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The Castles of Scotland: Part 2
Kinnaird could be the perfect setting for a movie about the Scottish aristocracy. Gracious, beautifully kept, superbly serviced and with every possible comfort, we immediately felt more like house-guests of the owners rather than tourists. I also loved the understated hints of elegance in their tariff leaflet.
Part of this reads:
"Smoking is permitted in the public rooms but not in the dining rooms.
Gentlemen are required to wear jacket and tie for dinner.
Heated kennels are available for dogs.
Picnic hampers and packed lunches may be ordered after dinner.
We are delighted to welcome children over 12."
We have been to so many places where the rule is that there are no rules, that we immediately warmed to the ambiance of the place. And if you should now be thinking "I bet this old bastard always acts like a stuffed shirt, goes round in a suit and has never had kids," let me confess that I hardly ever wear a tie at home, and always prefer casual clothes to suits. As parents of three and now grandparents of a young family, Cherie and I also love children.
But there is a time and place for everything. I'm a sucker for tradition on the few times I encounter it, and a gracious Scottish mansion may just be that little more comfortable without little ones playing hide-and-seek between the legs of my dining table. I expect to get howls of protest for this, but if you get really mad about it, go out and pull faces at a neighbor you don't like, rather than writing to me. I'm well aware that some people will be hot under the collar but please forgive me as I'm a man who is too old to change his ways.
The jacket and tie for dinner is also a dying nicety, yet one that, when observed by all, undoubtedly makes a place just that bit more romantic, elegant and traditional. Oh yes, and to prove that Kinnaird too is not anti-children, a superb little Kinnaird mascot, a teddy bear in a Kinnaird outfit, is placed on the pillows of each bedroom. Hanging it on the outside of the door makes it the "Do Not Disturb" sign. But few people used it for that. It's for sale, and becomes a perfect gift to take home for the little ones. Don't even try to resist it.
Until about twenty years ago, fine-dining opportunities in Britain were about as plentiful as snow-storms in the Sahara, and Kinnaird forcefully brought home to what extent this has changed. Meals here were not just food, they were a feast! And no wonder. I later found that the award-winning Chef had trained in London's famous Dorchester kitchens under renowned Chef Anton Mosimann, considered one of Britain's half dozen best. No wonder the food was superb!
And what a history Kinnaird has! When first constructed in the late 1700's, the house was part of the estate of the Dukes of Atholl. In l927 the property was purchased by the Hon. Lady Ward and has remained in that family ever since, being fully renovated and turned into a hotel in 1990.
The current owner, Mrs. Constance Ward, turned out to be a real gentle-woman in the true sense of the British establishment -- charming, the perfect hostess, and always with that little friendly touch that is a rare gift but makes all those around the person who has this feel like that they are very special people.
The nine rooms -- and that's all there are here -- were also truly splendid. Each with it's own individual decor, all had one common denominator -- exceptional space and comfort! All rooms had an open gas-log fireplace and lovely traditional British furniture -- much of it antique. But there was nothing old about the excellent, modern bathrooms. And fresh flowers, probably grown within a hundred yards of the building, were another touch we really liked.
I would have given my eye-teeth to have had the time to go salmon fishing -- or cast for trout and pike (muskies to North American readers) that one can find in the adjacent Lochs. But time was short, and I did not have to worry about making a choice between golf at Scotland's famous courses, horseback riding, clay shooting, or billiards. But I did get my "salmon fix" here, though in the way that a passive smoker gets smoke without touching cigarettes.
We happened to look into the billiard room, and there they were! Around the tops of the walls, we saw glass cases. In some of these were mounted the largest salmon I have ever seen in my life. Where I live, a fifteen-pound salmon is considered to be a large fish. The ones here averaged fifty. And to my amazement, some had been caught by women! Scottish lassies are obviously a sturdy lot! One fish in this size-range was caught on nearby Glendelvine Water by a Miss Ballantyne on the 7th October, l922. It weighed 64 pounds, was 4 ft 6 ins in length and 28.5 ins in girth.
My brother-and-sister-in-law are bridge fanatics, and they would surely have appreciated the bridge evenings at Kinnaird also. We would have liked to have stayed a week, but in the two days there, decided to explore the area.