Looking for hotels in Scotland? Want hotels in the Dundee area? Read our expert hotel review for the Grandtully hotel, a sister hotel to Ballintaggart Farm in Scotland, and check out more foodie suggestions in Scotland and Dundee.
What’s The Grandtully’s USP?
Having turned Ballintaggart Farm into one of the Highlands’ most sought-after restaurant-with-rooms, Chris and Rachel Rowley had a lot to live up to when they launched sister business The Grandtully Hotel in 2018. Two miles away, in the village of the same name on the banks of the Tay, The Grandtully (pronounced Grantly – the ‘d’ was only added in Victorian times to grand the village up) features the same attention to detail (especially to the food) as its older sibling but it has its own, distinct, personality. There are eight bedrooms rather than two, a heart-of-the-village (rather than hillside) location and bold, contemporary décor in place of restrained neutrals. In short, if Ballintaggart is (a mini) Soho Farmhouse, The Grandtully is more Artist’s Residence.
The appeal of both properties is understandable given the impressive skillset of the trio behind them: Rachel has a marketing background and is good both at design and with people; husband Chris is a banker-turned-chef who has managed to lure the cream of graduate talent from Leith’s Cookery School where he trained; Andrew, Chris’ brother, has set up or managed some of the UK’s hippest bars, so he knows a good negroni or bottle of wine when he sees one.
The general vibe?
“Press for Whisky” bells in the bar and lounge (inspired by Bob Bob Ricard’s “Press for Champagne” bells in London’s Soho), set a playful tone. The Grandtully is fun, a stunning transformation of what was previously a tired Victorian hotel. Sit on mustard and turquoise sofas by a wood-burner in the library as you admire Cole & Son monkey wallpaper and flick through books like Tequila Mockingbird or the Ladybird Guide To The Hipster, then choose between the charcoal-toned brasserie or the hotel’s vibrant bar. Both are enthusiastically patronised by locals, guests who’ve driven over from Ballintaggart for a (slight) change of scene and residents of Edinburgh and Glasgow on a rural getaway, some of the latter former attendees of the hugely popular supper clubs that Chris and Rachel ran in their Edinburgh home before Chris trained at Leiths.
Which room should I book?
All the bedrooms lead off an aubergine-hued corridor upstairs and all have rolltop baths, sink-into beds with Egyptian cotton sheets and feather-and-down duvets, and blinds sewn from local tweeds. Each also has its own quirky character, however. Snug Room Three has tangerine-toned wallpaper and its own record player, complete with a carefully chosen stack of vinyl to choose from. For cosiness, snuggle into Room Eight, at the back, with its own rooftop terrace. If size (and a private staircase) matters, go for Room One with its Hague-blue panelled walls and contrasting mustard-coloured lamps and bath. All the rooms are stocked with Noble Isle’s whisky-scented toiletries.
What’s good to drink?
With three whisky distilleries within ten miles (Dewars, Eradour and Blair Atholl), a gin distillery (Badvo) in nearby Pitlochry, and a clutch of breweries not much further afield (including Edinburgh’s Pilot Brewhouse) The Grandtully is not short on liquor. The place to drink it is in the hotel’s industrial-chic bar, The Tully. Be warned though: bartender Andrew’s passion is negroni, so you’ll be lucky to get out without being persuaded to down a glass of the red stuff. Other house cocktails include the Dramble (a twist on the Bramble), marrying locally distilled Dewar’s White Label with Brambleberry Liqueur made by Deeside’s Haroosh, and the Hurricane, a punchy fusion of Matusalem 7, passion fruit and lime served in a Tiki-style ceramic pot. In tune with the hotel’s sustainable ethic, natural wines are sold on draught at just £5 a glass, or there are bottles sourced from small family vineyards worldwide.
And to eat?
With a local larder packed with game, organically reared meat and even creme fraiche, it’s no surprise that daily-changing menus here are driven by seasonal ingredients that are foraged, home-grown or sourced from the region’s artisan producers. Venison from local estates is transformed into a carpaccio that’s peppered with parmesan and walnuts, or simply pan-fried as a fillet and served with an indulgently creamy parsnip and apple dauphinoise. Beef and pork are from Hugh Grierson’s organic farm nearby, the latter marshalled into a hearty ham hock terrine. Whether you choose to eat in the bar or the restaurant, the menu’s the same, with a daily plat du jour and a handful of specials. All walk a skillful line between comfort and craft – this is food you want to eat, at sensible prices.
The desserts, created by Leiths-trained pastry chef Florence Cornish, need a mention too. We loved the not-overly-sweet chestnut and dark chocolate truffle torte with Katy Rodgers’ creme fraiche and candied pecans so fiendishly good they’d make a pud in themselves. But the dessert people come back for is Cornish’s signature pear frangipane tart served with home-made ginger ice cream and candied root ginger – perfect with a glass of Pithon Paille Les 4 Vents.
What’s the breakfast like?
As you’d expect, there’s nothing standard about the breakfasts here – and menus, like those at lunch and dinner, are changed daily. Yes you can have a Full Scottish, but the main event could equally well be courgette fritters with poached egg, Katy Rodgers’ creme fraiche and beetroot ketchup. Precede either with a bowl of homemade “sunshine” granola, paired with Scottish berries and local yoghurt. Or a creamy helping of clementine and cardamom porridge, a nice twist on the usual whisky and cream.
Any other foodie experiences?
If you’re staying for several nights at The Grandtully, eating lunch or dinner at Ballintaggart Farm is a must (we did lunch, which included Scrabster halibut and Grierson’s organic pork.) Dinners are slightly more formal than at The Grandtully (though still relaxed) and you choose between a three- or six-course tasting menu. Time your visit right and you can join one of Ballintaggart’s famous feast nights. Want to learn how the guys in the kitchen work their magic? Join them at The Cook School at Ballintaggart for a full- or half-day masterclass in anything from bread to fish or pasta-making. If you don’t have time for a course or a feast, take home a bit of Ballintaggart in the shape of its three-day-rise sourdough, sold in the shop at The Grandtully, along with homemade preserves and granola.
Is The Grandtully family friendly?
With three children of their own, owners Chris and Rachel know what little ones enjoy eating – and cleverly even enlisted the local primary school to help them develop their childrens’ menu. It includes sharing boards of Great Glen venison salami, Isle of Mull cheddar and doughballs alongside venison sausages, beef burgers or DIY wraps.
What can I do in the local area?
One obligatory stop is chocolatier Iain Burnett’s shop, next door, where you can do a guided tasting of Iain’s gourmet artisan chocolates or try one of his hot chocolates (choose between a classic, with milk, or an intense espresso-sized one, without). Walk it off with a hike along the Tay or into the glens – happily Rachel has done all the research, so you’ll find maps and instructions in your room. This stretch of the Tay is renowned for its salmon fishing, so if you fancy an outing, the hotel will put you in touch with the Kinnaird Estate. If it’s wet, you have the perfect excuse to tour one of the local distilleries or to pop into the delightful Watermill bookshop-cum-cafe in pretty Aberfeldy.
The concierge says….
As if having plentiful game, cream and whisky on the doorstep wasn’t enough, The Grandtully also has a coffee roaster, Glen Lyon, in nearby Aberfeldy. Run by two former journalists, the company roasts small batches of beans sourced directly from sustainably-run farms around the world. Pop in for a cuppa, a brief roastery tour, or to buy some beans to take home. Or book in advance to attend one of the roastery’s courses.
Tablet (the Scottish answer to fudge) is a very local indulgence, and one that accompanies any cup of tea or coffee you order at The Grandtully. Homemade by local resident, Anne Riley, using her granny’s recipe, it’s well worth trying.
Double rooms start from £110 b&b (ballintaggart.com)
Words by Clare Hargreaves
Images by Clare Hargreaves, Matt Davis