Looking for places to stay in Scotland? Want a vegan hotel in Perthshire? Read our hotel review, and check out more veggie and vegan hotels across the world here…
Saorsa 1875 in a nutshell
Perching on the edge of pretty Pitlochry, in Perthshire, 11-bedroom Saorsa 1875 is the UK’s first totally vegan hotel. Thanks to its exciting young Italian chef it’s a place for ‘plant-curious’ travellers, as well as vegans.
‘Saorsa’ is Gaelic for freedom, and 1875 is the year this stately residence was built. From the outside it’s grand gothic, but step across the threshold and it’s a very different story. The dark, rock ’n’ roll, entrance hall is lit by a fluorescent Saorsa 1875 sign (owner Jack McLaren-Stewart’s background is in cocktail bars), and there’s no traditional reception – just a contemporary glass desk for check-in.
The lounge and bar are light and bright with high ceilings, sash windows and bare boards, and there’s an eclectic mix of vintage sofas and chairs in retro florals and velvets. The dining room, where supper club-style dinners are held, is hung with dramatic modern artworks. This is a family affair – Jack’s mother and co-founder Sandra designed the interiors. Their vegan and eco-conscious philosophy is evident in all aspects of the hotel, from the cleaning products to the bedding. Even the energy comes from Ecotricity, a green energy company certified by The Vegan Society.
Which room should I book at Saorsa 1875?
There are five bedroom categories: Red Squirrel, Capercaillie, Wild Cat, Golden Eagle and Lynx. Each room is individually designed; one Lynx room has bold geometric wallpaper and a navy and pink colour palette, while the vibrant parrot-themed wallpaper in Golden Eagle room 8 lends a tropical vibe. Expect vegan snacks on your tea tray, and lush wild nettle and heather toiletries from the Highland Soap Co in the bathroom (you can stock up on the latter in their nearby store) but no TVs. As you might expect, there are no goose-down duvets either; but beds are cotton wool-cloud soft and sumptuous, with a high thread count. Bathrooms are due to be upgraded.
The food and drink
Luca Sordi has stellar credentials. He’s worked in Turin’s Soul Kitchen, Italy’s first vegan hotel, La Vimea, and London’s Vanilla Black. His plant-based five-course tasting menus change every day, and are served at a large communal table. The aim of Luca and the McLaren-Stewarts is to show that vegan food is not about abstinence, or what is missing from the plate. Instead, plant-based dishes can be the height of indulgence.
Luca plays with ingredients and his sense of fun shines through. Watermelon is cooked to the consistency of roasted red pepper, with the texture of tuna sashimi, and is accompanied by tapioca that mimics crunchy caviar. Sourdough wood-fired bread comes with almond-infused butter, capers, olive and dill. Asparagus and truffle with hollandaise ‘mayo’, black salt caviar and wild garlic is followed by pea and mint risotto with mangetout, beetroot gel and black rice crackers. The final course, ‘A Land of Sheep’, is inspired by some scraps of wool Sordi found snagged on bushes nearby. It’s a decadent dessert that’s created from baked apricot, dark chocolate, wild flowers, and spun sugar ‘wool’. A glass of natural vegan wine, chosen by Jack, is paired with each dish.
The breakfast buffet is all fresh fruit, homemade granola, bowls of berries, seeds and nuts, vegan croissants, peanut butter, homemade preserves and gnarly loaves to toast. Choose beans on toast from the cooked to order menu – black beans soaked overnight, then cooked with tomato paste, smoked paprika, black pepper and bay leaves. The coffee is from local artisan roaster, Glen Lyon, and cappuccinos are made with pea milk from Swedish brand, Sproud.
What else can foodies do?
Mooch around picturesque Pitlochry. It’s touristy and twee but has a smattering of good food stores and cafés among the knitwear and outdoors shops. Check out Drinkmonger, a specialist bottle shop, while two nearby whisky distilleries – Blair Atholl and Edradour (the smallest traditional distillery in Scotland) – both offer tours and tastings. Continue the plant-themed experience with a visit to Explorers Garden, which is bedded into the hillside above the town’s Festival Theatre. It’s planted with specimens brought back from far-flung continents by the Scottish plant hunters who travelled the world between the 1600s and 1900s.
Is it family friendly?
There are two lovely dogs, Roxy and Lizzy, and this is a family-run venture, but it’s not particularly child-friendly. It’s more gourmet vegan break than family escape.
Before dinner, grab a stool at the bar, Faodail, and order one of Jack’s champagne cocktails. He whips up a mean take on the French 75 (champagne, gin, lemon juice and sugar) using Edinburgh Gin, caramelised lemon peel and Angostura bitters.
Words and photographs by Lucy Gillmore