Minmore, House of Spirits in Cairngorms National Park
By Anita Draycott
For true Scottish hospitality and an unforgettable setting, I recommend a stay at Minmore House on the Glenlivet estate in Cairngorms National Park. This is the mythic heart of the Highlands with its majestic landscape of foreboding mountains carved by deep glacial valleys. It’s moody country: one minute the sun is flickering on hues of heather and tweed; the next minute the sky turns dark and somber.
Located a mere sand wedge from the Distillery, Minmore House was the family home of Glenlivet founder George Smith. Today, it is run by the Janssens. Minmore is my fantasy of the quintessential Scottish country house. A welcoming fire burned in the hearth in the foyer. In the panelled living room Jack Russell terriers Bella and Jock were curled up on the plush velvet sofa. An ornately carved oak bar tucked in the corner was crammed with more than one hundred bottles of the “water of life.”
Each of the ten bedroom suites is named after a Glenlivet single malt. My friend Margaret had the third-floor Tomintoul Suite, which afforded generous views of craggy hills and the field of long-horned Highland cattle across the road. I had the Glenlivet Suite with a canopied four-poster bed fit for royalty. Room amenities included miniature bottles of Glenlivet to tide us over until dinner—a candlelit affair consisting of a terrine of venison, duck and grouse with Cumberland sauce, prawn and mussel bisque, Aberdeen Angus filet topped with wild mushrooms and a Grand Marnier and passion fruit soufflé.
Joining fellow guests for a nightcap, we learned that the elderly gent from West Sussex spends about 100 days a year at Minmore. The Janssens treat him like family and he feels comfortable wearing his bedroom slippers to dinner after a long hike on the estate’s Smugglers’ Trails.
We also learned back in the 1824 when the Speyside area was full of illicit stills, George Smith was the first distiller to go legal—a brave move in a wild land full of tough hooch-making renegades. When the talk turned to Minmore’s ghost, rumoured to appear in the form of a Highland calf, we decided it was time to call it a night.