The Kildrummy Park Castle Hotel is a hotel by name, but its palatial features, grand fireplaces and luxury appointments sits it somewhere between a hunting lodge, a stately home and a palace.
We’ve been lucky enough to stay in castles before and this time around, we were looking for a new experience. The Kildrummy Park Castle Hotel sure looked like a castle in the photos and its position, directly adjacent to the 13th century Kildrummy Castle ruins made it a winner in our eyes.
Built in 1900, apparently using some of the stones from the ruins, the hotel stands in the midst of a lush estate with adjoining gardens. Originally a hunting lodge, it is so perfect, you could imagine it being the setting for a period drama, or a movie version of Clue (Cluedo). The hunting theme remains and is apparent from the moment you enter the foyer with antlers mounted as proud trophies below the entry chandelier. Wood paneled walls and ornate rugs and roaring fireplaces make the place immediately inviting for road weary travelers like us.
The main hall has a grand dining setting; Persian carpets and oil paintings of fiercely defiant stags dominate the walls. Branching off on all sides are picture perfect rooms straight out of Upstairs Downstairs. There’s a dining room, lounge room, sitting room and drawing room. Even the bathrooms are magnificent, with dark wood panels, a central seating area and large double sinks. The 20 or so hooks around the walls show that although renovated, it is indeed the original bathroom used by the hunters to wash off after a day chasing deer.
Our rooms are in a separate wing and we head up the stairs past a traditional dinner gong, which you can imagine a Victorian hitting to call guests to the service. Rich tapestry cloth wallpaper covers the walls. It’s truly lovely.
Spacious and comfortable, the rooms are much larger than a modern hotel and although feeling a little tired, they are inviting with a style that sits between kitsch and grandmotherly. A king size bed is the centerpiece and a dresser with seat taking up more space than our tiny studio apartment would ever allow. The only downside is there’s absolutely zero television or WiFi reception this far back, away from the main hall. It turns out that unplugging ensures we enjoy the heritage of the place as it was intended, free of social media for a night.
Dining at the Kildrummy Park Hotel is a real treat. As it’s the start of the offseason and closer to 9pm, we have the dining room to ourselves. You can choose from a la Carte, two or three courses. Being the one day this trip when we’re going all out, we choose the three-course menu. Dinner starts with a light pork mousse.
For starters we order the roasted red pepper soup and the mojito monkfish. The Mojito Monkfish is interesting. It is a very dense fish, like chicken breast but even a little thicker, which we weren’t expecting. The mojito flavors come through the lime and salt foam, with a minty aftertaste. The capsicum in the soup is reduced to a point that any bitterness is gone, leaving a sweet creaminess.
Moving on to the main course (entrée), our friendly waiter, a young ginger-haired, cherub faced local brings out locally caught crispy skinned salmon with greens and lamb (to add to this) Dessert is the sweetest, richest sticky toffee pudding. Creamy ice cream tames it.
After dinner, we retire to the drawing room for a very fitting nightcap – a dram of The Glenlivet 18 year. As we bask in the flickering flames of the palatial fireplace, we let waves of warmth wash over us. If this is what being the 1% is like, we’re really missing out.
Rising to a full Scottish breakfast the dining room is incredibly elegant. Intricately carved sideboard housing fresh grapefruit, cereals, juices and jams. We’re seated at a table with a perfect view of the garden terrace, watching the leaves fall serenely from the trees and local birds nibble at the seeds provided on a small feeder.
By light of day, the dining room looks even more impressive. The sideboard that houses the breakfast buffet is a work of art. Breakfast is a selection of traditional Scottish fare – bacon and eggs, sausage, haggis, salty, buttery mushrooms, Heinz baked beans and toast and scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on toast.
After breakfast, we take a little time to explore the grounds. The hotel is perched above ornate gardens which with the addition of the rich fall foliage, offers a most intriguing color palette. A rough hewn path takes visitors down to the gardens, where as we stay above on the causeway that leads to the adjoining property – the castle the estate is named after, Kildrummy.
The Kildrummy Castle ruins rise from the ancient mound that has protected it for almost a millennium. The early morning sun casts a golden hue over the hand cut stone work of the keep and towers, while the moat and earthworks glisten with dew. A weathered millstone lies in the lush grass at the overlook raising more questions than answers as to its placement. Has it always been there? Was there a mill nearby?
Kildrummy Castle was built by Gilbert De Moravia in the mid thirteenth century. It stood strong for five centuries through a litany of sieges like protecting the family of Robert the Bruce in 1306. In 1335 it was then attacked by David of Strathbogie. In 1435 it became one of James I’s royal castles before being granted to Lord Elphinstone. It passed from the Elphinstone clan to the Erskine clan before being abandoned in 1716 after the failure of the Jacobite Revolution.
The shield-shaped castle is now in ruins and is open to the public during the summer months. A ravine, once part of its defences borders an ornamental garden built in the quarry where its stone riginally came from. The gardens are popular in summer, but they are at their best right in the peak of autumn, although access to the castle is limited.
If you plan on venturing along the malt whisky trail, the Kildrummy Castle and Hotel are an ideal location to base your travels from. The warmth and opulence of the environs and staff place it high on our recommended Scottish travel experiences.
Kildrummy, Alford AB33 8RA, UK
The Hotel is open all year round.
1 April to 30 September:
Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
1 to 31 October:
Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm
1 November to 31 March: