Friday 23 February 2024

The Fife Arms Braemar United Kingdom



High Victoriana meets modern luxury at the miraculously reinvented Fife Arms in Braemar, unveiled for Christmas 2018 with much press and bagpiping after a magnificent multi-million-pound makeover by art dealers Iwan and Manuela Wirth, the Swiss co-presidents of Hauser & Wirth. (They own galleries in London, New York, LA, Hong Kong, Zurich — and Bruton, Somerset, where they also have proved their form in the hospitality business with Durslade Farmhouse). To find such a luxury hotel in Scotland, let alone in the remote Highlands, is about as rare as a budgerigar in the Arctic. This will be a huge boom to tourism and the locale. With 46 eye-poppingly amazing rooms (individually themed and as eclectically wonderful as is possible within the bounds of good taste and design), and 95 staff to service the place, virtually the whole community has been involved in some way or other. Local grandee Araminta Campbell designed the house tartan and tweed (brilliantly used on walls, floors, uniforms and curtains), the local deer horn specialist has created cornucopias of antler art and practical objets, Picasso, Bruegel, Freud and HRH Prince Charles hang cheek by jowl. No need to go to the National Gallery when you can stay here and marvel at the masters up close and personal! Beware if you are frightened of stuffed things, this is a taxidermist’s paradise – there is a red deer in the dining room, a mobile of flying snipe in the stairwell, and every sort of furred and feathered creature under glass – including a life-size waxwork of Queen Vic herself settled in a wingchair in the library. (“Our mystery guest” as front of house like to call her). There are grandiose suites, all royally named and appointed, but also a number of less expensive rooms which are no less luxurious. The Artist’s Studio room is a charming concept – up in the eaves with a cosy box bed, pots and brushes on the windowsills and amusing paint spatters on the floor. A very talented design team has been at work here. It may be a little over the top and about as far from minimalist as you can get, but the whole is expertly choreographed. You can eat smart in the Clunie Dining room which features wood smoke ovens and cubist muraled walls by Guillermo Kuitca, drink an inventive cocktail in the bar or try one of the hundreds of carefully curated whiskies, or even have a pint of bitter and fish and chips in the bustling Flying Stag pub. Come here to celebrate and relax, or to walk, stalk or fish. Majestic mountains surround you and the River Dee rushes past. Don’t be put off by the winding ascent past Scotland’s famed International Ski Resort, Glenshee, the journey is all part of the adventure.


And why might you ask would you ever want to come to Braemar (population 400) unless tossing a caber at the Gathering? Well, a visit to this incredible hotel alone will suffice. You will not be disappointed, whether with family, friends or your own good self.


 Written by Caroline Townsend

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