BRIAN Ferguson checks into Killiecrankie Hotel, a Highland hideaway steeped in history
IT IS a name that has had chilling echoes in Scotland for centuries thanks to the bloody battle that unfolded at the start of the first Jacobite rising. But the Pass of Killiecrankie – where troops supporting the new Protestant king, William of Orange, were confronted by Jacobites loyal to the ousted Catholic monarch, James VII, in 1689 – must be one of the most spectacular locations in the country.
The steeply wooded slopes of the gorge which the River Garry sweeps through create a dramatic backdrop for the Killiecrankie Hotel, tucked away off the B8079 between Pitlochry and Blair Atholl. The hotel dates back to 1939, when it was converted from a private home originally built for a local church minister in 1840.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
A hidden gem in four acres of wooded grounds and lawns. Under the stewardship of owner Henrietta Fergusson, the hotel combines Highland home comforts with country house charm and everything you would expect in a fine-dining restaurant.
WINING AND DINING
The conservatory bar is open daily for lunches and supper, which are served from 12.15-2pm and from 6.15-8.30pm, and there is an extensive room service menu. However it is impossible to imagine staying at Killiecrankie House without savouring the full fine-dining experience. The candlelit room with dark red decor and roaring fire where the Table d’Hote dinner was served could not have been more inviting.
We savoured every mouthful of our tantalising starters of goats’ cheese and beetroot tartlet with chive pesto and terrine of Arbroath smokie mousse wrapped in smoked salmon.
For the mains, grilled fillets of sea bass were accompanied by lemon and herb cous cous, steamed julienne of sweet pepper and pak choi, and sweet chilli butter sauce, while the roasted supreme of guinea fowl stuffed with chestnut and apple mousse was served with pommes anna, roasted carrots, braised red cabbage and quince jelly jus.
The warm pistachio financier with saffron poached pear and vanilla ice cream would have been a grand enough finale had there not been a groaning cheese board set out along one wall of the dining room.
The hotel, which runs regular wine-tasting events, is renowned for its well-considered selection, currently more than 100 bins, while around 40 malts are lined up behind the wood-panelled snug bar.
There are ten en suite bedrooms, decorated in rich colours and fabrics. Our spacious and immaculately presented room offered a fine view of the multitude of colours on display in the hotel’s herbaceous border garden, and the surrounding hills. The hotel was remarkably peaceful, with only the occasional distant rumbling of a train – the nearby Perth-Inverness line crosses the magnificent Killiecrankie Viaduct.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
Three miles south of Killiecrankie is the town of Pitlochry, with its renowned theatre, which has a year-round programme of events. Ticket-buyers can get a special midweek rate at the Killiecrankie Hotel.
There are fine walks to be had either up Ben Vrackie or through the Faskally Woods, where the Enchanted Forest event is held each autumn. An essential visit for whisky lovers is Edradour Distillery, where its single malt is made using the smallest traditional stills in Scotland. For the more energetic, Killiecrankie offers the chance to go bungee jumping from the bridge over the River Garry at Highland Fling.
We took afternoon tea on arrival in front of the open fire in the sitting room, which opened out onto an inviting-looking patio. We also enjoyed a turn-down service with hot water bottles left in the bed and Edradour miniatures on our pillows.
There is a dog-friendly policy with two of rooms suitable for them to stay with their owners, for a £10 supplement. The hotel’s own dog, Beanie, is named after Donald McBean, the soldier who leapt across the River Garry at the height of the Battle of Killiecrankie.
A relaxed and comfortable Highland bolt hole, offering great food and drink and the most breathtaking scenery.
• The Killiecrankie Hotel, Killiecrankie, by Pitlochry, PH16 5LG 01796 473200. Rates for an overnight stay for two, including dinner, start at £240 per room. www.killiecrankiehotel.co.uk