Located in the quaint village of Braemar in the Scottish Highlands is the luxurious boutique hotel, the Fife Arms Hotel. This Victorian establishment was meticulously transformed in 2018 by new owners Iwan and Manuela Wirth, co-founders of the revered global gallery Hauser & Wirth. The restoration injected new vigour into the building whilst carefully respecting its historical past. The couple’s extensive knowledge of art was a huge influence on the hotel’s interior and this is evident from the moment you walk through its doors. As well as numerous interior design highlights, the hotel boasts over 14,000 antiques, taxidermy and art pieces that are truly unique.
The foyer is where you get your first glimpse of the unique artwork on display with a beautiful watercolour of a stag’s head, painted by Her Majesty Queen Victoria. A cosy lounge area to the right of the entrance is filled with comfortable seating and is complemented by an array of impressive art. Most impressive is a piece by the renowned Lucien Freud, in the form of an exquisite painting of the artist daughter, named Annie.
Hanging proudly above the wooden staircase is a stunning blown glass antler chandelier illuminating in a multitude of neon colours. This contemporary and daring work by Richard Jackson somehow fits in with the buildings historic surroundings. Another unusual piece is a collaboration between LA based artist Mark Bradford, Steinway & Sons and composer Robert Grasper. This comes in the form a striking piano artistically strewn with bleach and magically plays a range of music on its own accord. Here I had great delight amusing on-lookers with my pseudo pianist skills.
Each room in the hotel falls within an array of categories, including; Scottish Culture Room, Croft Room, Nature, Poetry Room and individually designed suites. I stayed in the Nature and Poetry room, a cosy space furnished with artwork and objects made from natural materials from the local area. I especially loved the large wooden headboard carved with words by Scottish poet, Alec Finlay. The Scottish Culture rooms on the other hand are inspired by leading Scottish figures in numerous fields such as engineering and astronomy.
The Croft Rooms mimic the characteristics of a traditional Scottish croft house and include a quirky cabin bed that have been hand-painted by numerous artists.
The suites are where the interior design stand out, especially the Royal and Victoriana Suite. Not only are they lavishly unique, but their design instantly transports you to a time gone by.
Each distinct suite is decorated with exquisite antique furniture, roll-top baths, large comfortable beds and embellished with an array of art and trinkets including a display of the stockings of Queen Victoria herself.
If you are looking for a place to dine then the hotel has a number of options to choose from. The Drawing Room is particularly impressive with a blend of traditional and modern design. I was in awe with the distinctive painted ceiling by Chinese artist Zhang Enli, exuding the colours and textures of Scottish Agates and Cairngorm Crystal found in the area.
Russell Sage Studio, who are responsible for the recent redesign of the hotel have certainly made an impression in this room, filling it with a swathe of opulent fabrics, thick oriental rugs and forest green tartan-clad wallpaper. As if the art couldn’t get any better, this room is adorned with a remarkable Pablo Picasso piece called Mousquetaire Assis. It felt rather special nibbling on traditional Scottish afternoon tea, whilst sitting underneath such impressive works of art.
Named after the fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, Elsa’s Bar is the hotel’s designated area for a delicious array of cocktails. Ella’s signature hue of shocking pink is reflected in the décor and even makes an appearance in the impressive cocktail menu. This intimate art-deco inspired space is perfect for a aperitif where you can unwind and watch over the mixologists as they create your chosen cocktail. I enjoyed The Douglas, made with Gin, Glayva, Green Charreuse, Campari and house-made Douglas-Fir Bitters.
The Clunie Dining Room is the main dining space within the hotel and again emits the artistic touches that adorn the hotel’s interior. The walls have been beautifully painted by Argentinian artist Guillermo Kuitca, exuding an abstract design inspired by the hotel and its surroundings.
The art continues in the form of food with a delicious menu of the finest Scottish produce, from sweet langoustine to tender red deer. I had the delicious birch smoked Highland red deer loin, a succulent cut of meat that has been specially marinated and cooked on the restaurants very own wood-burning stove. This was followed by dessert which was an unusual but tantalising combination of strawberry and heritage tomato salad with ice cream.
The Flying Stag is the hotel’s public bar and is known by locals as the ‘heart of the village’. This part of the hotel offers a selection of Scottish dishes, real ales and an extensive collection of whiskies. I enjoyed some traditional fish and chips and of course you can’t come to the Highlands without tasting some haggis.
Adorning the bar is the flying stag created by James Prosek; a full-size stag with its very own swans wings.
What I found endearing was the numerous portraits of the local punters that adorned the walls, reinforcing the special bond between the hotel and the residents of the village.
My time spent at the Fife Arms Hotel was one of the most special and memorable stays that I’ve experienced in Scotland for a long time. It is truly a place that captivates all the senses, whether or not you are interested in art, this hotel certainly makes an impression on you. You can spend hours just walking around the hotel admiring every inch of its beauty.
The Fife Arms Hotel has so many unique and interesting characteristics which I doubt you will get to see in one stay, therefore giving you an excuse to return. The exceptional quality of customer service, the delicious array of food and drink and the sumptuous rooms all combine to create an unforgettable stay. It is a true highland gem that I only wish I had discovered sooner.
Blu Blazer Guy Rating:
Location – 5/5 – Hidden away in a beautiful part of the Highlands yet easily accessible.
Customer Service – 4.5/5 – Warm, friendly & personable.
Accommodation – 4.5/5 – Stylish, comfortable, luxurious and full of art.
Cleanliness – 5/5 – Spotlessly clean
Food and Drink – 4.5/5 – Fantastic choice of casual and luxury dining. Great cocktails.