Words by Rob Bruce
The Cromlix Hotel is located just under five miles from Dunblane, which is where global tennis star Andy Murray was brought up. He bought the place close to his former home in 2014 to stop it from going into disrepair after it closed in 2010 as a once very successful wedding venue, and before that it was a very popular country shooting lodge and estate.
The place is a hidden gem in Scotland, and once you arrive you really do feel like you are a million miles from anywhere, but you’re absolutely not. Graeme Green, the very personable general manager, believes this is the Cromlix Hotel’s most unique selling point. “You are far enough away to feel like you’re very far away, but within five minutes you can be in Dunblane”
This wonderful and serene sense of isolation is down to the location of the accommodation. Once you arrive, turning in by a lovely little gatehouse (which is also available to book) you start driving up one of the longest, yet most beautiful driveways I have ever encountered. It’s another near two-mile drive up a single track road surrounded by sun-dappled trees and forest before you get to the hotel itself.
As you get to the end of what seems like a road to nowhere, the view of the baronial building as you leave the canopy of trees is not only a welcome surprise, but is truly breath-taking. It’s exactly how you expect and hope a luxury rural hotel in Scotland would be.
It was built in the 1860s as a holiday home before becoming a family home, and although it may have deteriorated somewhat in late 2000 and beyond before being put up for sale, it’s very evident Murray and the team have invested a lot of money and TLC to bring it back to its former glory. Seemingly the beautiful refurbishment had input from Andy Murray’s wife Kim Sears. The woman has exceptional taste!
The Cromlix even has its own consecrated and working chapel attached to the hotel. It’s a beautiful and unusual addition to any hotel, and this along with stunning grounds means it’s an ideal venue for intimate weddings, christening and even Christmas services.
The hotel only has 16 rooms – 10 bedrooms, five suites and the gate lodge – which adds to that feeling of being a special retreat from normal life.
We stayed in a suite which offered 96 square metres of traditional and quite formal Scottish luxury that really made you stop in your tracks as you walked in. There was a walk-in wardrobe, a sizeable living area, a huge bedroom and a roomy bathroom. Although it was all very luxurious, it also felt quite homely.
The quality of the furniture, fittings and finishings were obvious from the start, to the point where I started to worry that the antique side table next to the bed was so valuable I shouldn’t put my drink directly on it.
Authenticity in a historical building like the Cromlix Hotel is essential, and you get that in spades. Many of the paintings and restored furnishings were in the original house when it was bought by Murray.
The main concessions to modernity are in the bathroom. I’ve seen beautiful baths before, and even double sinks, but I’ve never seen double shower heads before. The shower cubicle can easily accommodate two people side by side to lather up in either rainfall or waterfall deluges with beautiful fluffy dressing gowns to enjoy afterwards. The other concession is the antiqued frame mirrors in the living room and bedroom. Turns out when you switch them on they become wall-mounted televisions. That is a very nice touch.
When you go for food at the Cromlix, that’s when you enter a very different world from the otherwise classic Scottish country retreat. Run by Chez Roux, the modernness almost smacks you in the face after experiencing the sumptuous but very traditional reception area and rooms.
The design of beautiful gold leaf murals on the bar is perfectly complemented by the bespoke green and blue leather and velvet seating, and this contemporary feel is replicated in the bright and airy atrium restaurant, which has huge picture windows offering amazing views of the countryside as you eat.
The restaurant has an immaculate and professionally – and quietly – run open kitchen. I had my back to it while having our meal and I actually forgot the kitchen was right there for all guests to see, because it was so quiet.
There was a limited menu due to the staff having to socially distance in the kitchen, but there is also the choice of two menus: the formal dining one in the restaurant and another less formal option for those eating in one of the two drawing rooms, or even outside weather permitting.
So there was still plenty of choice, and the menus change daily for those staying more than one night. The kitchen is also happy to take any special requests for food if asked on arrival and with a bit of notice.
I had the leek and potato soup which was smooth and creamy, followed by braised beef cheek, butternut squash ravioli and oyster mushrooms. The meat just melted with the touch of my fork and the combination of flavours was absolutely divine. My wife had the chicken Caesar salad from the lounge menu which she had no complaint about, and my daughter had the mini burger sliders which she said “were better than McDonald’s”. High praise indeed from a seven-year-old!
I then had the citrus cheesecake with a roasted apricot and ginger biscuit, which would have been the perfect way to finish the meal as it was a delightful dessert, but we then received complimentary ‘pate de fruits’. These vanilla, salted caramel and lemon macarons were a lovely surprise end to the restaurant visit.
In addition to the bar and restaurant, there is a dedicated whisky room. The whiskies on offer are housed in a stunning whisky case made from casks from the Balvenie brand. There is so much choice, no matter your taste you will find a whisky suited to your taste (as well as a selection of premium cigars).
In and around the hotel itself there is a huge billiards room with books and board games, a giant chess set, a croquet pitch, putting greens, a beautiful kitchen garden where many of the ingredients are grown for the restaurant and, as you’d expect with a champion tennis player being the owner, there is a tennis court and practice court.
Out and about you have the pick of golf courses, fly fishing, historic castles and other attractions with the hotel more than happy to organise access and transport. The top things to do during your stay include:
- Visit Dunblane Cathedral and Andy Murray’s golden post box
- Take a trip to Tullibardine distillery
- Play golf at the world-famous Gleneagles course
- Visit Doune Castle
- Take a walk on the wild side by going to Blair Drummond Safari Park.
From either Edinburgh or Glasgow the motorways merge onto the M9 heading for Stirling/Perth, it bypasses Stirling and Dunblane (A9 heading for Perth). Take the turn-off signposted Dunblane/Kinbuck on the B8033. Turn right at the junction for Kinbuck. Follow the road through the village, continue over the bridge, the entrance gates are 100 yards on the left.
From Inverness, follow the A9 to Perth (south). From Perth take the A9 Stirling road, you will pass a Little Chef then take the next exit signposted Dunblane/Kinbuck on B8033. At the T junction turn right for Kinbuck and follow as above.
From Fort William take the A85 heading to Lochearnhead. Then take the A84 to Callander. From Callander follow signs to Doune/Dunblane. In Doune, turn left signposted to Perth which brings you to the dual carriageway. Continue for about two miles and take the first exit on the left signposted Dunblane/Kinbuck on the B8033. Turn right at the T junction for Kinbuck, follow the road through the village and continue over the small bridge. The hotel entrance gates are second on the left.
Rooms start at £310 a night during the high season, rising to £625 a night for a suite.
Address: Cromlix, Kinbuck FK15 9JT
Phone: +44 (0)1786 822125
Images courtesy of Cromlix Hotel