Andy Mossack visits the gateway to Royal Deeside to stay at a hotel so close to the River Dee he can almost dip his toes in.
Watching a flowing river is always a relaxing pastime, but when it’s a river with royal connections the speciality factor rises a notch or two. In this particular case, said royal river is so close I can practically touch it from our bedroom window. Ok, I lied about that last bit, but the lure of Banchory Lodge Hotel really is all about the river.
Built right by the banks of the Dee it’s a glorious location made all the more special by Mother Nature instructing her salmon to leap out of the water on their way upstream to spawn. This happens each September to November and February to March by the Bridge of Feugh, just a short walk away, My visit didn’t time with the spawning season, but looking down from the bridge at the rocks and the raging foam below, it doesn’t take much imagination to realise this would be a momentous sight.
Banchory town is known locally as the gateway to Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms and as such can attract a bit of traffic, but turn into the long tree-lined driveway of the Banchory Lodge Hotel and the sound of the high street is replaced by birdsong and running water.
The hotel is an impressive Georgian pile built on a very impressive slice of Deeside riverbank. So impressive, it might just be one of the best riverside restaurant views in Britain. Its history may be Georgian but there’s more than a hint of the contemporary about it. Walk up a creaking staircase and turn left and you’ll find yourself in my room, one of the rooms labelled as ‘top notch’. And it’s not hard to see why. A study in pinks, greys, and floral wallpaper. it’s all very tastefully done. But the top of the bill slot goes to the breathtaking view. A huge bay glass frontage overlooking a massive expanse of river. Two pink velvety armchairs placed facing out are perfect for an afternoon tea or a seriously romantic sundowner. No wonder they use this room as the Bridal Suite when hosting a wedding.
Downstairs there are two restaurants; the main restaurant offering seasonal fare from the land, farm and sea, from fish and chips to pork belly. But for me, I was rather taken with the new outdoor rustic Sitooterie, put together while the hotel was locked down, offering some inspired tapas-style sharing plates. It’s a large two-level decking space with some cosy sheds at the back for small groups. The concept was clearly a hit with the crowd of mainly young locals enjoying a fine riverside summer evening
Stand out starter for me was smashed avocado with chilli, lime and coriander served in a huge ceramic mortar and pestle with a generous mound of tortilla chips (£6/£12). We followed that hit with a few more very tasty bites; cauliflower wings with blue cheese and chive crème fraiche (£6/£12) giant couscous salad with aubergine and tahini (£6/£10) roasted Mayan gold potatoes with rosemary (£6) and Gaucho-rubbed flat iron steak with charred corn, tomato and rocket (£18)
The hotel takes full advantage of its fabulous riverfront and as the Dee is so salmon and trout plentiful there is ample opportunity for anyone keen on fishing to literally fill your boots. But the area is also great for golf, cycling, shooting, and hiking so excursions can be booked through the hotel.
The Banchory Lodge Hotel is a beautiful slice of Aberdeenshire’s outdoors, but its place on the River Dee makes it somewhere truly special.
Tell Me More about the Banchory Lodge Hotel
Banchory Lodge Hotel, Dee Street, Banchory, AB31 5HS
T: +44 1330 822 625 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Room rates from £145 including breakfast.