A historic mansion on a huge estate is not content with resting on its laurels – a fusion of past and present is presenting the North East with new levels of luxury
By Barry McDonald
It’s a just a few short miles from the bustling center of Aberdeen but Meldrum House Country Hotel and Golf Course could be worlds away. Nestled in the heart of the tranquil Aberdeenshire countryside, the stunning baronial mansion sits proudly on the 240-acre estate in Oldmeldrum and boasts a stunning parkland golf course. And while its roots may rest in the 13th century, the hotel had now fused traditional and contemporary with a stunning $5.6m development.
Bucking the trend of the economic downturn in, Meldrum House has created a stunning new wing incorporating a new grand ballroom and 28 further bedrooms, bringing the total to 51.
It has combined a period building with a glass addition, heralding the latest in contemporary design and luxury.
Given the perilous state of the oil and gas sector in the North East it may not seem like the ideal time to be expanding and recruiting staff, but General Manager Peter Walker says the hotel made the decision not to rely too heavily on the oil and gas sector as long as six years ago and investing in the hotel will ultimately boost the local economy. “People have asked why we might do something of this level when things are so gloomy in the city,” he says. “But we were always committed to this project and we have deliberately produced something at Meldrum House that will attract people to Aberdeenshire and help improve the local economy.
“We’ve recruited almost 20 new members of staff, giving a boost to the local jobs market.”
The jewel in the new development, which was carried out with consultation with Historic Scotland, is the new 200 seater ballroom. While Meldrum House was already a favorite destination for weddings, the addition of the ballroom future proofs the hotel’s wedding business, says Peter Walker. “Where once was a marquee there is now a grand ballroom. The ballroom also opens us up to other events. Conferences aren’t keen on marquees and neither are some events in the winter.
“Historically all our bedrooms were sold to wedding guests which meant if you were golfing and wanted to come here at the weekend there wasn’t always enough rooms. It’s also opened us up to corporate whisky work as we can accommodate bigger groups of visitors.”
Flexibility has been handed to them in spades thanks to the new development. “Because we’ve increased the number of rooms we increased the amount of public area space as well,” adds Peter. “We’ve doubled the size of the restaurant and tripled the size of the bar which now allows us much greater flexibility. And because the ballroom is self-sufficient with its own kitchen we now have a permanent restaurant which has just opened.
“It gives us two rooms we can use for private dining or a restaurant. Last weekend we had a group of 20 to celebrate a 60th birthday and they all had a private dinner. We also hosted a wedding and ran the restaurant at the same time. Two months ago we couldn’t have done that.”
One of the key factors in the success of this northern hideaway is the “personal touch”. Client relationships, says Walker, are as far from the faceless corporate world as you’ll get. “You speak to the decision makers and don’t rely on sales teams,” he says. “Much of the whisky business we get, for example, is through the personal relationships we have with key people in that industry. And the same follows for the wedding industry: the girls in the office have personal relationships with the brides and there’s confidence and trust in what we can deliver.”
That same close working relationship also applies to the whisky industry and golf tour operators. The new-look Meldrum House, complete with its increased availability, can now accommodate a wider variety of events.
“Historically, all our bedrooms were sold to wedding guests when we were hosting a wedding,” adds Walker. “That meant if you were golfing and wanted to stay here at the weekend there were not always enough rooms. We can now accommodate bigger groups of visitors.”
Meldrum House’s place in the conference market has also risen a notch or two thanks to the new development. “We always had a reasonably strong conference trade. Aberdeen may not be the prettiest place to be at the moment in the corporate trade but we now have the conference room in the Stables and within the new development we’ve built a boardroom and started to pick up bookings for discreet meetings. And with the ballroom we can take 200 theatre style in there. I think we’re very well placed.”
The new look Meldrum House now boasts a greater range of accommodation to suit every guest’s needs. Rooms in the traditional country manor house fuse traditional with contemporary, while the luxury Stables accommodation is contemporary Scottish.
Continuing the contemporary luxury theme, 18 of the 28 new rooms have floor-to-ceiling window offering guest stunning views across the golf course and Aberdeenshire countryside. The multi-award-winning hotel has also created a much larger Cave Bar, which dates back 800 years and will now be able to cater for casual diners.
Even before the development was complete, Meldrum House was generally regarded as one of the finest country house hotels in Scotland. Most notably, the hotel were winners of the prestigious AA Hotel of the Year for Scotland 2014/15 Award.
“This development is a perfect addition to Meldrum House,” adds CEO Andy Burgess. “It will double our bedroom capacity as well as giving us a banqueting suite that will be unrivalled for the area. With our world-class accommodation, coupled with the history of Meldrum House, we plan to market it to visitors all over the world as a luxury destination.”
Luxury may be the key word for Meldrum House and it’s perfectly placed for discerning guests, including discerning clients from the US, who want to indulge in a first-class meal, sample a rare whisky or play golf on their stunning 18-hole parkland course designed by Graeme Webster. Meldrum House is certainly luxury but it’s very much affordable luxury.