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The Marcliffe at Pitfodels (Aberdeen)

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      09.01.2006 14:10
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      Delightful small hotel which is well worth a visit

      Aberdeen's only 5-star hotel is a real gem. Situated in its own 11-acre grounds on the outskirts of the city and run by proprietor Stewart Spence, it was opened in 1993 by Mikhail Gorbachev (strange choice). The hotel provides an excellent base for exploring the area - if you can afford to stay there! The hotel is relatively small, with 37 rooms and two suites - it also has six conference and banqueting rooms which can cater for a range of events. It is a member of the "Small Luxury Hotels of the World" consortium.

      When someone suggested we consider the Marcliffe as a venue for our wedding in 2003, I initially ruled it out on grounds of cost, as it had a reputation for being so expensive. However, I was persuaded to phone up for information and was surprised to find that although a little more expensive, the prices actually compared quite well to other local hotels we had considered. As the Marcliffe also had the advantage of being within reasonable travelling distance for most of our guests (and is only one mile from our home!) we decided to make an appointment to look round and have a chat with a member of staff about the possibilities.

      Well, to say we were impressed is an understatement. From the moment you enter the hotel, you are enveloped in an atmosphere of warmth and luxury. Log fires, pictures, comfy sofas and friendly, welcoming staff all combined to make our visit a very pleasant experience. (Certainly compared to one other hotel, which shall remain nameless, where we were left to sit for half an hour in an empty bar littered with empty glasses and full ashtrays!) After being shown around the function rooms and restaurant, we were treated to complimentary tea and shortbread in front of a roaring fire in the drawing room bar... Now that's what I call service. We'd taken with us my 95 year old grandmother, who was initially stunned into silence by the whole ambience before whispering in my ear, "I've never been in a place like this... it's like something off a film!".

      Having decided to go ahead and book the hotel for our wedding, I have to say that the staff could not have been more helpful and friendly, and were very patient with my requests and anxieties. (Although I wasn't one of these Bridezillas obsessed with matching the colour of the bridesmaids' nail varnish to the vicar's underpants, organising a wedding is still a stressful experience, but the hotel were very easy to deal with and very accommodating!)

      The day itself went off incredibly well and the surroundings and staff were just great. The staff really do go out of their way to make you feel special. The meal was absolutely delicious and was highly praised by the guests! The hotel offers the perfect setting for photographs, both indoors and outdoors. We were lucky enough to have a fine sunny day (yes, in Aberdeen in April!) but even in the event of bad weather, there are plenty of gorgeous photo opportunities inside the hotel.

      ~Accommodation~

      The hotel has 2 suites and 37 bedrooms, all beautifully furnished with many antique pieces. There is 24 hour room service and all rooms have bathrobes, hairdryers etc. It is certainly not cheap, with rooms starting from £125 (for bed and full breakfast) for a single room up to £325 for the Fyvie Suite! Luckily for us we were given a complimentary room (and bottle of champagne) as part of our wedding package, but I don't think we would be staying there under normal circumstances (well, as it's only one mile from our house, going there on holiday would be rather futile). However, I can confirm from our one night of luxury that the rooms are extremely comfortable and the breakfast is excellent.

      ~Food and Drink~

      The Conservatory Restaurant offers an excellent menu with a wide range of local produce, with main courses starting from around £15.00. A sample menu is available at http://www.marcliffe.com/m_menu.htm . The hotel also has function rooms of various sizes which can be booked for private parties; the smaller Invery Room is particularly nice. We have celebrated a few family occasions there including a golden wedding celebration.

      The Drawing Room Bar and Lounge with its comfortable seats and log fire is a lovely, warm and relaxing environment. The bar has paintings on display by many Scottish artists as well as many interesting artefacts, apparently it also has a collection of over 100 malt whiskies! Photographs of some of the many famous guests are on display on the baby grand piano, including Prince Charles and Princesses Anne and Margaret, Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher (not together, I hope), a deranged-looking Rod Stewart, Sir Alex Ferguson and many others.

      ~Spa~

      The hotel now boasts a newly opened health and beauty spa offering a range of treatments. I cannot comment on this as I have not visited it - and am probably not likely to, as I suspect it's aimed at well-to-do ladies with too much time on their hands, a category into which I unfortunately do not fall! However, I'm sure it is very nice. You never know, maybe I'll book myself in for an eyebrow wax one of these days...

      ~Conclusion~

      Although I don't go there very often, I just love the Marcliffe for its luxurious yet comfortable and relaxed surroundings, pleasant staff and general atmosphere. I love the décor with antique pieces of furniture, squishy sofas, original artwork and lots of interesting things to look at. A visit there is always a special occasion and makes me feel as if I'm living a life of luxury which in reality, of course, I don't actually lead! Christmas is a particularly special time as the hotel is always beautifully decorated, especially the entrance foyer. I can certainly recommend the Marcliffe to anyone considering either a stay there or booking it for a wedding or other occasion.

      Five stars from me, without a doubt!

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