Meldrum House is a grand old building with a coat of arms above the door and a set of impressive stone steps running down the outside of the building that any Princess would be proud to sweep down.
Situated close to the town of Oldmeldrum it’s only a 45 minute drive from the centre of Aberdeen, but is surrounded by glorious countryside.
I arrived and checked into my huge room in the new wing of the hotel, which opened in 2016, with its fabulous views across the 18-hole golf course to the paddock that is home to the hotel’s resident Highland cows.
Which, having lived in Scotland for all of my 44 years, and having the same name as most of the females of this particular species, I should probably not get over-excited about. But they’re so endearing that I just can’t help cooing (sorry) over their cuteness. There are also bedrooms in the old part of the building and in the newly renovated Stables.
I didn’t have long to take in these impressive surroundings before we headed to the Cave Bar for lunch. Being an uncharacteristically glorious day in Scotland we decided to take the opportunity and enjoy lunch al fresco.
The Cave Bar dates back to 1236 and would have been the larder and storeroom for Meldrum House. The menu is perfect for lunch with light bites, sarnies and lots of breakfast goodies being the order of the day. My posh fish finger sandwich was just what the doctor ordered and set me up nicely for the excitement that the afternoon would bring.
Hopping on our luxury coach, the sense of excitement built as we drove towards the Ardmore distillery. This was a really special treat as the distillery isn’t open to the public and we were to be shown around by Ardmore’s own Alistair Longwell, Senior Manager of Scotch Maturation and Distilling.
Alistair told us the story of how this distillery, close to the village of Kennethmont, was established by Adam Teacher in 1898. Situated right by the tracks at the highest point of the Northern Railway Line, some 600 feet above sea level, the distillery still draws its water from natural springs rising on Knockandy Hill.
In the early days of the distillery its proximity to the railway line meant whisky could be easily transported to Glasgow and its many whisky shops.
Of course there was time for a sample of Ardmore’s Legacy whisky before returning to Meldrum House to enjoy whisky cocktails in the splendid drawing room. Our appetites buoyed by the fresh air and our minds awash with whisky knowledge we were treated to a private whisky dinner inspired by Glen Garioch, Meldrum’s local distillery.
A piper ensured our delicious haggis bon bons, paired with Glen Garioch’s Founder’s Reserve made the best possible entrance. The duo of beef was the perfect showcase of Scotch beef, the 12 hour cooked cheek full of flavour and the 55 degree fillet melting in the mouth with a delicious bourbon cask glaze. Virgin Oak panna cotta with toasted marshmallows. Yet more whisky followed, this time paired with some excellent Scottish cheeses and a fabulous selection of chutneys.
Our visit took place just ahead of the relaunch of the fine dining restaurant at Meldrum House. Sad as I was not to have the opportunity to sample the hotel’s new pride and joy it makes a return visit a certainty and I look forward to trying out the menu at Pineapple.
A secret treat awaited us just across the courtyard after dinner. Teetering over the flagstones and up the stone staircase we were greeted by the opportunity to taste yet more Glen Garioch under the expert guidance of their Visitor Centre Manager Fiona Sanderson in the hotel’s candlelit doo’ cot.
I’m told that several couples have chosen this as the perfect place to get engaged and I’m not surprised, as the candles flickered in the stone nooks that once would have ben the nesting place of a flight of doves.
That huge comfy bed was calling me, so a swift nightcap in the cave bar was the last hoorah of a fabulous day.
Feeling remarkably fresh after a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast we boarded the coach heading for Glen Garioch distillery and their Legends of the Garioch tour.
Starting out in the hills and villages surrounding the distillery we learned all about the people and the land that helped create one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries over 220 years ago. Trying out a few drams en route and some local treats that paired beautifully with each one, experiencing the sheer joy that is a buttery with whisky marmalade was a real highlight.
Heading to Glen Garioch’s distillery in the village of Old Meldrum in a unique location situated on a crossroads we tour around the visitor centre and distillery where we had the opportunity to meet some of the people involved in creating Glen Garioch.
I was really struck by the passion that each of them have for the whisky that they create here in the heart of this village and watching the distillery’s neighbours walking their dogs through the crossroads and children passing by to get to school it is clear what a massive part of the community this distillery is.
Back at Meldrum House yet more treats were in store with a very special lunch. The Legends of the Garioch menu is a feast of local produce, combined with, you guessed it, Glen Garioch’s whisky. I’d love to tell you more, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy.
But what I will say is that it’s absolutely worth the visit and was the perfect way to round off a fabulous Aberdeenshire adventure.
Meldrum House Country Hotel & Golf Course, Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire, AB51 0AE
Tel: 01651 872294
Glen Garioch Distillery, Distillery Road, Oldmeldrum
Tel: 01651 873450