There’s a colourful history behind boutique hotel and restaurant The Old Manse of Blair, set in the Cairngorms National Park between stately Blair Castle and the House of Bruar (dubbed the ‘Harrods of the Highlands’) by the scenic Falls of Bruar. The pretty town of Pitlochry is nearby, with its riverside walks, dam, fish ladder and distilleries.
Three years ago this 19th Century manse was empty and neglected before it was rescued by Anne and Archie MacDonald, a couple from the Hebrides, who were on the hunt for a rural family home. After extensive renovation, the elegant country house now offers seven rooms and one of the best restaurants in the Highlands.
What a change to not be given the worst room because we’re dog-owners. Instead, Anne showed my husband Simon and me and our little dog Minnie to the ground-floor Georgian Suite, which included not just a spacious bedroom and en suite rainfall shower room but a ‘whisky snug’ with comfy sofa, armchairs, striking artwork, satellite TV, wi-fi and fireplace.
Elegant retreat: The Old Manse of Blair is set in the Cairngorms National Park
French doors led to our own sun terrace in the well-kept grounds – an idyllic spot to unwind with a G&T overlooking neat lawns, floral borders and paddocks.
That evening, in the candlelit conservatory looking out over a courtyard warmed by a flickering fire pit, we were treated to Oban crab and whisky-infused salmon, then peppered loin of highland venison in a juniper berry jus. For pudding, we enjoyed a delicious vanilla panna cotta with macerated Perthshire berries and a ripe raspberry sorbet.
The Orangery Restaurant, under executive head chef Jonathan Greer (formerly of Gleneagles), may only have opened in the spring but it’s already an award winner. Although tempted by Anne’s offer of breakfast in our own private snug by a blazing fire the next morning, we opted for a continental breakfast of Scottish berries, home-made muesli, yogurt, charcuterie and warmed pastries in the main restaurant out of Minnie’s reach.
One of its seven spacious bedrooms. All of the rooms enjoy country views
The USP: Set in its own estate just off the A9, so within easy reach of Glasgow and Edinburgh and near Blair Atholl railway station on the London-to-Inverness line, served by the Caledonian Sleeper.
The rooms: All seven rooms enjoy country views and are individually decorated with designer wallpaper as well as bathrooms with rainfall showers or free-standing bathtubs. The whole house can be privately hired.
The food: The Orangery restaurant uses fine, fresh local produce to serve contemporary Scottish fare in the conservatory, courtyard or at the chef’s table in the kitchen. Guests and non-residents can enjoy lunch, afternoon tea or dinner, while a junior menu is available, as is one for ‘Inbetweeners’ aged eight to 13 (£7.95 for junior two courses; £9.95 for Inbetweeners and £55pp for dinner).
The Old Manse of Blair, Blair Atholl, Perthshire. Double rooms B&B from £275 in low season or £295 high season. For more information visit oldmanseofblair.com.