A multi-generational family would be at Fife Arms now if it weren’t due to the Pandemic. 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!
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 spoor 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. The hotel can arrange transfers from Aberdeen, 90 minutes away.
Queen Victoria’s hand painted ‘Stag’s’ for John Brown hangs in the charming property. 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, keep an eye out for her original pencil and watercolor: 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.
The Fife Arms was inspired by the vivid landscape and luxurious cultural influences of the riverside Braemar village. Fife Arms has 46 bedrooms, including suites, a 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.
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 and can visualize curling up in a luxurious cozy room reading. Still a wee bit 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.
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.
A bevy of our clients are safely gallivanting, bags bulging with wipes, n-95 masks and Covid travel testing kits- so far, nothing but marvelous postcards. Our dear clients began with a Scotland jaunt to indulge their golf obsession on the incomparable and not too crowded Golf Greens. Pop over to London for a week of fine dining, J Sheekey of course, pre-theatre – (Tom Stoppard play is exceptionally good), fancy an afternoon cozy boat voyage on the Thames with a jazz trio? Giggles, dancing and creating lasting memories – Legacy Travel is what we espouse – this gregarious extended family, also known as The Entourage, has been traveling with us since day one!
Their favorite hotel in London has always been The Beaumont and we were faintly fretful about fresh ownership and updated décor- fret not! They loved it – photos propelled through the air, compliments on the always warmhearted and engaging staff, ‘everyone still knows our names’! After pining for travel, what an appreciated treasure, familiarity at your best-loved hotel! It’s been modified, but the cozy elegant charm remains. A new Bar experience – and yes, I received many photos from the VIP clients … Le Magritte Bar & Terrace belongs to the great tradition of American bars that became legendary in London and Paris during the 1920s.
All-American bad boys (and girls) from Hemingway and Fitzgerald to Martin, Sinatra and MacLaine would have felt right at home in its handsome walnut- paneled interior, hung with an eclectic collection of early 20th century paintings and photographs, including the Magritte that gives the room its name.
The Beaumont Hotel is included in many of my London posts, it’s a cozy Art Deco design gem. The five-star Mayfair hotel has 73 rooms, of which 23 are studios and suites. Seamless style and old world aesthetics are apparent in every room and public space – the art collection alone is worth a visit. All the rooms at The Beaumont have been designed in a soft Art Deco style, with a purist’s eye for delicate and pertinent detail without sparing a modicum of guest comfort. Spacious rooms with comfortable period furniture, massive wardrobes for unpacking, enormous bathrooms with deep soaking tubs, large rain showers for those who don’t subscribe to soaking. Do visit the spa, it is spare and glamorous and truly satisfying! Separate post on my spa experience.
The Beaumont’s Presidential Suite evokes the glamorous era of the great transatlantic liners of the 1920s and 30s. With an expansive sitting room and a separate dining room seating eight, plus a pantry kitchen and a guest bathroom, it features cream lacquer paneling, brass inlaid details and parquet timber floors throughout. Subtly patterned silk curtains, hand-made rugs and period antiques and artworks create a discreet and elegant setting. Hugely versatile and supremely comfortable, the suite has a large terrace offering uninterrupted views towards the City of London, and can be opened up to include up to five bedrooms, incorporating the entire fifth floor of the hotel, in total privacy.
Our London VIP team has exceptional excursions, has dined at the newest and finest restaurants and can direct you to a wee champagne, oyster and caviar bar for an afternoon tuck.
May we suggest another plucky Travel Recipe, combine a few important cities, in this case London and Brussels? Europe’s fast trains make a speedy connection in luxurious comfort. Brussels could also be combined with Amsterdam or Paris, a cultural trifecta!
Since the Rocco Forte Rome Hotel de Russie just hosted eleven of our globetrotters, their scrumptious property in Brussels is top of the list for our excursions.
Rocco Forte hotels are distinctive, and each property is faithful to its surroundings. Inhabiting magnificent buildings in exceptional locations, Rocco Forte properties offer unique design, discriminating dining and exceptional service.
Hotel Amigo, a Rocco Forte property, is as close to the historic center of Brussels as you can get. Many grand rooms look directly onto the roofs of Hotel de Ville, the hotel front door leads straight into the maze of medieval streets that surround the Grand Place. The name “Amigo”, if you don’t know, comes from the nickname for the 16th-century prison on this site when Belgium was part of the Spanish Netherlands. A luxury landmark hotel with historic heritage, offering an excellent Italian restaurant and sophisticated martini bar and adding a local reminder, the hotel has a Belgian-related Tintin and Magritte-themed suites.
From chic rooms to presidential suites, Hotel Amigo effortlessly marries elegant design contemporary creature comforts with fine art and superlative service. Rooms and suites number 154. All the rooms are spacious, and stylish, with large and well-equipped, marbled bathrooms. The simplest “classic” rooms are 28 square meters, but there are several levels of luxury suites, some with interconnecting doors to neighboring rooms for families with children (who might particularly enjoy the “Tintin Suite”). At the very top or the range is the Armand Blaton (Royal or Presidential) Suite, with a large rooftop terrace overlooking the city.
A marvelous walking city, a cultural haven of Magritte’s, Rubens and fine antiques. Handmade chocolates, beer and moules frites. There are approximately 304 active breweries in Belgium.
A Culinary adventure in the North Sea. Bask in the sunshine on the ship’s deck and savor the salty tang of the breeze as you glide across the North Sea, searching for one of Belgium’s most prized delicacies: grey shrimp. A quintessential element of local cuisine like both waffles and frites, for centuries they’ve been a key ingredient on Belgian seafood menus, usually in the form of classic kroketten (croquettes) or tomaat-garnalen (tomatoes stuffed with shrimp). Ideal for foodie families: hop aboard an authentic shrimping boat as part of this gastronomic getaway offered by Hotel Amigo and learn about this proud Belgian tradition.
On arrival, you’ll be presented with iconic yellow Petit Bateau raincoats to take with you to the port of Ostend, where you’ll be welcomed by the captain and crew of the Crangon. Step aboard, slip on your coats and admire picture-perfect views of the coast as the trawler pulls out into the open sea. Keep an eye out for tell-tale ripples below the surface and watch the crew in action as the ship’s trawling nets start to swell. As the catch is reeled in and spills onto the deck, you’ll learn the tricks of the trade first-hand from the crew as together you sort, rinse, boil and cool your haul.
Once you’ve caught your fill, it’s time to return to Ostend and then back to Brussels. Hotel Amigo’s chefs are experts in the art of transforming fresh ingredients into succulent delicacies, and once handed over, your catch will be expertly rolled and cooked into croquettes for you to sample. Divine day!
If Brussels had a perfume, it would be Chocolate, and yes we can create a Chocolate Trail for Chocolate Connoisseurs.
A Day Trip to Bruges. With medieval architecture, winding canals, Michelin-starred dining, and world-class art, Bruges is an enchanting Belgian city. Just a 40-minute drive from Hotel Amigo, it’s the perfect day trip destination. Stretch your legs with a walk around the city’s historic heart, exploring the cobbled streets and historic sights of Markt and Burg. If you have the stamina, climb the iconic belfry in Markt for sweeping panoramic views across the city. Make sure to pay a visit to the Heilig-Bloedbasiliek (the Basilica of the Holy Blood) while you’re in Burg, to see the vial said to contain the blood of Christ. There’s also a well-preserved 12th century chapel, murals, stained glass, and an opulent treasury.
On Kleine Sint-Amandsstraat, a few minutes’ walk from the basilica, you’ll find the intimate De Stove restaurant. Serving freshly caught fish from Zeebrugge, alongside other expertly crafted, internationally influenced dishes, De Stove is just the place for a restorative lunch. Make it an occasion to remember with a glass or two of perfectly paired, sommelier-approved wine.
No trip to Bruges would be complete without seeing its canals. After lunch, take a carriage ride or boat trip to explore this beautiful area of the city. Or stroll alongside the canals, if you’d rather walk off your lunch. Just make sure to take in the Rozenhoedkaai (the Quay of the Rosary) on your way. It’s one of the most photogenic sights Bruges has to offer.
End up the Groeningemuseum (Bruges’ fine arts museum), three minutes’ walk from the Rozenhoedkaai, to take in some Flemish masterpieces, including The Virgin and Child with Canon Van der Paele by Jan van Eyck and the Moreel Triptych by Hans Memling.
Bring the day to a close with a meal at the ivy-clad, Michelin-starred restaurant, Den Gouden Harynck, just a minute away from the museum. In addition to the fine French cuisine, Philippe Serruys’ wine cellar is a place of beauty.
If you have time before leaving Bruges, take in a concert or performance at the renowned Concertgebouw. Otherwise, simply head back to the welcoming surrounds of the Hotel Amigo to relax with a nightcap in your suite after a day well spent.
Local Flavor: Belgians take their tradition of comic strip writing seriously, even giving it its own name, the ‘ninth art’. Their greatest artist is Hergé, creator of ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ and country’s most famous fictional detective. The unforgettable character of Tintin has left an indelible mark on Brussels and everywhere you turn, glimpses of him and his comrades light up the capital, from murals on walls and train stations, to museums, shops and even in the suites of Hotel Amigo.
Delve into the story of Tintin in Brussels with this comic lover’s guide to the city. Inspirational Locations. Start where it all began in Etterbeek, a municipality of Brussels where cartoonist Hergé (real name, Georges Remi), was born. Explore the neighborhood that raised such a talent before heading to 26 Rue Terre Neuve in Brussels to discover the surprisingly ordinary house on which Tintin’s home was based. Around the corner is La Fleur en Papier Doré, said to be Hergé’s favorite watering hole. A quiet, homely space, it’s easy to imagine him relaxing here while taking a break from writing or perhaps dreaming up fresh ideas over a pint of Belgian beer.
Belgians love comics so much that the capital has a whole museum dedicated to it: the Comics Art Museum. Naturally, Tintin plays a leading role at the institution, which takes visitors through 25 years of comic strip literature. A favorite for families and children, the museum has creative exhibitions dedicated to the adventurer and other famous faces like the Smurfs and Dickie, and a children’s reading room.
Adventure! For those seeking a more outdoorsy experience, it’s hard to beat the incredible natural beauty of Belgium’s vast forests, craggy peaks and meandering rivers. After your arrival, enjoy a scenic drive through the rolling countryside, before arriving at the Skydive Spa in the Belgian Ardennes. Here, suit up and climb into a private plane, which will take off and gain height for fifteen minutes, ascending to an incredible 4000 meters above the mountains. Take in sensational views of the spa town far below, the wind rippling through your hair as you lean out of the door—and let go. Discover the indescribable feeling of total freefall in complete safety as, strapped to your instructor, you reach speeds of up to 200kph before your parachute releases to float you gently down towards the earth. Spot ancient castles, farms and villages from on high as you glide towards your landing spot, where a glass of Champagne will be waiting to celebrate your jump.
The adventure continues with a tour of the countryside in a gleaming 2CV convertible, before lunch at stunning castle Manoir de Lébioles and a chauffeured drive back to Brussels as the adrenaline rush recedes. Are you game enough?
Brussels is famous for being an international hub of politics, having remarkable architecture, and a chocolate store on nearly every street, how can you say no?
As Marcel Proust once wrote, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”.