Royal Life at Fife Arms – Bevvy & Spooran’s.

A multi-generational family would have visited Fife Arms a few years ago, but the Pandemic cancelled so many of our Journeys.  The young parents live in London with the little ones and these gallivanting grandparents are always interested in luxurious family adventure! Kiddos like the train, so we figured out a London transfer by train for the boys to ooh and aww during a brief train experience!

I have been roaming Morocco and Europe for over 60 days and included Scotland in my travels. What a marvelous colorful and welcoming area of the world. I must say there has been more than one occasion when I had absolutely no idea what a breakfast room service gentleman in tartans said to me…some accents are very strong, pre-coffee, even more challenging. Accents vary drastically from location to location, the Scots speak either English or Gaelic, some both. I find it exceptionally sing-songy and harmonic and lovely to hear, but a few of my gobsmacked expressions must have made some think I am deaf and /or dumb. There were occasions when my well spoken driver in Morocco, he who speaks five languages, said to me I’m speaking English to you! English in Scotland can truly be a foreign language.

Fife Arms in Braemar near Balmoral

Fife Arms is a rare exceptional Scottish gem, built in the 19th century, a Braemar landmark and is a category B listed building. Its size is evidence of the popularity of Braemar in the wake of Queen Victoria’s visits and her purchase of Balmoral. A Victorian coaching Inn, the classic Highland hunting lodge turned hotel is beautifully restored in the remote village of Aberdeenshire. Owned by an art collecting Swiss couple, not your average collectors, Iwan and Manuela Wirth, have an empire of galleries. Sharing their quirky and passionate love of art with the public at this now beloved hotel.

Braemar is a delightful two-hour drive from Edinburgh, set in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. Summer travel is grand as the sky doesn’t darken until around 10 pm allowing travelers to absorb the breathtaking views of majestic mountains. Our driver can arrange a picnic amid rolling heather-covered moors and if you are alert, perhaps a picnic visitor, one of the roaming enormous stags. If you miss the animal sighting, there are plentiful reminders at Fife Arms. Braemar, in the lap of the Cairngorm mountains and famous for the Royal Highland Games, is full of old-fashioned appeal with enchanting stone houses, tea rooms and if you forgot to pack the spooran in your kit, no worries, theres even a sporran shop, the perfect location to complete your classic highland outfit!

The hotel is at the center of it all, Balmoral Castle is nine miles down the road and this countryside offers no end of outdoor pursuits. Hiking, biking, fishing, clay pigeon shooting, a long list of curated activities for each guest. The hotel can arrange flight transfers from Aberdeen, 90 minutes away.

The Flying Stag, Fife Arms

Queen Victoria’s hand painted pencil and watercolor ‘Stag’s’ for John Brown hangs in the charming property, easy to spot in the foyer, you can see impressions of letters on the work, she placed it under layers of papers. Art is central to The Fife Arms experience, the hotel houses more than 14,000 pieces of art and antiques, carefully curated and displayed throughout the hotel.  H.M. Queen Victoria was a proficient and studious amateur artist, beginning drawing lessons from the age of eight. She initially copied drawings, as instructed by her tutor.  A Stag Shot by John Brown, 6 October 1874.

Stag by Queen Victoria for John Brown

There is plenty of taxidermy and a dedicated horn man, who builds magnificent chandeliers and art pieces of animal horns. A huge stag leaps above the bar in the adjoining local pub, The Flying Stag. The dedicated hotel horn man, Gareth Guy, is responsible for sourcing over 500 stag antlers for the antler chandelier in The Fog House. His workshop is just steps away, crammed to the rafters with ancient tools and antlers.

Fife Arms

The Fife Arms was inspired by the vivid landscape and luxurious cultural influences of the riverside Braemar village. Fife Arms has 46 charming bedrooms, including suites, all layerd with art, statuary, tartan and tassels. A gorgeous restaurant overlooking the River Clunie, a charming cocktail bar, a Library, playroom, spa, a local village bar and charming garden. Drop in for a tipple pre dinner at the cozy bar Elsa, named for Elsa Schiaparelli before moving on to a sumptuous dinner in the Clunie Dining Room.

The latest luxurious addition is Bertie’s Whiskey Bar, named in honor of Queen Victoria’s eldest son, King Edward VII, also known as ‘Bertie’. Entering Bertie’s is like no other whisky bar, in fact, there is no ‘bar’ at Bertie’s. Instead, guests will lose themselves in a labyrinth of whisky bottles, arranged like books on shelves, backlit in a lustrous amber liquid casting a seductive glow across the room. Bertie’s can be said to be a ‘whisky library’ where guests are actively encouraged to discover, wander and browse with bartenders as ‘librarians’ to answer questions and make suggestions. There are 365 whiskies, one for each day of the year, unusually arranged by flavor profile: Fragrant, Fruity, Rich and Smoky. I have an appointment to sample this evening!

Berties Bar Fife Arms

You will love the Fife Arms for the delightful details, the extraordinary art collection curated by the passionate collector owners and the juxtaposition of traditional details merging with contemporary art – it doesn’t’ always work, but here it does and it’s marvelous!  You may come to love the traditional sporting services, boot drying after a damp marshy stroll. Recuperate from the wildlands walks in the Albamhor spa with a massage, or do ponder the Fife Foot Ritual: a welcoming soak for those tired hidden away feet before a luxurious scrub with ishga Sea Salt scrub followed by a relaxing and therapeutic massage to the lower legs and feet. This can be enhanced using a
detoxifying ishga Seaweed & Salt warm poultice to reduce inflammation and ease those tired muscles. Sounds Scrumptious!

Fife Arms

I always carry a small bag of books, yesterday’s chilly temps encouraged me to curl up in the luxurious cozy salon to read and catch up on client Journeys. Peckish? Mosey in for afternoon tea in the drawing room, layered in bespoke tartan tweed walls and elegant fringed sofas with Chinese artist Zhang Engli’s extraordinary painted ceiling. Who would have thought a Picasso would look so stunning hanging on a tartan wall?

Picasso on Tartan, perfection!

Stay like a Royal in a Suite inspired by some of Braemar’s most capital N, Noble Visitors, the five-star Royal Suites are richly furnished with antiques, artworks and even objects that once belonged to these historic figures. With views over the surrounding landscape, the rooms also feature freestanding copper bath, rain shower, double bed and separate sitting room. From Queen Victoria to Princess Royal Louise, each Royal Suite has been meticulously researched and dressed to tell their story and connection to Braemar. And yes, the Capital N Nobles do pop in, the pub is on their grounds as you might say.

I expect you may ring for an extended stay at Fife Arms.

Lang may yer lum reek! – May you live long and stay well.

On our Radar: Chile and the Tierra Lodges

The family owned and run boutique lodges are inspired by Chile’s amazing nature. Tierra Hotels offer tailor-made excursions and authentic gastronomy in journeys which combine active adventure with relaxation in their spas. Discover Tierra Atacama in San Pedro de Atacama, Tierra Chiloé on the Island of Chiloé and Tierra Patagonia, in Torres del Paine National Park.

Chile Terra Lodges

Escape to a world of clear night skies, high altitude lagoons and moon-like valleys at Tierra Atacama. High in the northern desert of Chile, Tierra Atacama lodge encapsulates exquisite design, authentic experiences, and an intimate, home-away-from-home atmosphere, where a sense of both adventure travel and pure relaxation lingers in the air.

The essence of this unforgettable desert landscape is at the heart of Tierra Atacama. The property was designed by some of Chile’s most renowned architects, with regional sensibilities, eco-friendly design, and boutique comforts firmly in mind. One should visit Tierra Atacama for experiences that will leave you feeling fully restored by the time you leave. Your experiences at Tierra Atacama adventure & spa hotel is made all the more special through a personalized excursion plan, offering a huge array of activities from horseback riding to volcano hiking, as well as soothing sessions in the Uma Spa, complete with a menu of treatments influenced by the desert climate, native flora and ancient therapies.

All rooms have views of the Atacama Desert & Licancabur Volcano. The dining experience makes the most of local produce, filling the menu with innovative twists on north Chilean cuisine. You will be able to enjoy a wide range of excursions and activities around the Atacama Desert, which are included in the all-inclusive programs. Unwind in the spa or gaze out at the stunning scenery while relaxing in the outdoor pool after your desert adventures.

Atacama hotels - Desert adventure with Tierra Atacama Hotel & spa
Tierra Atacama

How many days should you stay in San Pedro de Atacama? We generally recommend that you stay at least 3 or 4 nights at Tierra Atacama. This will give you time to unwind, relax and take in several Atacama Desert Highlights.  However, you can easily spend a week in this stunningly beautiful, stark desert environment without getting bored. If you are interested in climbing the Lascar volcano you should plan on staying at least 5 nights, since you will need to acclimatize and do some practice hikes in the preceding days.

Paradise in the south of Chile. The archipelago of Chiloé is an enchanting place in many ways.  In addition to its stunning and diverse natural landscapes, just steps away from Tierra Chiloe, you’ll find what many believe to be the island’s best spot for birdwatching: the Pullao wetlands. The wetlands stretch for about one kilometer and serve as a seasonal home to thousands of species migrating from the northern hemisphere, such as the Hudsonian godwit, the whimbrel and the Rhynchops niger, among others.

Known for its rich gastronomy, the farm to table restaurant at Tierra Chiloé indulges in the rich produce of the local fishing community, which surrounds the hotel. As such, guests are treated to a plethora of seafood dishes, where mussels, sea urchins and other ocean treats fresh from the daily catch await. In addition to close ties with the local fishermen and farmers, our chef makes homemade breads and pastries, and the local specialty, the traditional Chilean cuisine dish “curanto”. This celebratory preparation is done in a hole, in contact with mother earth. It cooks slowly on hot rocks stacked with choritos (a local bivalve), meat, native potatoes, and sausages.  Chapaleles and milcaos (types of potato bread) must also be added and, on top, nalca leaves are placed, allowing the ingredients to steam cook. The thousand-year-old culture celebrates its traditions. Each year, the Mapuche people celebrate We Tripantu, an important ancient tradition which, between June 21 and 24, marks a new beginning – a change of cycle propelled by nature’s constantly renewing energy.  This date coincides with the winter solstice, an astronomical phenomenon interpreted by this ancestral culture as the “rebirth of life”.

To be exact, this event occurs when our planet reaches its maximum distance from the sun.  This is the longest night of the year and the days that follow are also longer.

We Tripantu

At the start of the We Tripantu, the sun “begins to return” and nature experiences multiple changes: the rains arrive which will bring new sprouts, the rivers renew their waters, the birds rise early, the animals shed their coats.  All the Earth’s energies are renewed.

There is something more profound that its visitors value and treasure: the warmth and kindness of its people. This is a characteristic that catches the attention of both resident and foreign tourists. Visitors who have stayed at Tierra Chiloé return home enamored with the warm friendliness the locals. 

Spa and gastronomy in Chiloé, a true pleasure. The impressive nature that surrounds Tierra Chiloé creates the ideal ambience to recharge and enjoy a well-deserved moment of relaxation.  A healthy experience can be further boosted with the natural therapies and massages offered by Uma Spa.  Uma Spa at Tierra Chiloé Spa & Wellness Hotel – a place of blissful tranquility with locally sourced materials and all-natural ingredients – encourages you to unwind and rejuvenate far away from your everyday life.

After a day of active exploration around the island, slip into one of the two soothing, heated pools. Another option is the intricately constructed and calming sauna, guaranteed to help you to relax. Make time in your itinerary for one of the Uma Spa’s unique treatments, which include shiatsu, reflexology, and deep-tissue massages. The relaxation spa itself is warm and inviting, with local wood and heated stone floors, creating a cozy refuge from the often-rainy weather outside. Enjoy the steam room or sauna, treat yourself to an indulgent massage, or just press pause and gaze out at the wildlife rich Pullao wetland from the outdoor heated infinity pool. Its exquisite, heated pool with views of the Pullao wetlands, refreshes the body and mind, and then relax in the indoor hydromassage pool.  It is a gift to give yourself time to disconnect. 

Tierra Chiloé

The gastronomy at Tierra Chiloé is characterized by its emphasis on local flavors, with fresh and organic ingredients, as well as innovation in its textures.  The sought-after curanto, with its delightful ritual of opening it in front of the guests is a full experience.  Just as such are the sinfully delicious desserts.

Excursions to connect with nature. The excursions with Tierra Chiloé’s all-encompassing portfolio of guided tours, include hiking, biking, kayaking or sailing your way through the charming landscapes of Chiloé.  At Tierra Chiloé, they also offer private guides and transfers for the bespoke experience.  Hiking and biking Tierra Chiloé is an excellent way to explore the natural beauty of this marvelous archipelago in the south of Chile, as well as its traditions and culture.  The team of guides can prepare a varied selection of activities, with different levels of difficulty, which combine adventures both by sea and through the native forests. Along with horseback riding, trekking, or biking, there’s also the alternative to sail on the Williche, a wooden yacht built in the chilote style which moves around the islands just as the local inhabitants have done for centuries.  This season, sail among dolphins, penguins, and sea lions, on sunny days. It is bewitching!

Best patagonia hotels: Tierra hotels recognised by T&L World's best award
Tierra Patagonia

Tierra Patagonia…Emerging beside craggy mountains and the glistening Lake Sarmiento in Torres del Paine National Park, the Tierra Patagonia hotel weaves itself into the landscape with subtle style, blending into the magnificence of the region. Here in this untamed part of the world, the perfect spot for an adventure vacation, what you see at our Patagonia adventure spa hotel is emerald lakes, fantastic mountain ranges and abundant wildlife. At Tierra Patagonia, an award-winning eco-luxury Torres del Paine hotel, we invite you to forge your own relationship with the famous Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. While staying at this sustainable luxury eco-lodge, you’ll find yourself surrounded by wilderness, and you can enjoy an endless array of outdoor excursions and Torres del Paine tours. The architecture of the lodge is beautifully integrated with the landscape and offers stunning views of the park. The hotel’s design is purely Patagonian with locally sourced materials and artworks. These split-level, wood-paneled suites measure 51sq m, with an upstairs living-room and a bedroom with an ensuite bathroom with a bath tub and separate shower downstairs. The neutral decor lets the views – over the lake and the mountains of Torres del Paine – do the talking.

Suites at Tierra Patagonia - Rooms with a view of Torres del Paine
Suite at Tierra Patagonia – Rooms with a view of Torres del Paine

Every day is a new adventure. Choose from a varied range of guided tours and excursions to explore the park your way. One day you might decide to go sailing on Lake Grey to see the glacier and icebergs up close. The next day you could go horse-riding on a Patagonian Estancia with the local Chilean cowboys known as “huasos”. If you like hiking, then you’ll be able to choose from hiking trips which explore every corner of Torres del Paine national park. Whether you prefer to explore on foot, horseback, bike, or boat, our all-encompassing portfolio of tours and activities delves into every corner of the park.

Tierra Patagonia

Adventure travel and simple luxury, blended into an unforgettable experience. Relaxation and pampering await you after a day of exploring. The Uma Spa restores your mind, body, and soul, as do the warming fires and friendly service. Tierra Patagonia is a true home-from-home Torres del Paine hotel for exploring this bucket-list destination, where adventure travel and luxury are combined.

Best outdoor adventure weather: November to February.

Best crowd-free months: September, October, March, April.

Best months for stargazing: December to February.

Most crowded month: January.

Best months for snow sports: June to August.