When Hauser & Wirth announced they would be opening a hotel, everyone knew it would be momentous, exciting and imaginative, but The Fife Arms has exceeded all of our expectations. The illustrious Swiss art dealers Iwan and Manuela Wirth have had a house in the Scottish Highlands since 2011, after falling for the region’s beauty and local culture.
The area of Braemar, right in the middle of the Cairngorms National Park, has a long and rich history, and is just a few miles from the Royal Family’s Balmoral residence. Four years ago the powerhouse Wirth couple bought a mid 19th-century coaching inn with a vision of transforming it into a bold and beautiful luxury hotel paying tribute to the motifs and crafts of the area.
After a three year multi-million pound renovation the hotel has opened as a tremendous addition to the area for locals and reason alone for tourists to visit the Scottish Highlands.
It was my first time in Aberdeenshire, but after spending a few days in Edinburgh it was an easy and quick journey to make by car. The landscape I witnessed from my car window was magnificent; rolling rugged hills, herds of Highland sheep and a bright rainbow in the distance. After a few hours of countryside, we reached the quaint town of Braemar, and its new focal point, The Fife Arms.
Though Scottish heritage is very much the theme of the hotel, art takes centre stage as you would expect. Many of the most prestigious Hauser and Wirth artists feature – you’ll find a Louise Bourgeois spider in a courtyard and a striking Richard Jackson chandelier.
The interior designer of The Fife Arms, Russell Sage, has give the rooms an outrageous Victorian opulence… think lavish decorative wallpapers and antique furniture, four poster beds and unusual taxidermy. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but I loved it, perhaps because I grew up in a Victorian House in London with eccentric artist parents who’s style is not dissimilar to the Fife fabulousness.
I instantly fell in love with my ‘Zoology’ room, a charming and spacious bedroom on the third floor. I was wholly impressed to learn of the variety of rooms on offer, starting from the (extremely) reasonable £130 Croft Rooms, going up to the top ‘Royal’ suites which will set you back around £800.
My room was dedicated to birds with charming little artworks on the walls paying homage to this lovely creature. The giant bed was very comfortable and obviously kitted out to the highest spec, topped with a wonderful (specifically designed) Araminta Campbell tartan, which is also available to purchase in the hotel’s boutique.
The bathroom was less flamboyant, prioritising an efficiently working bath and shower over styling. Toiletries are by 100 Acres, a natural beauty range of products made in the English countryside using natural botanicals and essential oils.
After settling into my room, I had a few hours to explore the rest of the hotel. Each space I stumbled across had a new theme or artwork to marvel at, and I can see why so many events and celebrations are already being booked in at The Fife Arms.
The Flying Stag pub is part of the hotel and is sure to be a hit with locals and guests. The well-priced menu features comforting classics like Fish and Chips and Aberdeen Angus Beef Burger. And despite the Flying Stag being the cheaper dining option it is certainly not an afterthought – care and attention has gone into making every dish a hit, and I was really impressed by the flavours and refinement that the pub kitchen had already established here.
Breakfast was an indulgent affair served in The Clunie Dining Room, where I also enjoyed dinner the night before. This elaborate dining room has a stunning mural by artist Guillermo Kuitca on the walls and deep green marble tables. In the evening the short menu showcases fine local produce and Scottish delicacies, I loved the slow cooked deer and almost-savoury almond cake for dessert.
Next door to the Clunie Dining Room is Elsa’s, the hotel’s cocktail bar inspired by fashionista Elsa Schiaparelli, who has a connection to the history of the area. The thoughtfully created menu has some brilliant concoctions, I highly recommend trying the ‘Buried Gold’ or the Scottish whisky based ‘The Fairy and the Fiann’.
During my 24 hour stay at The Fife Arms I had just enough time to quickly explore the local area. It is well worth making a visit to nearby Braemar Castle to understand a bit about the local history and also stop by the newly opened Braemar Highland Games Centre, which documents the details of the Highland Games and exhibits many of the precious old outfits, medals and photographs from the past.
Everyone seems to the be talking about The Fife Arms, and for good reason; this hotel is unforgettable both in style and substance.
More information and book a stay at The Fife Arms here.