The Auld Alliance was a series of treaties between France and Scotland, operational between 1295 and 1560, as a means to counter English aggression. Notwithstanding the distant history of the formal alliance, there remain strong cultural ties between the two countries, which date back to these early days.
After centuries of culinary irrelevance, the influence of French gastronomy has finally found its way to Scotland. A host of talented and inventive young chefs are competing with their French counterparts, taking advantage of the extensive supply of superb quality natural ingredients from islands, the lochs, and the hills. Scotland is now firmly on the map as a culinary destination for all who enjoy good food while travelling through some spectacular scenery.
And nowhere is this culinary revolution more evident, than in a tiny village two hours north of Edinburgh, on the banks of the River Dee, by the name of Braemar. Here it is, that members of the British aristocracy come to see The Highland Games taking place in September each year. And were it not for the fact that Balmoral is just down the road, HRH would surely settle in for a night or two in the Royal Suite, at the recently re-opened boutique hotel, The Fife Arms. There are few hotels indeed, which can boast a Picasso in the drawing room, and a Lucien Freud in the reception, but that is beside the point. The excellence is in the hospitality, and originality of the gastronomy, which makes this country hideaway, a must stop on any European tour. www.thefifearms.com
Through the village runs a tributary of the River Dee, and within a few hundred metres is the Dee itself, with magnificent walking along its banks, and easy access to the surrounding hills. The hotel keeps a stock of wellies in a boot room for wet weather, but some stout walking boots are the best form of footwear.
What else to drink in the cocktail bar than a dram of Royal Lochnagar from the distillery down the road bearing the Royal Warrant. Well, one of us enjoyed the whisky, and the other, something from the hotel’s cocktail menu, created using herbs and edible plants foraged in the hills and distilled in the hotels own still.