Scotland on Sunday Travel, hotel review
Think of a Scottish road trip and the North Coast 500 will probably spring to mind. But with the Scottish Whisky Association reporting record growth in whisky tourism, it is no wonder that some prize the malt whisky trail as highly as the rugged 500-mile drive. And, if you’re a fan of all things Scotch and fancy a daunder around the Highlands, then a stay at the recently refurbished Station Hotel in Aberlour is a must.
Originally opened more than 100 years ago, the hotel was frequented by wealthy guests who visited to fish salmon on the Spey. After finding success in the 1950s and 1960s, it went into decline and closed in 2006. Ten years later, after refurbishment courtesy of local couple Richard and Heather Forsyth, the hotel reopened as the luxury digs it is now.
A study in contemporary décor, the Station Hotel offers guests a cosy place to spend a night or two. It has an understated colour scheme in navy, grey, green and maroon that’s reminiscent of the surrounding landscape, while there are also hints of copper, in a nod to the stills used in whisky production (one of which is in the hotel’s car park). The rooms follow this colour scheme with added pattern in the plaid throws and leather furniture. The five suites are named after nearby distilleries, including the chic Caperdonich Suite, a luxurious retreat with a mezzanine floor and freestanding bath. Our suite, which had a green, beige and brown colour palette, was the size of some flats and had a living room with leather sofa, desk area, kingsize bed and a striking green marble and white-tiled shower room.
Budget or boutique?
On the boutique side but it won’t break the bank, making it ideal for a weekend away. If you want to push the boat out, an executive suite costs about £265 per night including breakfast.
Wining and dining
Guests can enjoy seasonal Scottish fare in the hotel’s three eateries – Toots Cafe Bar and Bistro, Pagodas and The Spirit Safe Bar. Pagodas, named for the distinctive distillery roofs that can be seen dotted around the whisky trail, is now a stripped-back, casual restaurant that serves a range of Scottish produce in an intimate setting. Toots is named after Ernest “Toot” Forsyth, an ancestor of the hotel’s owners and prominent figure in the whisky world. Toots serves breakfast favourites such as porridge, kippers or a full cooked affair, alongside a cold buffet. Local produce, such as jams and the malt whisky marmalade by Carol’s Been Cooking, are lovely additions to the table. The Spirit Safe Bar is the place to enjoy a dram or two with appetisers thanks to its wall of whisky. If you’re not so sure about which dram to try, staff are on hand to advise.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel is within a 60-mile radius of 60 distilleries, so if a dram tour is your thing, you’re in the right place. The nearest are Glenrothes and Glen Grant (about a 15-minute walk away), while the fascinating Speyside Cooperage is five miles away.
For those not keen on whisky, or looking for a break from the tastings, Knockando Wool Mill is ten miles away, or you could head into Elgin to visit the cathedral before picking up luxurious goodies at Johnstons of Elgin. Local fare can be enjoyed at Baxters of Fochabers, the old grocer’s shop opened by George Baxter in 1868.
The small carafe of Glen Grant whisky, fully stocked tea and (Tassimo) coffee station with Borders biscuits and excellent bathroom amenities, including robes and slippers, were welcome additions to the room.
The stylish hotel has been given a new lease of life. The traditional sandstone building belies the chic interior, and The Spirit Safe Bar is a must for whisky fans.
Double rooms start at £99 per night for bed and breakfast. The Station Hotel, 51 New Street, Rothes, Aberlour AB38 7BJ (01340 832200, www.stationhotelspeyside.com)2