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Darroch Learg - Review

FROM ITS VANTAGE POINT high above Ballater, you can soak up views across the Dee Valley from the windows of Darroch Learg (Gaelic for “a copse on a sunny slope”), and if perchance there aren’t any rays, fear not; true Scots warmth led by owners Nigel and Fiona Franks is ever-present in this handsome turreted Victorian mansion.

Elegant reception rooms with antiques, watercolours, flowers and fires enjoy a touch of the baronial, while comfy chairs and log fires cry out for companionable pre- and post-prandial drinks. Prize-winning cooking is another big draw, and chef David Mutter invites guests to choose between a fine three-course dinner and a seven-course taster.

Pace yourself (after a wee dram of the national nectar) for roasted sea scallops and breast of guinea fowl, with a white chocolate mousse to round off. The wine list includes some 230 bins, with finer vintages remarkably well priced. Rooms all make the grade in terms of comfort and furnishings; some period, some modern.

Lamp-lit conservatory

Be seduced by tortellini of langoustine, Aberdeen Angus fillet with tarragon sauce, and classic lemon tart in the lamp-lit conservatory restaurant. Then explore Royal Deeside country and climb Craigendarroch; follow whisky, castle and heritage trails or go fishing, stalking, gliding and golfing. The Franks have spent 40 years polishing things here – and you can’t help feeling they have got it just right.

Darroch Learg was reviewed for Room for Romance by Mike North