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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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?
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.