Gavin Munro pays a visit to Rufflets in St Andrews and is taken with its mix of modern luxury and traditional decor
IT WAS early afternoon, but the gloomy sky was heavy and it was already getting dark. The thermometer in the car said it was –1C and there was already a fair smattering of snow on the ground, so I was mighty relieved to see the inviting lights of Rufflets Hotel twinkling through the trees.
Set in 10 acres of award-winning gardens on the outskirts of St Andrews, Rufflets is a family-owned country house hotel, built in 1924 by a jute baron from Dundee. It has been owned and managed by the same family for more than six decades and their love and care for the place is evident throughout. It has a uniqueness and personality not found in large chains.
As we stepped through the door, we were warmly welcomed by friendly staff and the roaring log fire in the lounge. It reminded me of somewhere you might find Hercule Poirot enjoying afternoon tea and a furtive eavesdrop – without the obligatory murders, of course.
BUDGET or BOUTIQUE?
Rufflets is definitely a luxurious hotel, ideal for those looking for a relaxing or romantic getaway. The lounges and bar are decorated traditionally with plump sofas, natural wood furniture and floral drapes, very much in keeping with the country house ideal, although I was surprised to discover that our room was a much more modern affair.
Rufflets boasts 24 individually decorated bedrooms in the main hotel, plus three self-catering lodges. We were staying in one of the two-bedroom family suites, which was spacious, stylish and extremely comfortable. In the centre of the monochrome master bedroom was a ginormous bed, with three rows of squidgy pillows, ideal for my wife and me, and ample room for our restless toddler, Reuben, to join us in the night. There was also a lovely seating area by the two large windows overlooking the gardens and a dressing area with fluffy robes. The second bedroom was much smaller, with a single bed and a cot for our son.
The huge bathroom has a modern roll top bath, a family-sized walk-in shower plus his and hers basins, accessorised with full-sized Molton Brown toiletries. This is a seriously indulgent place to unwind.
WINING AND DINING
The Terrace Restaurant at Rufflets is renowned for its fresh ingredients, many grown in its kitchen garden. The enticing menu features local meat and seafood and changes regularly to encompass seasonal produce. The decor is rather less inspiring and a little tired, although plans are in place for an extensive makeover.
For starters I had the hand-dived Arisaig king scallops served with miniature cubes of haggis and celeriac purée. It was divine. My wife had the winter vegetable soup served with a freshly baked, warm cheese scone. The waitress even brought an additional scone for Reuben, which was devoured. My main was lamb stovies, hearty and presented beautifully, and my wife had the fillet steak with hand-cut chips, cooked to perfection. The sommelier recommended wines, and we particularly enjoyed the voignier and merlot. For dessert I had a delightful cheese board, including Morangie Brie and Strathdon Blue, while my wife tucked into a white chocolate cremeux with kiwi sorbet and a brandy snap tuile. Reuben’s fresh fruit salad was expertly chopped for little fingers to grasp.
After dinner we retired to the bar for a quick nightcap. With a wee dram from the wide range of malts, we cosied up in front of yet another well stoked log fire and watched the flames dance.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
If the prospect of a delicious cooked breakfast isn’t enough, there is plenty to do in St Andrews. We visited the aquarium, which has family activities, then took a brisk walk around the famous 18th hole of the Old Course. It was worth it for the breathtaking scenery despite the bracing wind and subzero temperature. On a less icy day, the landscaped gardens at Rufflets are also ideal for a romantic stroll.
Climbing into bed, I discovered a hot water bottle and was soon dreaming of a return visit to this charming hotel. Our son was also delighted with his gift of Rufus the teddy bear.
Ideal for those looking for a relaxing or romantic getaway.
• Rooms from £120 bed and breakfast per night. Classic family room (2 adults & 2 children) from £305 bed and breakfast. Strathkinness Low Road, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9TX, tel: 01334 472594, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.rufflets.co.uk