Meldrum House Hotel & Golf Addressing The Haggis
Meldrum House Hotel and Golf is truly an idyllic spot about 20 minutes from Aberdeen and without doubt my favourite place to stay in the area for its stunningly beautiful golf course and its warm hospitality.
As your car enters the grounds you pass a swan inhabited lake on the left with the golf club house on the right and the imposing grey stone hotel appears looming impressively over the stunning landscape. The surrounding country side makes you think of a soft rolling eiderdown, rich in greens, browns and reds, sprinkled with dark verdant ponds and sparkling yellow bunkers. You immediately get a great sense of peace and relaxation, this is a bolt hole far away from the strains and stresses of life, dedicated to the pursuit of good food, fine whiskey, evocative scenery and carefree golfing. Exactly what I was here for.
I was was warmly greeted by the hotel staff who clearly take pride in this lovely old baronial manor house and its centuries of history. The house was originally built here in the 13th century under the lordship of Sir Philip de Phendarg who is believed to have first carried the tile of Meldrum, which comes from the Gaelic “Meall Druim” meaning the ridge on the hill. Its rich history continues down the centuries to today. Some of the names associated with the house are simply wonderful and redolent of the age, Sir Henry Preston, Sir Alexander Seton, 1st Lord Gordon, John Urquhart of Craigfintray, Colonel Garden Beauchamp Duff, Colonel Garden Beauchamp Duff and Lady Doris Duff. Oh for a time machine to be able to go back and meet some of these people. In 1954 Robin Duff turned the house into a hotel whilst he was personal assistant to the Maharaja of Bundi. There is clearly a marvellous book to be written following the characters in this house’s history that could eclipse Downton Abbey in popularity.
Do read more on the history here: http://www.meldrumhouse.com/history
My room was a lovely suite overlooking the lake side of the golf course with a very comfortable 4 poster bed and very generous bathroom with free standing bath. I made straight for the driving range and it was heavenly, knocking balls out over a lush green landscape bordered by waving trees, with only the greens tractor to mar the setting. My two companions enjoyed aiming at the tractor to enliven the drive and did very well considering neither had played for a while.
One of the best discoveries of the trip was the valley behind the stables. It is quite breathtaking and so immaculately landscaped that it seems to benefit from cinematic special effects. It can only be described as a Scottish Shangri La, a mini valley strewn with ponds and lavishly decorated with Scottish heather, banks of multi coloured flowers and the odd long horn cow. It is a mesmerising beautiful corner of the world.
The next great find is the Cave, otherwise known as the hotel bar. It is the old storage room and at over 800 years old is a venerable, warm, inviting home away from home to enjoy Scotland’s most famous tipple. The bar boasts over 100 malts, which would take even myself and my companions a little while to savour them all. After a few wee drams to warm up we all convened for dinner in the private dining room where we were to attend a special evening with a whiskey tasting and “Addressing the Haggis”. Addressing the Haggis is an old Scottish tradition and should be on everyones list of things to have done at least once. Graeme Cruickshank, the distillery manager for Chivas, lead the ceremony and started off with the Selkirk Grace “Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat, and we can eat, And sae let the Lord be thankit”. Soon after the starter, the main course of Haggis arrived on a large silver dish, piped in on the bagpipes by Norman Fiddes, so we all stood and marvelled at the noise and ceremony of the occasion.
Graeme then Addressed the Haggis, reciting Robert Burns famous poem in a strong Scottish brogue with a mixture of gusto and aggression that was wonderfully dramatic. Did I mention he is holding and waving a large blade during this recital which he sharpens animatedly and then, as the poem draws to a close, employs to hack and carve up the haggis with tremendous enthusiasm. It is a fantastic experience, mixing poetry, acting and insane knife wielding to great effect. The atmosphere was well and truly set for our subsequent whiskey tasting. We toasted this performance with a little measure of Ballantines in the Quaich, which is a small silver dish with handles either side, used for toasts or ceremonies. Then we all had to upend the Quaichs on our heads to prove they were empty before moving on to the whiskey tasting proper.
We supped all the various whiskeys of different ages that go into the making of the Ballantines blend with Sandy who is the Ballantines master blender and no more affable and expert blender could you find to oversee this experience anywhere in the world. Sandy’s passion for whiskey and sharing that enjoyment guarantees that you will appreciate all the finer points of these fine malts and the part they play in the final Ballantines blend. We tasted amongst others, Ballantines must keep a few secrets after all, a 20 year old Scapa Highland Malt, which was smooth without that smoky flavour you get in Islay Malts, as its matured in American Oak barrels, a 32 year old Glenburgie, which was superb, part of only 324 bottles Sandy has set aside for another two years in the pursuit of perfection, and ended with a few different Ballantines blends of various ages to fully appreciate the provenance of the different flavours. The old discussion of whether to add water is down to individual taste but Sandy advises adding a wee drop so the palate can fully appreciate the spices and aromas. The dinner ended amongst much bonhomie and discussion of the flavours each detected in the whiskeys and their own personal preferences.
We capped the evening off in the Cave Bar and vowed to Address the Haggis again someday.
Meldrum House Hotel & Golfhttp://www.meldrumhouse.com/