You might have gathered from my recent post about the launch of the Interior Design Toolkit that I have been under a little bit of stress lately. I am sure most people would have handled the whole thing much more ably, but Doug and I have been at sixes and sevens over instruction leaflet typos, RRP, trade prices, VAT, distributors cuts – do these include VAT or not?? Never having launched a product before, I can assure you it is not an exercise for the faint hearted, or for people who need lots of sleep!
So an invitation to an overnight stay at a brand new, luxurious destination in Perthshire, Dun Aluinn, with a fabulous meal supplied by Ballintaggart Farm, a whiskey tasting by Glenfiddich and a glorious night sleep was not something I was going to turn down.
Arriving after a stunning drive through the Southern Highlands, I was welcomed by the very friendly owners, John Burke, the developer and his wife, the architect, Susie Whyte. Dun Aluinn is a Victorian schoolhouse that has been dramatically refurbished by John and Susie to create a unique and original, exclusive use, large holiday home.
A quick smarten up and I was in a dress and heels and ready for my first cocktail: a scintillating Baileys with a twist, freshly made by the UK Ambassador Mark Thomson, who entertained us all evening with his tales of tastings and the history of alcohol use and abuse in Britain and around the world. Who knew that the Scots did not think to export their delicious single malts until 1963 – why they wanted to keep them to themselves is completely understandable of course!
We were treated to a tour of the house by John and Susie and we were amazed by the attention to detail, the quality of the materials and the originality of Susie’s concept. The house sleeps up to 18 in 9 bedrooms, each with a private en-suite bathroom.
It sits in 5 acres of private grounds and has a magnificent terrace with views over Aberfeldy and the Tay Valley to Schiehallion. Guests arriving expecting tartan carpets, packets of shortbread in cellophane and framed reproductions of Highland scenery or golf prints will be bitterly disappointed. This is a venue for design fiends and lovers of great contemporary Scottish produce.
We sat down to enjoy an exquisite feast of flavours, accompanied by carefully chosen french wines for every course, served by the French butler, Philippe. Local produce, including roots and venison, apples and creamed celeriac were expertly woven together by Chris Rowley, the head chef at Ballintaggart and served by his charming and lively team, who explained the provenance and inspiration behind every course. A fascinating variety of whiskeys punctuated the meal with a full account of it’s origins delivered by Mark.
The company was amazing, I was fortunate enough to be sitting right beside Mark – natch! On the other side I had the pleasure of sitting next to Biscuit one half of the fabulous outdoor education company Wee Adventures. His wife Sarah was right beside him, between them I was thoroughly entertained, one minute transported by Mark to peaty landscapes mingled with misty dew that we all know results in the ultimate comfort drink – forget Horlicks. Next minute Biscuit was reminding me of the importance of fresh air, exercise, more fresh air and errr, ok let’s get out for a bit more fresh air and why families need to look ahead a bit and make sure their teenagers have other interests beyond the frighteningly readily available lure of their mobile phones and X-boxes. Yes, yes, yes, chuck ’em out (the teenagers that is) – rain or shine – I certainly did!
The next morning I woke up refreshed and surprisingly clear headed. At breakfast we all shifted around a bit and I met the fabulous Maria and Stewart who runs Alba Game Fishing and Erin from Visit Scotland and her parter, Robbie Adam, a fellow photographer. It was really good to swap notes. I came away inspired and eager to explore the local area.
The house is within walking distance into Aberfeldy should you wish to dine out or shop at any of the wonderful artisan shops that seem to thrive in this incredibly pretty small town.
I popped in to a favourite destination: the Watermill Bookshop and it’s sister business, Homer, bought a few goodies and was only tempted away from their seriously good cafe by the prospect of lunch at the newly opened Grandtully Hotel. A new venture for Chris and Rachel Rowley, owners of Ballintaggart. I think this visit deserves it’s own blog post, so, as they say in the best dramas… to be continued.