The Boat Inn, Aboyne - a former drovers' inn that has been welcoming travellers in Aberdeenshire since 1720 - Scotland on Sunday Travel

This former drovers' inn has been welcoming travellers in Aberdeenshire since 1720

The Boat Inn, Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, sits on the banks of the River Dee.

If you are looking for a place that conjures up winter cosy, where you want to feel warm and welcome and completely given over to the spirit of true hospitality, you have to consider the Boat Inn at Aboyne.

This part of the world radiates the mellowness of autumn and driving out on the South Deeside Road, you feel the pressure drop as the glories of the season start to soothe the soul. My bestie and I were on a much-needed reprieve from our daily travails and decided now was the weekend to have our early festive season treat, afore the madness of said season truly kicks in. What we found was a place that gave refuge on a dark night and where friendliness and a warm fire restored the glow.

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Budget or Boutique

Neither really. This modern country inn is in a fabulous league of its own.

Room Service

Our room was in the Boat House, once a modern private home to the back of the inn and which is now firmly part of the accommodation offer. The approach to this grand cabin-style place, split into several rooms for guests, is festooned with trailing fairy lights which lead the way to this modern and stylish annexe. The room was neat and set among contemporary fittings, its dark, moody hues creating a hideaway feel. In the gorgeous bed, deep with comfort, I had the best sleep in at least a month or so and I was out till way after 9, which has been unheard of sleep territory for a while, and I woke feeling like me again. It’s so quiet and still here, with a screen of gorgeous birch trees lining the view and that deep night light that you get only in the country. There was good tea and coffee for the morning and a wonderful large bathroom to linger in, with an all-encompassing piping hot shower, as the new day got underway.

Wining and Dining

Some of the guest rooms are in a former modern private home to the back of the inn, a modern and stylish annexe where contemporary fittings and dark, moody hues create a hideaway feel.

It’s no overstatement to say everything we ate and drank at The Boat Inn was quality. From the pints of cool, crisp pilsner in the late afternoon, which we enjoyed in the public bar, to each course of a memorable meal, the offering was confident, relaxed and of an excellent standard. In the low lighting of the restaurant upstairs, where the customers emitted an air of contentment, we enjoyed starters of clams in cream and fennel and gin, which proved to be a meeting of perfect mates on a plate. Our other dish was a fabulous winter salad which featured roast squash and black pudding in the starring roles but with strong support of chicory leaves and a fine, acidic vinaigrette. It was a great production. Bestie and I love a steak when we are out together, not least because we have a shared interest in peppercorn sauce. At the Boat Inn, it was a ribeye on offer, and it obviously came from somewhere that cared deeply for their cattle. It tasted, and cut, very well indeed. Breakfast too was a treat. I’m still thinking about those four little mini potato scones.

Worth Getting Out of Bed For

The hotel sits right on the River Dee, where a stroll out of the front door will lead you to the path at the water’s edge. Heading west, you’ll pass a gorgeous orchard on one side and the soothing roll of the water on the other. Keep walking and you’ll see the hill, Morven. You really don’t have to walk far to be immersed in the beauty of the area. Such was its draw, I dropped bestie off in Aberdeen and headed back Aboyne way for another look at the Druid-esque Burn O’ Vat waterfall at Dinnett and a stroll round Loch Kinnord, where everything seemed to go still.

Little Extras

From burgers to starters of clams in cream and fennel and gin, winter salad with roast squash, black pudding and chicory leaves or ribeye steak in peppercorn sauce, the food at The Boat Inn is a treat.

It’s not really an extra but I have to mention the service, which was down to earth and so very nice. There is obviously a great pride taken in working here and the atmosphere is professional without being over fussy, and friendly without being false.

Guestbook Comments

As hotels piece themselves together after the pandemic, and we seek refuge in new places to help bring us back into normality, the sense of welcome found at The Boat Inn was very much appreciated.

Bed and Breakfast around £125 approx, but phone 01339 886137 for best prices.

The Boat Inn, Charlestown Road, Aboyne AB34 5EL

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