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Columba House Hotel and Restaurant (Kingussie)

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Country house hotel in Kingussie (near Aviemore) in the Cairngorm Mountain Range, Scotland.

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      25.11.2003 04:53
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      skip this first bit to be able to read the review with capital letters intact. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a
      . a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ The mad cabbie and family didn?t have any accommodation booked for their wee trip back to the 'auld country' (Scotland) in August of this year. The reason was simple. We hadn't really made any concrete plans about where we were going to visit, other than a few days with a cousin of mine in Helensburgh, just north of Glasgow on the way to Loch Lomond. ~ ~ Eventually we decided on a little visit to the Highlands region, and began to look at brochures to try to find somewhere nice to stay. My cousin isn't wired up for the Internet, so my usual trawl of the different hotels websites wasn't really an option. A few establishments were called, but all invariably gave the same answer; "Sorry. Full up and booked solid" So I paid a call to the local Scottish Tourist Board office in Helensburgh to see if they could help out. They WERE wired to the Internet, and a few minutes later that had us booked into a hotel in Kingussie (near Aviemore in the Cairngorm Mountains) that seemed to meet the specifications we gave them. The service only cost us £3, by the way, and I believe the Board then charge the hotel a fee on top. So I highly recommend this service if you haven't already accommodation arranged, as there is nothing worse when you arrive in a place on holiday than having to trek around from place to place for hours trying to get yourself fixed up. ~ ~ The hotel they had booked for us was the Columba House Hotel and Restaurant in the picturesque little Scottish village of Kingussie, nestling in the Spey Valley at the foot of the majestic Cairngorm Mountains. The drive up the main A9 road is very pleasant, with spectacular scenery, as you pass through all the Glens and heather covered moorlands, surrounded on all sides by the towering mountains. Be careful if you stop to stretch your legs though!
      If it's a hot day, the Scottish midges come out in their droves, and they are renowned for their total ferocity. (They'll literally eat you alive!) Turning off at Kingussie, the hotel was easy enough to find, as it's only a small village. Drive through to the Aviemore end of the village, and it's located at the top of Manse Road, which is easy to spot by the telephone box on the corner. ~ ~ The hotel is set on a hill overlooking the village, with a short and VERY badly paved (or should I say NOT paved) driveway leading up to it. Take it easy driving up, as you could easily do the suspension on your car some nasty damage! In times past, it used to be the minister?s manse, (local clergyman?s house) as could probably be guessed at, as it's on Manse Road. A large imposing, solid granite building, as is often the case in this part of the world, it has been totally refurbished and extended by the present owners, Myra Shearer and her husband. (Who are both English, by the way) They are very friendly, and nothing is too much trouble. We were made to feel completely at home from the very second we stepped through the door. The hotel is also very well situated for exploring the surrounding area, and you can walk down into the village in minutes, with Aviemore itself only being about 15 minutes (leisurely) drive away. ~ ~ The location couldn't be better. The hotel is set in a wooded area. And is surrounded by large mature Scots Pine, oak, and beech trees. The garden area has been cleared, and a large lawn lain, with trees dotted around the place to give a bit of shade, and wooden benches where you can sit and take your ease. There's a paved patio with tables and chairs outside the large sunroom extension that doubles up as a well-lit and airy dining room and sitting area. The patio is great if you want to eat a meal or snack "al fresco", and the gardens were idyllic, at least while we
      were there, as the weather was sunny and roasting hot. In the early morning (well, not THAT early, I was on holiday!) you can sit and watch the squirrels that live in the trees, and the multitude of rabbits gambolling around on the lawn, while stuffing your face with a full Scottish breakfast. ~ ~ The food was excellent, and the service prompt and efficient. Myra's son was the main waiter, (and barman) in his summer holiday from St. Andrew's University, and there was another very pleasant Australian girl who worked as a general assistant, who we had some pleasant chats with, as she had also worked over in Ireland for a while. The breakfast was full Scottish with all the trimmings, and the only thing I didn't like was the black pudding (local) which I found a bit stodgy and not to my taste. A full selection of cereals were available at a buffet table, and there was lashings of lovely freshly brewed coffee. (Just what the mad cabbie likes) There was a full a la carte menu available in the evening time, and the dining room was also open to non-residents. We only had the evening meal once, on the day we arrived. (couldn't be bothered hunting around for a decent restaurant) Very good value, at about the £25 per head mark. I had a tasty home made pate, followed by an Aberdeen Angus steak (delicious), and there was a good selection of homemade sweets. Lots of traditional Scottish dishes on the menu as well, like wild salmon, trout, haggis, and venison. ~ ~ The bar and lounge itself was tiny, but has a good selection of Scottish Malt whisky and various local beers, as well as the more traditional drinks. In any case, there's a very comfortable resident's lounge adjoining the bar, (I'd say it was the sitting room when it was still a private house) with very comfortable leather armchairs and couch, and a large feature fireplace. (It would be very cosy in the winter season) I used this most evenings
      to read for a while or watch TV once my wife and wee lass had retired to bed. (And to have a wee smoke!) ~ ~ The bedroom itself was comfortable and functional. We had a family room, and there was a large double bed for myself and my wife, with a small single bed immediately alongside for the wee lass. The ensuite bathroom and toilet was again functional, but I wasn't too happy with the cubicle shower, which could badly do with replacing. It run off the hot water supply, (not self-heating) was very old, and had the annoying habit of either scalding or freezing you if someone else in the hotel turned on a tap. (Which they did frequently) Not to mention the miserable little dribble of wate that issued from its small showerhead when you actually turned it on. The room also had a small portable colour TV, and a fridge with mini-bar. An electric kettle and coffee and tea were supplied (as well as some wee biscuits) so that you could make yourself a wee cuppa in the morning or evening. The décor of the hotel itself was very "oldy worldy", with lots of dark wooden panels and old fashioned furniture. In fact, if you are so inclined, they have a number of bedrooms available with old four-poster beds. (at an extra cost, naturally!) As well as the bedrooms, the owners have converted some of the old stables and outbuildings into self-contained units. I didn't get the opportunity to investigate these, but no doubt they are pleasant, with self-catering facilities. ~ ~ The hotel cost us a total of £93 per night (£31 per person) for bed and breakfast, which I thought was eminently reasonable, considering you can pay as much as this (or more) in a small Bed and Breakfast establishment or Guesthouse. They have their own website at http://www.columba-hotel.co.uk where a page is given over to the rates and special offers they often run. Prices seem to vary between £25 and £65 per night depending on the sort of acco
      mmodation you require, and the time of year you visit. Recommended by the mad cabbie. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Columba House Hotel and Garden Restaurant, Manse Road, Kingussie, Inverness-shire, PH21 1JF Four stars for "Guest Accomodation" from the AA, and Three Stars from the Scottish Tourist Board Tel: 01540 661402 Fax: 01540 661652 email: reservations@columba-hotel.co.uk ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Copyright KenJ 2003 ~~~~~~~~~~~~

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