Simply the Best: A Stay at The Dulaig

by Keith Savage · 4 comments


The Dulaig, Luxury Bed & Breakfast, Grantown-on-Spey, Scotland

Here’s a secret: I’m a homebody. I like my routines, the familiarity of home and family and friendship. There’s a comfort in moving through a world defined, and it was so strong as a child that I did everything in my power to avoid sleepovers. By its very nature travel wrests us from the cobwebs of comfort, casting us into foreign places filled with foreign experiences and foreign thoughts. The irony is that I also love to travel, and it can be hard to reconcile these two forces. Traveling with family and friends goes a long way, but you know what else helps? Staying in places that feel like home, places that exude comfort and warmth and make you forget just how far away home is. Such places are treasures, as are the kind souls who have created these sanctuaries. I’ve found several on my travels, and today I’m writing about one of my all-time favorites: The Dulaig in Grantown-on-Spey.

The Dulaig is a luxury bed & breakfast owned and operated by Carol and Gordon in the wonderful town of Grantown-on-Spey. Open to guests since 2009, The Dulaig has garnered many accolades in the past seven years, including 5-star Gold status from Visit Scotland and AA Guest Accommodation of the Year for Scotland 2016-2017. Those are lofty remarks and my expectations were set accordingly as we pulled down The Dulaig’s gravel path beneath great boughs. This was my first night in Scotland after flying up from France, and my crew and I (Sarah and my parents were with me) were exhausted from a day of travel.

The ivy-covered Dulaig dates from 1910, a gift from the Countess of Seafield to John Smith, her factor, and was designed by Aberdeen-based architect Alexander Marshall Mackenzie who was respected for many buildings including Mar Lodge near Braemar. The structure is modern Edwardian, stone-built, and harled, and the inviting interior is decorated with a mixture of Arts & Crafts antiques and contemporary furnishings. While just a couple of blocks from Grantown’s main street, The Dulaig remains secluded on its beautiful grounds. Carol and Gordon met us in the carpark and ushered us inside with words of welcome and promises of rest.

The Dulaig’s fine artwork and period furnishings are instantly noticeable. There’s a sense of mise en place and implicit feng shui about the house as you walk the hallway, climb the stairs, and look upon the bedrooms. A lot of love has graced this latest iteration of the factor’s old house. My room possessed a ridiculously comfy bed and beautiful armoire, not to mention a decanter of Sherry, homemade shortbread, and a dish of Swiss chocolate (robes and slippers, too). All of the bedrooms were tastefully decorated with a mix of old and new, perhaps a sweet spot for visitors’ varying tastes, but always with attention to detail and furnishings of the utmost quality. Many touches, such as the light fixtures, date from the same period as the house itself.

The bathroom continued on from the bedroom with glistening porcelain and polished chrome. Light poured in through the window and illuminated the magnificent tub, and I particularly liked all the places to set bathroom supplies.

After we’d settled in, the four of us went downstairs to the beautiful, bright sitting room where we enjoyed tea and Gordon’s homemade scones. It was already evening and we hadn’t eaten dinner yet, but you don’t pass up scones. Especially these scones. The six of us chatted for awhile and I learned some fascinating tidbits of local knowledge, for instance that Grantown-on-Spey is one of the UK’s driest places because it’s protected on three sides by the mountains (though there can be snow here until June) and that the gin industry is booming. I wanted to spend a day in here perusing the various decorations, books, and artifacts, but I had to settle on just a couple of hours. Later, my dad and I returned with single malts from The Dulaig’s impressive and complimentary whisky and gin selection.

The next morning I decided to explore The Dulaig’s manicured garden before breakfast. I entered through a wrought-iron gate and passed beneath arches leading onto emerald walls of shrubs, flowers, and trees. I’m no good at plant identification, but the garden is still a feast for the eyes and a tranquil place to relax. Benches and small decorations hide amongst the foliage, beckoning you to take a moment and appreciate the peacefulness. A menagerie of fowl — chickens, ducks, grouse, and partridge — wandered amongst the immense and immaculate garden, hewing close to its small pond.

After a rejuvenating time in The Dulaig’s gardens I came inside for what will surely live on as a mythical breakfast. I chose the traditional Scottish breakfast and visited the spread of cold breakfast items in the meantime. A slate cheeseboard revealed Cheddar, smoked Dunlop, and Strathdon blue wedges accompanied by a variety of homemade oatcakes, a starburst platter held a rainbow fruit salad, and sundry bowls held Greek-style yogurt, homemade muesli, homemade granola, various cereals, rhubarb compote, mouth-watering stewed apricots in honey, amaretto, and spices, and Bircher muesli (a Swiss version from the early 20th century). Not long after, Carol arrived with a loaf of bread made with Singleton of Dufftown and Glenfiddich whiskies to be enjoyed with her handcrafted seville orange marmalade and black currant jam. This could have been breakfast enough, but that’s what someone says before having The Dulaig’s cooked breakfast.

The cooked breakfasts were works of art. My Scottish breakfast was beautifully arranged on a large white plate with the bright, red tomatoes contrasting with the black pudding from their local butcher, Barry. Haggis, venison sausage, sautéed mushrooms, potato scones, and rashers completed it, and the portion was perfect. Sarah enjoyed a bowl of porridge with honey, whisky, and cream, and my mom had the breakfast special, a Cornish egg that she calls the best breakfast she’s ever eaten.

My only regret with staying at The Dulaig was that it lasted a single night. It is a destination unto itself, and it just so happens to be in the ideal town from which to explore the Cairngorms National Park, Speyside, and much of Inverness-shire. The title of this post says it all. If there is another B&B in Scotland that combines luxury accommodation, world-class food, and a personal warmth the likes of which are intrinsic and impossible to learn like The Dulaig I’ve yet to find it. When you visit you’ll know what I mean.

Feels like home in the highlands, doesn’t it?

Disclosure: The Dulaig provided complimentary accommodation. All thoughts and opinions expressed here, as always, are my own.


Jennifer LyonNo Gravatar July 18, 2016 at 7:25 PM

Completely concur with review. My husband and I have stayed at The Dulaig twice. Carol and Gordon have that amazing “something” that makes the stay so special. The beds are so comfy we actually conferred with Caril on the make and model, found one here stateside and bought it. The garden is pure bliss and If you are lucky enough to be there when it’s feeding time for the menagerie of animals, it’s a treat to see Carol interact with them. Finally, Gordon can give you a wonderful tutorial on Scotland’s “water of life” and throw in some Robert Burns to boot. Lovely place.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 18, 2016 at 8:47 PM

Glad to hear a similar experience. I happened to watch Carol feed some of the birds the evening I arrived. It was wonderful. There’s so much character there. I especially liked all of the house’s old blueprint drawings framed on the walls.

Chuck NakellNo Gravatar July 14, 2016 at 9:50 AM

Keith,

As a photographer, I have to say that you are doing a better than most job of documenting your adventures: Well composed, cropped right, good registration, and the works! So many bloggers have interesting script, but the images that accompany the words are just…crap, to be honest. You always visually do your journey justice, and that really helps us readers go along with you for the ride. Great work!!!

Sincerely, Chuck

Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 18, 2016 at 8:35 AM

Thanks, Chuck! That means a lot. I’m no expert photographer but I do my best to capture Scotland’s beauty and mystique. I don’t think it’s a battle I’ll ever win, but it feels like sacred duty to fight it.

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