We found Ballintaggart quite by mistake almost a year ago when we were travelling home from our annual holiday in the Highlands. When the A9, the only main road South, was shut due to an accident we were rerouted near to Pitlochry and after an hour in nose to tail traffic we spotted a sign selling freshly made sourdough and thought that at the very least our prayers for a nice spot of lunch had been answered. When we arrived at Ballintaggart, Charlotte, one of the girls who works at the farm came straight out to the car to welcome us and took us into the lounge for a cup of tea. Two hours later when we headed back on our merry way, we were all well fed and had already decided we’d be back to stay as soon as we could.
We visited again for a child free night for Andrew’s birthday in December and are already making plans to stop off for lunch on our trip to the Highlands in Easter and Summer. We quickly found ourselves chatting away to the owners of instagram lots (usually with me lusting after their magazine worthy decor, morning views across to the river Tay, cookery courses and even their rescue hens that roam around the 11 acre farm) and they’re so lovely and welcoming that I genuinely now think of them as our friends. This can be said for all the staff in fact!
Despite this I was still very taken aback when Rachel kindly invited us back to stay at their newly opened hotel as their guests. It opened up in Autumn last year and is a couple of minutes down the road from the farm. It will come as no surprise that we jumped at the offer and got ourselves booked in for a mid-week escape on our anniversary.
We nipped into the farm first to say hello to all the team and also to stretch our legs and walk around the grounds. No surprise that we headed straight for the kitchen garden and orchard, two blissful spots with stunning views across the valley. We also had chance to introduce ourselves to new members of the team, in the form of Coco the cat and some rather friendly rescue hens who have joined the flock of hens that potter around.
After a quick catchup with friendly faces and also meeting you new gardener, Barry who has joined from Daylesford (I can’t wait to see what he’s done when we’re back through the year!), we set off on the five minute drive into Grandtully. There’s something special with Ballintaggart and The Grandtully in that even the buildings radiate a sense of something special. But even if you’re still struggling to find them, keep your eyes peeled for their trademark colour of farrow & ball downpipe and you’ll find them! The hotel is nestled in the centre of the village as you drive through and looks across to the river Tay. If the river is permitting, have a drink on the terrace at the front after you check in. Despite being mild for the time of year, it’s still March in the highlands so the barman quickly lit the outdoor fire pit which we thought was a really special touch.
Rooms & Decor
My expectations were high when we arrived, having experienced the hidden gem that is Ballintaggart before, I knew we were in for a treat and I can say with hand on heart, not a second was disappointing.
The hotel is painted throughout in luxurious farrow & ball and decorated with carefully thought out furnishings and trinkets. The library was a particular favourite of mine, with a great selection of book to flick through with afternoon tea and cake or an evening whisky.
Even the signage throughout was beautiful, carefully hand painted and there was even a button in the bar to summon whisky, perfect for anyone who loves a wee dram.
Our room impressed. More farrow & ball with luxurious panelled walls and comfiest of king size beds (the first time we stayed I genuinely found out exactly where the bedding was from and it’s on my list of things to buy for our house). There are thoughtful touches throughout the room, like postcards suggesting trips out nearby, books on the bedside tables and a pair of space masks ready to help you drift off once it’s time for bed. The bathroom had a large cast iron bath which was a real treat for us with our tiny bath at home that we’re both about a foot too long for!
Similarly to the farm, the food is a major attraction. So often you visit these beautifully decorated places and read menus where you can practically imagine yourself rambling alongside the local producers listed, but when the food arrives you feel slight deflation. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth here. The food was a knockout. I very rarely look at a menu and want more than one thing, especially from the mains, but there was only the smallest number of dishes that didn’t make me salivate. After narrowing down the nibbles and starters, I eventually had to ask Chris (co-owner and head chef) what to plump for from the main. Nibbles came first and we began with pork croquettes and an oyster each, both spectacular in equal measure and a sign of the brilliance that was about to follow. Next to arrive was the beetroot, fennel and crowdie salad, the crispy squid with sweet & sour sauce and the venison carpaccio. To often it is said that a dish is the best dish you have ever had, but the squid was remarkable and tasted like it had come out of the sea less than an hour before it hit the plate.
Not that we needed anymore food by this point, but the mains came out after a little break and I was greeted by the most perfectly cooked venison haunch while Andrew had the halibut with a moreish langoustine broth (with sides too!). I hesitate to write this as it seems exaggerated but not only was the venison the best venison dish I’ve ever had but frankly it could be up there with the best pieces of meat I’ve ever had. To have that meal anywhere in the world would be mind blowing, but to get it in the highlands far away from the main cities is astonishing.
Breakfast was equally amazing. The hot smoked salmon that they smoke up at the farm was stunning and perfectly balanced with the cool creme fraiche and homemade sourdough toast.
Hand on heart, I can’t plead with you enough to try ballintaggart farm and the grandtully hotel. I can’t see how they will escape the notice of the Michelin star judges for too long.
I slightly dislike typing this wonderful review as I feel a smidge of protectiveness over my Highland hideaway, but with rave reviews from The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian to name a small handful as well as a spot in The Good Food guide, I suspect it won’t be long till the secret is out. Ballintaggart is taking over and knocking on the door to be placed as the top foodie retreat The Highlands.
Our room and food was kindly paid for by Ballintaggart so I know this might seem like I’m only saying nice things because we got a freebie. Aside from that really not being in my nature, (I’ll always be polite about something but will never sell you a cart horse!) but I aim to be as transparent as possible and never write about anything I wouldn’t spend my own money on. I watched the team in the dining room as we ate with other customers and I can genuinely say I don’t thjnk we got special treatment. Everyone was looked after above and beyond the levels that you expect. I don’t know how Chris, Rachel and Andrew get such amazing staff, but they do. There’s a love for quality there that’s evident with everyone and a real pride in what they’re doing. Just take a look at the last two entries in the guest book at reception!
So do take a look at their website here to browse what’s on in the cooking school or to check availability for rooms. Given that I’ve convinced my parents to go with their friends, my sister to go with her husband and our neighbours to go with their friends over the coming months, they might quickly get booked up! So hurry and get it before I tell more people how wonderful it is.