These are unusual times, and the state of affairs can change quickly. Please check the latest travel guidance before making your journey. Our writers visited these hotels pre-pandemic.
Hear Cairngorms accommodation and you may think of damp bothies, b&bs with nylon sheets and ho-hum hotels. Think again, because this vast wilderness offers first-class digs (and great food) from a bucket-list hotel owned by international art dealers to restaurants with rooms rivalling some of the best in Scotland. Whether it’s a superbly comfortable bed and breakfast or a chic former manse turned hotel, the glorious roof of Scotland is no longer only for those of a Spartan disposition. Here’s our pick of the best hotels in the Cairngorms.
Killiecrankie Hotel, Killiecrankie
The late, legendary Henrietta Fergusson’s quietly beautiful white manse (clergy) house, with its four acres of glorious gardens hidden in the wildly dramatic Killiecrankie Gorge, is now a stylish restaurant with rooms. The focus may be firmly on fine dining but there’s no skimping on the bedrooms. All five are lavishly luxurious with four-poster beds and free-standing baths – perfect retreats after indulging in a tasting menu where you might find kombu cured mackerel, Highland wagyu beef served with dashi and pickled pine, or even dripping fried porridge. Dedicated foodies can sit at the chef’s counter, closely observing course after course of culinary wizardry. Breakfast is equally extravagant.
The Cross at Kingussie, Kingussie
A well-regarded restaurant with rooms worth considering if you’re looking for good-value Cairngorms National Park hotels with delicious food in a peaceful woodland setting. There are three or six-course menus full of tempting things to eat, like lamb, venison, John Dory and wild sea bass, all far more sophisticated than the low-key surroundings might suggest. And you’re virtually guaranteed a good night’s sleep in one of the eight quiet and charming bedrooms. It’s a particularly good base for exploring and cycling (you’re just off the national cycling route), although you may just want to sit on the terrace and watch the red squirrels and occasional deer mosey by.
Rooms from £200, including breakfast and dinner (thecross.co.uk)
The Dulaig Bed and Breakfast, Grantown-on-Spey
B&bs have come a long way from tinned grapefruit segments and clammy shower curtains, but seldom are they as spoiling as the Dulaig, from freshly baked scones on arrival to the cake of the day in your bedroom. Furnishings reflect the arts and craft style of this pretty Edwardian house, although you may find a slipper bath or double walk-in shower in your bathroom. You’ll certainly appreciate the handmade mattresses (and horseradish fishcakes at breakfast). Loll in front of the drawing room fire before a short walk to the town centre. Deep in whisky country and halfway between two ski areas it’s an appealing place, with independent shops and good places to eat.
Rooms from £190, including breakfast (thedulaig.com)
The Old Manse of Blair, Blair Atholl
Forget any preconceptions you might have about stuffy Highland hotels; this 19th-century manse situated on a 10-acre private estate is as surprisingly boutique as it gets. From the bold, dramatic colours to the interesting collection of contemporary art, it’s all stylishly smart and bustling with activity. Bedrooms range from snug to suite, with something for everyone, including children and dogs. You’ll find venison, sea trout and cloutie dumpling on the three course Orangery menu. The hotel offers a range of adventure sports, from fishing to zip-lining, while the House of Bruar (the ‘Harrods’ of the Highlands) and Blair Castle, are minutes away should you tire of the great outdoors.
The Fife Arms, Braemar
Phantasmagorical Victoriana and the best of contemporary art combine here, creating a frankly jaw-dropping hotel unlike any place you’ve ever stayed. The place truly sets the standard for stylish Cairngorms National Park accommodation. Celebrating a deeply traditional Scottish setting in the pretty village of Braemar it’s an interactive stage set, high-end gallery and triumph of comfort combined. Outside the windows, a Highland burn tumbles past the hotel while the Cairngorms rise irresistibly before you. Spend a day exploring and you’ll understand why Queen Victoria chose nearby Balmoral as both a treasured retreat and source of solace. On your return you’ll find a spa, a good meal and 365 different whiskies in Bertie’s Bar: one for every day of the year.