Dunkeld House – Big Tree Country
The recently refurbished and now rather chic modern country house hotel, Dunkeld House, is just a short hop and a skip from the banks of the River Tay and we were visiting for dinner, bed, and breakfast.
We forgot just how close Dunkeld is to the central belt, so we arrived before midday and enjoyed a couple of hours wandering around this historic cathedral village. Dunkeld is bustling with lots of walks, lovely independent shops to visit, and cafe’s to rest and enjoy tea and cake. Great British Bake Off’s Flora Shedden has just opened the Aran bakery in the main street and it’s already a big hit. Set your alarm clock if you want bread or the already legendary sausage rolls!
The village is thriving with the gift, antique and interior design shops competing with the deli, butchers and fish shops for your hard earned pennies. Dunkeld Smoked Salmon is also just off the main street where you can buy their award winning fish and other Scottish delights. There is also much excitement in town as the well-stocked “Scottish Deli” now serves a selection of tasty Scottish tapas dishes with a glass of wine in the evenings.
Dunkeld House Hotel
After our wanders, it was time to check in, and the impressive driveway gives an indication of what’s to come at the Duke of Atholls former country estate. Gone are the traditional tartans and twee furnishings and it’s in with a bold, Highland palette, open fires and a complimentary welcome dram.
Our room overlooked the forest and car park at the back, but an open door gave us a sneaky peak into one of the river view rooms. The outlook is stunning and worth splashing out a little bit extra for if you can.
Charcoal greys with splashes of orange and green Autumnal hues decorate the room with fur throws and a retro-style telephone adding a glamorous feel. The bathrooms have been given the same attention to detail with floor and ceiling wallpaper, marble washstands and decorative finishings – all very luxurious.
The gym and the bar
Dinner was booked for seven thirty, so we decided to make use of the gym (impressed!) and the pool, sauna, and steam room to relax beforehand. It’s great to have this facility available, and various spa and beauty treatments can be booked in advance.
The bar area with its open fires and soft candlelight is a welcoming space, so we decided to have a pre-dinner G&T. The drinks menu covered all bases and included a few of the more traditional mainstream Scottish gins. We were surprised that some of the newer Scottish craft gins weren’t on the menu, but it turned out that they did have them at the bar. Perhaps a separate Scottish Craft Gin menu would be an idea with staff trained on delivering the perfect serve for each one instead of cucumber with everything.
Our table for dinner was in the conservatory which in daylight provides fantastic views over the river. In the dark, it’s the stylish white stag antler chandeliers that cast a relaxed glow over the room. Service here is excellent, and you do feel that the staff care and want to give you the best experience possible.
The restaurant was bustling which is great to see – especially for a weekend in the middle of November.
The menu is well balanced with a choice of six starters, mains and desserts (including cheese for an additional £8.50).
Raymond chose Venison Carpaccio which arrived with five slices of sweet juniper berry cured venison loin. Pickled mushrooms and the slightly bitter parsley oil provide a delicious contrast and the pea shoots a fresh crunch.
I chose Duo of Sea Trout, and it turned out to be a good choice. The trout two ways – citrus cured and hickory smoked was served with a celeriac remoulade and honey and mustard dressing. The different textures of the cured and smoked trout worked well together, and the garnish of red caviar was a real treat.
Raymond chose Pan Fried Fillet of Place served with buttered potatoes, a lemon butter sauce and topped with samphire. It was a simple dish and looked a bit plain on the plate, but the fish was perfectly cooked and tasted delicious.
I chose Highlander Chicken and two substantial breast portions stuffed with MacSweens award-winning haggis arrived – perfect comfort food for a November night. Chef had rolled the breast in spiced oats to form a crisp crumb on the outside and this along with the peppercorn sauce elevated the dish beyond the usual pub grub classic. Rumbledethumps completed the dish, but not being a fan – some perfect fresh potato chips arrived instead.
Raymond predicably chose Salted Dark Chocolate Torte served with cherry compote – two of his favourite pudding ingredients! The filling didn’t disappoint, but he would have preferred a less weaponised pastry case – almost took my eye out!
Continuing on the Highland theme, I went for Drambuie Crème Brûlée, and they didn’t hold back with the alcohol. I’m usually underwhelmed by whisky flavoured desserts as there’s never enough flavour for me. This was full on Drambuie, and I loved it. Two rounds of crisp deliciously short Highland shortbread were the perfect accompaniment.
Guests can choose to round off dinner with one of Highland Chocolatier, Iain Burnett’s Best Dark Chocolate Truffle in the World, served with a Highland malt whisky. The Raspberry and Black Pepper Velvet Truffle, served with a 12yo Aberfeldy Malt sounded perfect, but at £15 it’s a special treat.
Bed and Breakfast
We had an excellent sleep in our warm, comfortable and very quiet bedroom and woke refreshed, ready for breakfast and a river walk to Dunkeld.
Breakfast is served in the same space as dinner, and our conservatory table had relaxing views over the hotel grounds towards the river. Tea and coffee are brought to your table, and the rest of breakfast is self-service from the well-stocked buffet.
We enjoyed cereal and a full Scottish breakfast complete with black pudding and haggis. Staff continually top up the buffet with freshly cooked items to ensure that everything is fresh and you won’t starve. A perfect start to Sunday morning.
After breakfast, we walked along the riverside path to Dunkeld which is easily accessed from the front of the hotel. The autumnal colours were stunning, and the network of trails provides easy walking for all.
Dunkeld and the surrounding area is a fantastic place to visit at any time of the year. The renovations at Dunkeld House have created a modern, stylish country house hotel while retaining stacks of charm and excellent levels of customer service. Highly recommended if you are looking for a romantic short break in the Big Tree County.
How to book a stay at Dunkeld House Hotel
Dunkeld House Hotel
TEL: 01350 727771
Many thanks to Dunkeld House Hotel for inviting us to go along and see their refurbishment and check out their menu.