Friday, 9 June 2017

Fine Dining at Douneside House in Royal Deeside

A relaxing visit to an historic and luxurious country house hotel in the heart of Royal Deeside. Douneside House offers fine dining, a range of leisure facilities, stunning gardens and impeccable levels of service.




One of the many things that I love about my blogging journey is that along the way I've had the opportunity to discover some fantastic places to visit, eat and stay that I simply wouldn't have known about otherwise. Last weekend we headed out to Royal Deeside on one such edible adventure. I'd been contacted by The MacRobert Trust to tell me about a property they own called Douneside House which has recently been upgraded and re-opened as a luxury country house hotel. I'll admit that whilst I'd heard of the MacRobert Trust and the fantastic charity work that they support in this area and further afield, Douneside House wasn't on my radar at all. 






The history of Douneside is both tragic and inspiring. The MacRobert family purchased the Douneside Estate as a holiday home in 1888 adding extra rooms and a tower to transform it into the spectacular country house and gardens which are to be admired today. Sir Alexander and Lady MacRobert had three sons, all of whom died under tragic circumstances. The eldest, Sir Alasdair, was killed in pre-war times during a civil aviation accident. His younger brothers were both commissioned in the Royal Air Force, Sir Roderic as a pilot and Sir Iain as a pilot officer. Both of them were killed within six weeks of each other during the Second World War. The MacRobert family were well known locally as significant philanthropists, which is why, following her sons’ deaths, Lady MacRobert decided to set up a charitable trust in their honour. Today, Douneside House is owned and run by the MacRobert Trust in memory of Lady MacRobert, who wished for the House to remain a place of tranquillity and peace. All surplus profits generated at Douneside are either re-invested into the Estate, or donated to charitable causes. In addition Douneside House extends a warm welcome to military guests, with exclusive accommodation periods and discounted rates


Douneside is located in the heart of Royal Deeside on the outskirts of the village of Tarland, 7 miles from Aboyne. The house itself has 14 bedrooms and there are also a range of apartments and cottages on site which are dog friendly. Much to my daughter's disgust we don't have a dog but never-the-less our accommodation was in the Gatehouse Cottage. This charming property located 300 yards from the main house has three ensuite bedrooms (two doubles and a twin), a sitting/dining room, small kitchen and a patio area. It was cosy and comfortable with views across the infinity lawn and pitch and putt. One of the things that we'd been eagerly anticipating about our stay was the opportunity to partake in putting, croquet and badminton on the immaculately manicured Douneside lawn. Fierce competition ensued in all the events - particularly the croquet! We also took full advantage of the swim, sauna, steam and jacuzzi facilities in the adjacent health club (plus pool, table tennis and table football in the games room!). Plenty to keep our teenage kids occupied - and if that failed there was always wifi.


The house sits in 17 acres of stunning gardens which are maintained and nurtured by the MacRobert Trust’s expert horticultural team. These range from formal areas to rock pool gardens, an arboretum, greenhouse and a walled kitchen garden. There are a multitude of nooks and crannies to discover with bridges, seating areas, streams and stepping stones. Organic vegetables, salad leaves, herbs and fruit produced in the walled garden makes its way to the kitchen and onto the menu. Head Chef at Douneside is David Butters. He joined from Gleneagles and has also worked at various other high-end properties, including the five-star Longueville Manor. Non-residents are welcome for lunch, afternoon tea or dinner with advance reservations.




After a busy afternoon we were more than ready for a pre-dinner drink and canapes in the bar. Our stay was inclusive of a set three course table d'hote menu (£35). A six course taster menu (£60) is also on offer which I looked at longingly (even moreso as it was being brought out course by course to fellow diners complete with matched wine pairings!). A colourful selection of canapes was served including an olive surprise, haggis bon bon, smoked salmon and beetroot and goats cheese meringue. A real taste of what was to come. Girl not being the most adventurous of eaters ordered fruit salad, pasta and sticky toffee pudding from the kids menu. Boy meanwhile asked if he could use his paper round earnings to upgrade to six courses. With our dinner order taken and canapes eaten we were led through from the bar into the light and bright dining room which was at Saturday night full capacity. 





There are only two choices for each course although any specific dietary requirements can be catered for with advance notice. Having spotted rather a lot of bunnies causing havoc in the gardens I'd joked about there perhaps being 'Casserole de Lapin' on the menu. It was a case of be careful what you wish for as one of the starters was Wild Rabbit and Foie Gras Terrine! Two of us went for the terrine which was served with a-la-grecque vegetables, parsley, mayonnaise. My son opted for Salmon Gravalax, quail egg, lemon, cucumber, rosemary toasts. The starters both looked and tasted amazing and were accompanied by a selection of delicious homemade breads and whipped butter. Girl surprised us all by devouring four slices of Guinness, Fennel and Rye bread. Perhaps I'll make a foodie of her yet?!


My main was Butter Roast Loin of Monkfish Tail, Pancetta, Pea, Beetroot and Bacon Foam. Another stunning looking and tasting dish. The boys went for the vegetarian option which was Rotolo, Wild Mushroom & Goats Cheese, Garden Herbs, Wilted Spinach. To be truthful we had no idea what it actually was when we ordered it! Turns out Rotolo is a lesser known Italian pasta dish where a filling is rolled up in pasta sheets then rolled like a roulade, poached, sliced then served. Every day's a school day! The presentation was much more rustic than all the other dishes but the flavours were amazing.


Cheese is always going to win over chocolate so whilst boy opted for the Milk Chocolate Delice, Candied Orange, Pistachio Ice Cream it had to be the Artisan Cheese Board for myself and Foodie Loon. A wonderful selection of Scottish and French cheese accompanied by quince, celery, oatcakes and frozen grapes. Whilst the kids headed back to the Gatehouse for the Britain's Got Talent Final we retired to the bar for coffee and drinks accompanied by homemade marshmallows and fruit pastilles. A Gin and a Whisky from an extensive choice of both was the perfect end to a wonderful evening.




We headed back to the main house on Sunday morning for breakfast prior to our 11am check out, however they weren't getting rid of us that easily! We'd still to have a croquet rematch, a game of tennis and do some more exploring in the gardens. We even managed an alfresco coffee before the heavens opened which we took that as a sign to head home. Douneside House is a real gem that's full of history and with a high quality food offering combined with impeccable yet unobtrusive service it's sure to quickly cement it's place in the Aberdeenshire hospitality scene. Next time I'll be sampling all six courses. 


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www.foodiequine.co.uk Fine Dining at Douneside House, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.A visit to an historic luxury country house hotel in the heart of Royal Deeside. Fine dining, a range of leisure facilities, stunning gardens and impeccable levels of service.


Disclosure: We stayed and dined as guests of The MacRobert Trust and Douneside House. As always, all views expressed are my own.

14 comments :

  1. Oh it looks heavenly! What a fabulous getaway and I love the story behind the house, so sad though :( I'd never heard of Rotolo either - I've made something similar though and now it has a name, hoorah! Isn't it surprising when previously fussy eaters suddenly wold down the unexpected too?!

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    1. I'm thinking that the fussy eaters adventurous tastes were alas a one off!
      I really want to make my own version of Rotolo now.

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  2. I think I want to go there for the gardens alone. What a beautiful place. The pasta dish looks fantastic and a bit more unusual than some vegetarian fare. And what an unusual story behind the house and trust.

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    1. The gardens are absolutely beautiful, a real hidden gem. Would love to go back and see them in another season.

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  3. Scotland has some real gems. Beautiful accommodation and stunning food!

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    1. We really do but I don't think we shout about them enough. Same with our fantastic Scottish larder. We must stop hiding our wares under a bushel!

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  4. I wouldn't have expected such refined food from such a quaint place. It looks gorgeous.

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    1. They have really upped their food offering with the current head chef and are becoming a real dining destination.

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  5. This looks like the perfect day out. The meal looks wonderful. R

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    1. It really was perfect. Such an oasis of calm yet not all that far from the hustle and bustle of Aberdeen city.

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  6. What a lovely peaceful place and such a sad story about the family. The food looks really pretty, love the colours and presentation!

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    1. It is a sad story but wonderful to see the legacy of charitable giving continued.

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  7. This place is beautiful, I always like to learn about the history, though it's a sad story indeed. The food looks delicious!

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    1. There was SO much history and beauty in the estate. I am sure Lady MacRobert would be very proud of Douneside as it is today.

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