By Vivienne Mackie,
In Scotland….If you’re hot on the Castle Trail or the Whisky Way but don’t want to base yourself in Aberdeen, here’s a great alternative. Drive about an hour and a half from Aberdeen on the way to Inverness and stop at Huntly, of castle and Nordic ski- ing fame, and birthplace of the famous Gordon Highlanders. It’s a charming town with a pretty square, cobblestoned and ringed with old buildings. It also has a Shortbread Factory, a must-visit for anyone with a fondness for this buttery delight. A long driveway takes you through a tall gatehouse, with the ruined but impressive Huntly Castle beyond.
Behind the castle, over a narrow stone bridge across a bubbling stream, a sweeping drive across wide lawns is an imposing approach to a wonderful hotel. The Huntly Castle Hotel, rated 3-star by the AA, has 20 en-suite bedrooms and suites and conference facilities. This eighteenth-century stone building was once the lodge for the Gordon family of Huntly Castle. The friendly Scots owner is married to a South African and, with some South African and Indonesian staff, there was an international “feel” to the hotel. We were delighted with our lunch of brie and bacon panini, with chips and salad, then a leisurely double espresso, enjoying the view through wide windows onto gorgeous gardens, full of flowers. The dinner menu is varied, with many lamb, fish and seafood offerings, all beautifully prepared, and if the evening is cool you’ll be welcomed with a cozy log fire.
If castles are not your thing, there are other activities: Huntly’s 18-hole golf course is at the end of the driveway, you can enjoy falconry on the front lawn, go trout fishing in the nearby Rivers Deveron and Bogie, or even go deer stalking. Huntly is just a few miles from Dufftown, the “Malt Capital of the World”, home of Glenfiddich Distillery, and also within easy reach of many other world-renowned distilleries.
Take a look at their personal web site, www.castlehotel.uk.com