Scotland on Sunday, Do Not Disturb
Looking like something from a Jane Austen novel, Balbirnie House was built in 1777 and was the former home of the Balfour family. Set in 400 photogenic acres of parkland, it became a hotel 25 years ago and has been extensively restored and furnished in a Regency-meets-modern-boutique style. Although Balbirnie is a popular weekend retreat, it is also an award-winning wedding venue.
Budget or boutique?
The mansion – in the upper end of the four-star bracket – has 31 rooms and all the class and charm of a boutique hotel but without the hefty price tag.
We stayed in the Bridal Suite, which can be booked outwith a wedding party. The spacious, pale-grey room was dominated by a gilt-silver four-poster bed adorned with monogrammed, turquoise velvet cushions and statement headboard. The matching furniture included a dressing table, chest of drawers, wardrobe, dining table and living area with sofa and armchairs. The en-suite, which had a huge silver tub, was decorated in the same silver, white and turquoise tones. Toiletries – shower gel only – were Arran Aromatics and there were robes and slippers for lounging around in the living room.
Wining and dining
Balbirnie offers guests two dining options – the Orangery and the Bistro. Although a recent addition, the glass-roofed Orangery is decorated in a complementary style to the rest of the public rooms, which include a cosy Library Bar, peaceful drawing room, pretty Long Gallery and snug East Room, where you could spend many an hour relaxing in the comfortable sofas and armchairs with a good book.
The menus at Balbirnie celebrate Scottish produce in a non-fussy way. Dinner can be enjoyed in the Orangery or the Bistro, both of which are open seven days for evening meals. The Bistro was created from the old kitchens of the house and offers casual dining with comforting classics.
We dined in the atmospherically lit Orangery, which serves the likes of steak, fish and chips and burgers alongside a variety of Scottish seafood (including Isle of Lewis mussels) and a good selection of vegetarian options.
Starters of smoked salmon roulade served with refreshing apple, radish and a creamy potato salad and the moreish goat’s cheese cheesecake were followed by classic moules marinière served with chips and a roasted cauliflower and Bombay potato curry served with tea-braised rice, a garlic and coriander naan and cucumber riata. A shared dessert of rhubarb cheesecake verrine finished off the meal nicely.
Drinks include a good wine list and comprehensive cocktail menu.
Breakfast is also served in the Orangery and includes a traditional buffet plus à la carte options such as porridge.
Worth getting out of bed for
Balbirnie’s grounds are known for their array of rhododendrons, and are also home to woodland walks and some local artisan workshops and studios. Guests can visit these and find out more about leatherwork, pottery and jewellery. There’s also a golf course right next to the hotel.
If you fancy venturing further afield, St Andrews is a 30-minute drive for those looking to discover the home of golf; Edinburgh and Dundee are about a 40-minute drive away. There are also a number of historical sites nearby such as Falkland Palace, Lindores Abbey, Aberdour Castle and Loch Leven Castle.
The room has tea and coffee from the Nespresso machine and Tunnock’s teacakes, and although the toiletries selection isn’t great, the Arran Aromatics shower gel was available in big bottles and smelled wonderful.
This is a downsized Downton Abbey, but furnished in modern hotel style. Expensively restored and pretty as a Regency boudoir, it’s a busy wedding and event venue but feels remarkably intimate.
Classic double rooms start from £85 per night, four-posters from £260 per night, both with breakfast included. Bridal suite is £270 per night, including breakfast. Balbirnie House Hotel, Markinch, Fife KY7 6NE (01592 610066, www.balbirnie.co.uk)