Play any word association game and Balmoral is bound to conjure up thoughts of royalty, splendor and luxury accommodation.
And as I just found out, putting “Arms” at the end has exactly the same effect.
Our stay in five star hotel Balmoral weapons in Ballater proved fit for a queen and a king – with our own royal cachet throne as an encore.
There’s no escaping the hotel’s royal connections, which range from the subtle to the obvious.
Let’s start with the obvious connections: Located on Victoria Road in Ballater, which is as good as it gets for a hotel called the Balmoral.
Unknown associations include the naming of one of the Birkhall suites and restaurant in 1852. Birkhall was of course where King Charles resided at the Balmoral estate, while Prince Albert bought Balmoral Castle for Queen Victoria in 1852.
You’d think this is a cynical tourist trap designed to lure unsuspecting Americans roaming Royal Deeside in search of their inner, blue-blooded selves.
But it is not. A traditional Scottish inn with all the hallmarks of serious modernization, the Balmoral Arms offers everyone a warm welcome.
Part of the prestigious Crerar Group, the hotel is ideally located for visiting Balmoral Castle and the surrounding countryside.
There is much more to do and explore nearby. Ballater is an excellent base for skiing at Glenshee or the Lecht, a refreshing hill walk in and around the valleys, the town’s 18 hole golf club, salmon fishing in lakes and rivers within throwing distance and even mountain biking or cycling.
If that seems too strenuous for you at the beginning of a relaxing holiday, you can always follow my example and use the hotel’s relaxed option.
After checking in with my husband George and his pooch Barney, I was whisked away for a relaxing Ishga facial — one of the hotel’s many spa treatments.
It was such a calming experience just lying there and imagining that I was on the beach with the sea lapping at my feet. However, that may have been due to the invigorating Hebridean seaweed I used for my facial.
ROOMS at the Balmoral Arms are available from £219 per night on a bed and breakfast basis. There is currently a “Stay Longer & Save” offer with 25 percent discount for stays of seven nights or more, 20 percent discount for three to six nights and 15 percent discount for two nights. See crerarhotels.com/hotel-deals
Prompted by my pampering, it was time to give our suite a thorough inspection. The spaciousness is not nearly enough – that was unimaginable.
The luxurious River Dee room somehow housed a huge bed, a sofa, a desk, a table, a large stand with a Nespresso coffee machine, a huge walk-in closet and still had enough carpet on display to make it look palatial .
This was a perfect airy space for two adults and a dog to sit back and relax in.
And in keeping with the theme, there was a Victorian-style freestanding bath that took pride of place in a spacious bathroom stocked with all the little luxuries you need to raise the bar on any stay.
We finally left our comfort zone and took Barney for a riverside stroll in and around Ballater before returning to the hotel’s Ghillies Bar for dinner.
This is a truly dog-friendly place to eat, with blankets, bowls, and treats all laid out around the restaurant, and the attentive staff caters to the needs of owners and pets alike.
There was an extensive menu – which of course included Balmoral chicken – and before long we were enjoying a delicious Beef Wellington.
After a restful night’s sleep in the River Dee suite, it was time to sleep again – this time with a hearty cooked-to-order breakfast.
It prepared us perfectly to get out and explore a part of the country that we look forward to returning to. Royal Deeside? For us more like Royal Gleeside.
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