Hilton Dunkeld House

Hotel in Perthshire

4-Star Country Hotel

It’s always a good sign when you are offered a complimentary dram of whisky as you enter the lobby of a hotel in the picturesque depths of Scotland.

However, uncharacteristically, I declined, as this was our first hotel stay with our 11 week old daughter. Dunkeld House offers a plethora of activities to keep both children and adults entertained – and that would require me to keep a clear head.

After we were given a tour of the hotel and its magnificent 280-acre, we were shown to our spacious abode, the Duchess Suite. A room subtly named a long time ago by an ex-resident of the house, The Duke of Atholl for…his Duchess. It seems as though, like any good Duke, this guy was a bit of a maverick. I later found out that to avoid locals having to pay for ferries across the River Tay, he built his own bridge which is still the main method of crossing the water today to gain access to Dunkeld.

As a history nut, I was delighted to delve into the prolific past of Dunkeld House. It turns out the establishment was built in 1676 to replace the original that was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s army. The house has boasted many acclaimed guests including Mary Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army and even Scotland’s controversial sweetheart, Robert the Bruce, who set up camp in the estate woods way back in 1306.

With the wide variety of activities available to us, we tried to decide what to do next. Should we hire a Land Rover and take on the challenging 4WD course, indulge in a spot of clay pigeon shooting or maybe try our luck at salmon fishing on the renowned River Tay, which runs through the grounds? Or, seeing as we are now responsible parents, should we feed Izabella, and take her for her first encounter with a swimming pool? As the winter Scottish sun did what it does best and started to set at about 4pm, creating a stunning backdrop over the abundance of pine trees surrounding the hotel, we opted for the latter.

We were pleased to find that the pool was the perfect temperature and had a convenient divide so that the more serious swimmers weren’t disturbed by our daughter’s erratic splashing. Swimming with a baby is surprisingly tiring and we had all worked up a ferocious appetite so we headed to the Garden Restaurant for dinner.

Whilst visiting Ossian’s Hall at the Hermitage earlier, we had been lucky enough to see wild salmon attempting to leap up the waterfall, which is very late in the year for them to be performing this iconic act. After witnessing this natural wonder for the first ever time, I couldn’t bring myself, however tempting it was, to order the trio of salmon that was on offer as one of the starters. Instead, I opted for the perfectly presented pork belly, which was accompanied by black pudding, caramelised apple and a delightful parsnip sauce. For the main course, I couldn’t help but put my piscine principles to one side, and ordered the pan fried sea bass. It arrived on a bed of pancetta next to a stack of pea risotto, and its presentation was rivalled only by its taste. My Achilles’ heel has always been cheese, and I like to sample those locally sourced whenever possible. Tonight was no exception and my eyes lit up as the cheeseboard arrived. Surrounded by quince jelly, grapes and oatcakes, the three cheese selection was just the ticket to finish off a thoroughly enjoyable meal. The bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc also played its part.

Our room featured a charming balcony with two seats overlooking the River Tay. We had around three minutes to clink our glasses of Merlot in the moonlight and admire the tastefully flood lit grounds, before the ever recognisable grumbles of our daughter began. Luckily, the hotel had provided a spacious and comfortable cot, and after a few renditions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, she actually had one of the best night’s sleep she has had in her 11 weeks on this planet. And not surprisingly, so did we.

In the morning, after enjoying a bath that was more like a giant luxury bucket, we went down for breakfast where we were greeted by the chef who had heard there was a particularly cute baby in the hotel. Izzy did us proud, and her angelic smiles were enough for the chef to prepare us a full Scottish breakfast fit for champions which set us up for the day.

Dunkeld House is aptly named; it felt like a home away from home, albeit a little larger and with much better service. We said goodbye to the many guests and staff who we had made friends with, mainly through a mutual admiration of Izzy, and contently drove off along the winding single track road that leads you through the hotel grounds and back to the charismatic village of Dunkeld.

The beauty of Dunkeld House, is that it feels as if it is in the middle of nowhere, when in fact it is only 12 miles from Perth and easily accessible from both Edinburgh and Glasgow. Whether it’s for a romantic getaway, a group break to take full advantage of the facilities, or possibly with baby number two, I’ll definitely be returning one day.

John Harfield is a travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh.

Reviewer's Rating
Ambience Incredible Staff, Cosy
Services Free Parking, Restaurant, Room Service, Fitness Center, Swimming Pool, Health Spa, Conference Rooms, Wedding / Personal Event
Cost Medium
Number of Rooms 98 bedrooms including 10 suites and 22 Lodges
Relaxation, Outdoor / Adventure

Room and Suite Categories

Double Family, Double and Twin Guestrooms; Hilton Suites and Self-Catering Lodges for up to 6 or 8 guests.

Additional Ambience Information

Incredibly friendly staff and stunning surroundings.

Additional Price Comments

Check out their website for 2 for 1 and special activity offers throughout the year such as a River Tay Salmon Fishing package or Sunday Saver.

Last updated on 02-10-2015

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