VE Day resonates around the world, but one Scottish country house has the Second World War at its heart year-round.
Douneside House in Aberdeenshire is the only AA triple rosette restaurant in the county, just awarded “Fine Dining Hotel” and “Hotel Chef” of the Year at the Scottish Hotel Awards 2018, but the fine dining at this stylish luxury hotel is just one chapter of the story.
When guests arrive at Douneside, the portraits of three little boys greet them in the elegant entrance hall.
The house was once owned by the charismatic Lady Rachel Workman MacRobert, an American geologist who met the hugely successful Scottish businessman, Sir Alexander MacRobert, on a cruise liner. They settled in the Aberdeenshire countryside and brought three boys into the world.
Douneside House is peppered with family photographs, as well as antiques and furniture once owned by this cosmopolitan family, so it’s a homely yet indulgent setting for guests. But the seemingly blessed family life captured in the pictures was tragically short lived.
In 1938 the eldest boy, Alasdair, was killed in a civil aviation accident. Lady MacRobert lost her remaining sons in 1941, in service to the RAF during the Second World War.
Such loss is unimaginable, but Lady MacRobert’s reaction is telling: she promptly sent a cheque for £25,000 to the Secretary of State for Air to purchase a bomber named “MacRobert’s Reply” — a strong reaction to Hitler if ever there was one. Today a statue of the aircraft stands proudly in the hotel grounds.
Douneside House opened its doors as a luxury country escape in June 2016. It’s been refurbished in subtle Scottish tweeds, reflecting the family’s heritage, and its contemporary bar is decorated in the greys and blues of the RAF.
There’s also a health centre featuring a swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi and steam room for guests to unwind, as well as a gym and games room.
The grounds are also a draw, and Douneside boasts an esteemed RHS Partner Garden. Its Walled Garden grows over 80 types of fruit and veg that make their way straight into the hotel kitchen, and this produce is the talk of the restaurant’s six course Tasting Menu.
In addition, Douneside has newly launched an exclusive Dining Club whereby 12 guests come together for an evening of conversation and fine dining. Excellent vegetarian and fish preferences can be requested, and kosher may be possible with notice.
Dining and residing at Douneside is a luxurious affair but guests can feel a certain virtue indulging here, as the hotel’s run by the not-for-profit MacRobert Trust. With £1 million donated to charity last year it’s always a privilege to enter the world of the MacRobert family.
“I have no more sons to wear the badge or carry it in the fight: if I had ten sons, I know that they would all have followed that line of duty.” Lady Rachel MacRobert