Aberdeen to Argyll and a couple of stops along the way

ICMI Select

Maryculter House

Arriving on a Friday out of Aberdeen, Maryculter sits within an 18 minute drive nestled on the banks of the famous River Dee. The river provides one of the hotels many fishing beats though just beyond you also over look the 4th hole of The Peterculter Golf course. If it’s golf your after Maryculter House is ideally positioned to access Aboyne, Ballater, Banchory, Braemar, Cruden Bay, Inchmarlo, Paul Lawrie Centre, Peterculter, Royal Aberdeen, Stonehaven & Trump International!

The Hotel is one of the first additions to ICMI Select and I was invited by GM Peter Walker, formerly of Melrose House who had booked me into room 203! As I showed my daughter my room she suggested on FaceTime, ‘that’s what Kings sleep on’ as I turned the phone towards the marvellous Four Poster bed. This without any prompting about the rich Knights Templar history the hotel has.  In fact, Peter greeted me in reception and showed me initially to the historic site of the church where the headstones date back to the C.17, too say this hotel is rich in History would be an understatement!

The hotel has a plentiful amount of private dining and meeting space.  The Godfrey Room is now flanked by the winning European Ryder cup team from Gleneagles, a handful of the images were made and also through the owners relationship with Paul Lawrie there will be a replica Open trophy 🏆 on display. Great room for memories and golfing groups.

The larger Priory Room is double the size with low ceilings and equally adaptable for meetings and dinners however nothing can prepare you for the show piece room, The Templar Lounge with its three storey ceiling and roaring fireplace. Beneath the Templar Lounge the hotel wishes to refurbish and construct a private cellar dining room where knights once hid and escaped through underground tunnels to either the church or River Dee

Peter gave me an excellent and historic tour of the rooms and any room that has such phenomenal views of the Dee and beyond is definitely somewhere I’d like to wake up in. The property is looking to refurbish the accommodation and Peter showed me some glimpses though the rooms in general are very spacious, I’d describe currently as a 4 star.  There are 40 rooms in the main house with 6 fisherman singles in the adjacent building

For dinner I decided to hide away in the nook of the bar and overlook the Dee.  The menu was two days old and I was reliably informed the GM ‘s favourite starter was The Rilette of Rabbit which I followed with a great Sirloin with double cooked chips though I was also tempted by the fillet of Loch Duart Salmon. Tarte Tartin helped the remaining Merlot disappear whilst overhearing the bridal party Pre the big day. One of the greatest things being in a blind spot is you hear some great conversations between the barman and Saturday’s wedding guests particularly the groom to be!

Crinan Hotel

Time too short and with a quick breakfast alongside the anglers I was off on my epic 4.5 drive to Crinan Hotel on the west coast.

A few scheduled stops via the much lauded Fife Arms and a wonderful find in the shape of The Grandtully Hotel – Ballintaggart (see JG Collections Facebook)

One of the great benefits, apart from the views and the palpable weight lifted from this City boys shoulders, when driving across Scotland is your able to understand better how tour itineraries fit together. I was heading past Cromlix in Perth complete with neighbouring Solheim Cup at Gleneagles, congratulations Europe and heading towards Oban and Isle of Eriska. One left turning however towards Inveraray and you discover an unfamiliar but equally spectacular landscape before being drawn towards the nine mile Crinan canal. Despite the weather doing its best with drizzle I arrived as two lone pipers stood outside the magnificent Crinan Hotel to greet me? I wish, these gentlemen were there to welcome in a hearty group of cyclists who had ridden from Oban that morning, there in the welcoming committee were the ever present Chris flanked by the wonderful Julia part of the family who own the Crinan Hotel. I was efficiently despatched to the Captains Cabin, full house at Crinan and kind of them to make space for me. No pictures can substitute a property at the end of a canal with views over Loch Crinan and the islands of Jura, Mull and Scarba, you are literally surrounded by breathtaking scenery and a few boats skipping towards the pier.  I was later to learn Ross, Julia’s brother captains a number of vessels for guests to either see the seals, go for lobster lunches or painting. I will return to painting as a major theme of this family owned and run hotel.

      

I quickly jumped back down to share in the euphoria with this closely knit cycling group enjoying the Bag Pipes and whisky, no drizzle was going to dampen there enthusiasm. What a great bonding experience as I was to later learn they were cycling and doing yoga as part of a company bonding exercise from the U.K./Canada.

 

So back to the room via a strong Cappuccino, don’t lie down John don’t lie down.. Knock, knock was the next thing I remember ‘Lyndsey!’
Now I’ve been called many things in my time however as I opened the door their stood a damp female Lycra wearing cyclist who was able to confirm I was not Lyndsey but inadvertently rescued my dinner plans.

Some cold water but no instruction I decided to slink into the corner of the main restaurant overlooking the bay for dinner.  You really cannot be this close to the supply chain and a light crab starter followed by the catch of the day Turbot were recommended and ordered.  Just as it looked as if the day and evening could not get any better heads rose from the delicious food and into the restaurant sauntered Frances McDonald, Crinan owner together with daughter Julia. Modesty permits me but to say my table suddenly elevated to captains status was an understatement. What was said and discussed as time seemed to slip past will remain at the captains table but suffice as to say it was everything I could have wished for … let’s just leave it at that. The two hard working family members retired and some apple crumble later I convinced myself to take a wee dram from Chris, last men standing ! Then retire

The morning buzz for a full fresh kippers and Scottish breakfast with a picture perfect view over the bay held for me by the wonderful Frances, priceless!

Julia was then able to show me a selection of rooms from the 20 to choose from and when she continually opened a room overlooking that stunning back drop it clearly took centre stage over and above some of what could be described as dated deco and otherwise very much in keeping with the overall heritage and history of the property. Your not at Crinan for mod cons your here for experience, family and surroundings. One of the two standout spaces for me was the bar on the roof with 180 views over the canal and bay, currently being used to show both Frances and Ross art both respected and sought after, Frances has a show in London so if art is your thing!   That other space is the hotels bar steeped in history, memories and just the place where you can feel and breath in the history of Crinan.

I popped in briefly to see more art in the hotel owned coffee shop some 200 yards from the hotel and overlooking the canal basin, a great location and atmosphere and before I knew it I was on my way … too short but amazing memories of both Maryculter and Crinan and delighted to be working with both.