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.

Hong Kong 48 Hours

A recent  client visit while traveling onward to Vietnam, why not stop briefly in Hong Kong to overcome jet lag and gently begin the absorption into a new culture.

ATT-HBR-VPD-0012L_LRThursday (Breakfast & Lunch) – Hong Kong
Your Journey Guide will meet you at the Hotel Lobby and we begin by immersing you in the more traditional side of Hong Kong Island which is where the city and its residents’ roots lie. You will explore the old streets of Western and Central District where the traditional cafes are open for breakfast. You will try a traditional breakfast in a local Dai Pai Dong (street café) and have a famous “pantyhose” milk tea where stockings are used to drain the tea leaves.

We then suggest a visit to one of the city’s Dried Provisions Markets where all types of weird and wonderful dried food is available. Your guides will help explain their different uses in cooking, preparation of tonic soups and even in traditional medicines. We then suggest a visit to the atmospheric Man Mo Temple located on Hollywood Road. No visitors can claim that their journey is complete until they have paid a visit to The Peak and the stunning views over Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor from the Peak are the highlights for most visitors to this vibrant city.ATT-MKT-TEM-0054_LRAfter a local lunch, your next stop is Aberdeen, an active fishing harbor on the Southern side of Hong Kong Island, where we can offer a ride in the traditional boat called a Sampan (which has become a symbol of Hong Kong over the years) to observe the fishing “junks”. Afterwards, we offer the option of some retail therapy at Stanley Market located in the former colonial outpost.

Friday (Lunch & Afternoon Tea) – Hong Kong
This morning, your Guide will show you around the more local Kowloon district. You will visit the traditional Chinese Nan Lian Gardens and the nearby Chi Lin Nunnery whilst making a stop at the Wong Tai Sin Temple which is popular with locals praying for good health and prosperity. Later, you have time to explore some of local markets in Kowloon starting from the Jade Market which has more than 400 registered stall-owners sell ornaments, necklaces and trinkets made from the revered green stone.ATT-MKT-LDM-0049_LRWe include a traditional Dim Sum Lunch at the local Tim Ho Wan Restaurant (the cheapest Michelin Star Restaurant in the world). In the afternoon, enjoy an experience of local, urban Chinese lifestyles, through Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok – the heart of the Kowloon Peninsula. Walking through Goldfish Market and Flower Market is an exciting and memorable experience of traditional past times of local people. We suggest a stop at the Mido Café to try some traditional Hong Kong style afternoon tea. After visiting one of the city’s oldest streets, Shanghai Street, you will return to your hotel for the balance of the day at leisure.
Lantau Tour (Lunch):
Today you will make an excursion to visit Lantau Island which is the largest of all the out-lying islands in Hong Kong. The tour begins with the ferry from Central to Mui Wo and this morning, you will visit Tai O Village, a traditional fishing village where time seems to stand still amidst the peaceful surroundings. Next, travel up the rolling hills of Lantau and at the top is the Big Buddha, the largest outdoor Buddha statue in the world. Close-up views come at the cost of 268 steps to the statue. A simple lunch is offered and this afternoon, visit the Po Lin Monastery, an active Buddhist Monastery that is nestled among scenic mountains on the island. Afterwards, take a ride on the Ngong Ping 360 cable car, which offers breathtaking views down to the new town of Tung Chung and from here, you will be transferred back to your hotel in town.
*The Government restricts private vehicle licenses on Lantau Island so today, we will use the clean and efficient public transport system whilst we offer a private transfer from Tung Chung, at the end of the tour, back to your hotel.ATT-CTL-GEN-0171_LREnchanting- quick peek or add another day, we would be happy to delight your senses and add some exclusive opportunities…ATT-HBR-VPD-0012L_LR