drive away.
For those who wish to stay put and relax, you could do worse than the estate at Banchory Lodge. Chilling out sitting on a bench near the hotel, I watched a fisherman standing in the Dee up to the top of his waders for the best part of an hour before the northeast drizzle ushered me inside.
As a paying customer, you expect staff to be friendly and attentive in catering for all your needs, but when you encounter employees eager to ensure your six-year-old daughter enjoys her time at the establishment every bit as much as mum and dad, you have a special team indeed. Cartoon strips, posters, crayons, the lot, were handed out without us requiring to ask each time we sat down at a table.
Staff members were talkative, jocular and helpful, while knowing intuitively the correct moment to leave the table and continue their duties. Best of all, the imaginative works of art concocted by our daughter were carefully placed into a frame upon completion and enjoyed temporary pride of place among patrons in the lounge. A fantastic touch.
If one of Banchory Lodge’s key aims was to create a family-friendly atmosphere they have certainly succeeded.
A wonderful and relaxing stay beckons at this inimitable retreat on the bonnie banks of the River Dee.
Rooms at Banchory Lodge range from £99 to £175 per night. Banchory Lodge, Dee Street, Banchory AB31 5HS (01330 822 625, [email protected])