An overnight stay beside the River Dee at Banchory Lodge
Tucked away down a driveway lined with golden hued trees, The Lodge (as Banchory Lodge is affectionately known) sits on the banks of the River Dee. Moments before, we were on Banchory’s busy main street and it seems impossible that you are now looking at a magnificent Royal Deeside retreat set in 12 splendid acres. It’s an easy walk into Banchory but a world away from its hustle and bustle.
Jumping out of the car, there’s an urge to take lots of photographs of the idylic river setting. The building is impressive, the views are beautiful, and the Dee sparkles as the sun sets over the Aberdeenshire countryside. Bliss.
Checking in, we notice the hotel’s Visit Scotland 4 Star rating proudly on display. The Lodge has recently undergone a £1.2 million refurbishment to create a 4-star boutique hotel for Royal Deeside. Visit Scotland also awarded the Lodge a “Taste our Best” award for their use of local produce. We can’t wait for dinner!
The welcome at reception is warm and friendly, and we were soon checked in and off to our bedroom. Room 21 is on the first floor and has stunning views out over the river.
Our bedroom – Room 21
Look at this four poster bed! Beautifully carved and dressed with tasteful tweeds and tartans it looked very grand indeed. The luxurious bedding and plump pillows sat on top of the most comfortable mattress we have slept on in ages.
There is also a couch and the two window seats are the perfect place to relax and watch the river meander by. It’s a welcoming place and we could imagine sitting here in the depths of winter with snow all around enjoying the cosiness of the Lodge and a dram of nearby Glen Garioch Whisky.
Like most old buildings, the floors are a bit tilted and we were singing the Christine and the Queen’s song as we got ready for dinner. We had been sampling Lost Loch Spirit’s gin, absinthe and Haroosh earlier in the day so this evened things out a bit!
Full-sized Highland Soap Company toiletries, a powerful hot shower and fluffy white towels made the spacious bathroom a real treat. Suitably pampered and refreshed, we were ready to explore the rest of the Lodge.
We met Fraser, the Head Chef, earlier and were impressed by his enthusiasm and passion for local produce. After a day spent meeting some of these suppliers, we were looking forward to enjoying some of his cooking.
Lots of public spaces at Banchory Lodge
The Lodge shuns the usual twinset and pearls country house style. It’s quirky, bold and uses lots of contrasting colours and patterns. Running through the whole design theme are fun illustrations by artist Bryce Thomson. From the placemats to the menus, these colourful characters add bags of personality to the venue.
It was Friday night and there was a great buzz about the place. The dining room was fully booked, the bar was bustling, a private dining event was in full flow, a wedding party were arriving for the next day, and a murder mystery dinner was unfolding nearby. To be this busy on a Friday in mid-October, they must be doing lots right! It was great to see this old building full of life and fun.
Dinner a Banchory Lodge
We wandered through to the dining room with its river-bank view. They serve breakfast, Sunday brunch, lunch, coffee and cakes, afternoon tea and dinner – pretty much everything. The dinner menu is a great showcase for local meat, fish and shellfish served simply with a few nice touches.
What a treat! A bowl of fat mussels cooked in local ale and served with two chunks of delicious bread was the perfect way to start the evening. The bread was soft and ideal for soaking up the tasty liquor. In the absence of a finger bowl, I had to lick the yummy juices off my fingers, but my fellow diners didn’t seem to mind!
Raymond went for a taste of the Med and chose Panzanella. This was a colourful celebration of heirloom tomatoes with red onions, bocconcini cheese, mint, basil and a slice of toasted ciabatta. The dish was fresh and vibrant and felt healthy! Perhaps a pudding could be on the cards after all!
I hadn’t planned to have fish and chips, but just as I was ordering, our neighbours’ food arrived. Four whales of fish, smelling and looking divine complete with all the trimmings. The temptation was too much, and I ordered the same. This wasn’t just any fish supper though – this was Elvis Juice Battered Haddock. Fraser uses local hero, Brewdog’s, Elvis Juice beer with its full-on grapefruit and orange flavours to make the crispy batter.
The fish was huge and the batter perfectly crisp and dry. A dish of chunky hand cut chips, tartare sauce and rough pea puree completed the feast. I had made the right decision!
Raymond’s main course of Scotch Porky was a combination of pork belly and loin served with Jersey Royals, sorrel, samphire and broccoli. A jus made from Banchory based Dark Matter Rum provided a treacle flavoured sweetness to the dish.
Room for dessert?
The dessert menu has lots to entice, including an Undecided Sweet Treat. A perfect choice when you’re not sure what to choose. For £8.75 you can enjoy a dessert selection including mango fool, iced Tiramisu and apple and toffee crumble. The crumble also comes as a sharing dish complete with proper custard or ice cream at £11.50.
We fancied something a bit lighter and “Pineapple” fitted the bill nicely. A selection of Dark Matter roasted, compressed and carpaccio pineapple with mint and Malibu ice cream in a crisp brandy basket. A great combination of sweet and tart flavours with silky smooth ice cream made for a delicious dessert.
Nighty Night from Banchory Lodge
After dinner, it was a braw bricht moonlicht nicht so we decided to take a wander back up the long driveway and into Banchory. It’s been a few years since we spent Easter in Banchory but it’s great to see all its independent shops still thriving. Banchory has a good range of shops, bars and cafes to explore and is well worth visiting.
Considering the Lodge was so busy, we had an incredibly uninterrupted and restful sleep. A combination of the perfect bedding, comfortable mattress, ideal temperature and peace and quiet, sent us off to the land of dreams very quickly. We awoke raring to go for our second day in Aberdeenshire. But first breakfast!
Breakfast is served in the same room as dinner. The sun was streaming through the windows and we could see fellow residents taking an early morning stroll along the river bank. What a great way to start the day.
Breakfast is a combination of help yourself buffet with an excellent selection of fresh fruits, juices, cereal, croissants, pastries and a cooked to order selection.
Raymond ordered the freshly made pancakes with bacon and maple syrup for drizzling. His favourite breakfast and absolutely delicious! He finished the lot and scraped the plate clean.
I spotted toasted muffins with smashed avocado and poached egg on the menu but fancied a muffin with poached egg and bacon instead. This change wasn’t a problem for the kitchen and two delicious muffins arrived towered high with bacon and eggs. The perfectly cooked poached eggs with beautiful orange runny yolks tasted as good as they looked.
We can’t wait to go back
It would have been lovely to have stayed longer at Banchory Lodge, but we had a busy day ahead. We were off to make butteries with JG Ross Bakers in Inverurie, taste Raven Spirits new Gin, visit Craig at Barra Bronzes to see how his award-winning Turkeys were coming on for Christmas and enjoy The Legends Whisky Tour and a Cheese and Whisky tasting with Glen Garioch Distillery. We left The Lodge refreshed and revitalised ready to explore Aberdeenshire.
If you haven’t thought about a short break in Aberdeenshire, then we highly recommend it. There’s so much to see and do and once you are there, you don’t have to travel far to experience it all. At just over two hours from the central belt and with dual carriageway most of the way it’s easy to get to but feels like a world away. Banchory Lodge is a warm and welcoming place to chill out and relax while enjoying Aberdeenshire’s abundant natural larder and all that this unspoilt part of Scotland has to offer.
How to book a stay at Banchory Lodge