Highland Fling

The Fife Arms is the hot new kid on the block when it comes to boutique hotels in Scotland. It’s packed with character, every room telling its own story with its own sense of place. In the bar you meet a flying stag – before you’ve even touched a wee dram. Really.

Debrah Dhugga

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Lovers of dramatic interiors will be captivated by The Fife Arms. It’s packed with Instagram appeal, full of quirks and crazy corners – and a taxidermy overload.

Interior design by Russell Sage Studio has stamped a statement on this former Victorian coaching inn to create something really stunning, warm and elegant.

Lovers of art, both old and new, will be in their element. The hotel’s owners, Iwan and Manuela Wirth, of Hauser + With fame bought some 14,00 ‘objets’ to fill the place.

So you will discover a wonderful collection of Scottish art, as well as standout pieces – a Picasso, a Lucian Freud, and Richard Jackson chandelier with a contemporary twist on the highlands’ antler chandelier.

The restoration sings with love and pride thanks to the collections of artists and craftspeople who have been part of the project; this is all about curation of an idea, perfectly executed.

The Fife Arms is close to Braemar in the heart of Scotland so interiors play heavily on the country’s heritage, layering of specially designed tweed, tartan and hand-printed wall coverings. These are mixed with whimsical curios, new contemporary and antique artworks which blend seamlessly together. It’s a thoroughly relaxing place to spend time – something
of a covert cocoon.


Proper hideaways. Each bedroom and suite is gorgeous with one-of-a-kind furnishings and décor, all reflecting a place, person, event or activity that plays a part in the life and legacy of Braemar.


I have my own connection with the hotel – how exciting!

Stories have been meticulously researched with the help of consulting historians from Aberdeen University.

Celebrated guests included Robert Louis Stevenson, who began to write Treasure Island whilst on holiday in Braemar.

The poet Lord Byron, as a child, lived for a while at a farm just east of Ballater with his Scottish mother, Catherine Gordon of Gight.  So fascinating for me as he also had a connection to Seaham Hall, where I was CEO for five years. Byron’s stay had a profound effect and local landmarks feature in his works, such as ‘Dark Lochnagar’ written in 1807.

Other rooms celebrate local characters such as The Highlander, The Stalker, The Farmer and The Mountaineer.


This is a place to really escape the daily grind and immerse yourself in the wild beauty of the Highlands where your companions will be eagles, deer, walkers, photographers, stalkers – and sometimes skiers!

The area is a favourite escape for the royals – and HRH The Duke of Rothesay (aka Prince of Wales) and the Duchess of Cornwall officially opened the hotel in mid-January, the commemorative plaque is in the entrance hall as you arrive.


Highland Games, or The Gathering, as it’s known locally takes place on the first Saturday of September annually in the scenic village of Braemar, famed for its annual Highland Games.

Braemar sits in The Cairngorms National Park, an incredibly diverse landscape, from the wild high mountains to the heather moorlands and peatlands, to the magnificent forests, farms and crofts and the wetlands and rivers.

Castles are a must-see, of which the best known is Balmoral and also fascinating is Braemar Castle, just a 15-minute walk from The Fife Arms.

For outdoor activities your go-tos are hiking, riding, mountain-biking, skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, surfing…

All the above and more can be arranged by The excellent concierge team at The Fife Arms.


The rhythm of the Highland seasons will be reflected in the menus offered in the restaurant, The Clunie Dining Room, as well as The Flying Stag, the restored village pub, an integral part of the hotel, and the Drawing Room is perfect for a coffee break with the papers.

There’s drama in The Clunie Dining Room thanks to cooking that takes place over the open flames of a fire pit. I enjoyed a starter of hay-flamed sea trout, lemon cream, breadcrumbs, dill, ember oak leaves. A main course of Wark Farm lamb shoulder, winter vegetables, lamb jus, pointed cabbage and flower sprouts.

I don’t do dessert, but enjoyed and amazing cheese plate with a lovely glass of my favourite New Zealand pinot noir!

Getting there

Aberdeen and Dundee train stations are both a 1.5-hour drive away.  Aberdeen airport is the nearest, 1.5 hours. Or LNER travel direct to Aberdeen on the East Coast line.

Opening rates from: £250 for guestrooms and £795 for suites.

The Fife Arms, Mar Road, Braemar, Aberdeenshire, Scotland | Telephone +44 (0)1339 720200 Email: mail@thefifearms.com.