Highland spring: escaping to an art hotel in the Cairngorms

Taxidermy, tartan walls and modern art give the revamped Fife Arms hotel, in Aberdeenshire, a shot of wild drama

One of the books artfully piled up on the coffee table in the German Emperor, our Victoriana-themed bedroom in the Fife Arms hotel in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, was a copy of Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain. The windows opposite our canopied bed looked directly on to Braemar Kirk and to the Cairngorms beyond. It’s here where Shepherd, the Scottish poet, novelist and hill-walker, had a “shanty” high on the edge of the Highlands mountain range, and would retreat to write and connect with nature.

You can do the same at the reinvented Fife Arms which, luxe and fantastical as it is, pays homage to the landscape, admittedly in unexpected ways. For instance, mounted twigs fashioned as antlers form a frieze around the walls of the reassuringly traditional Flying Stag, the hotel’s public bar. More than 500 stag antlers, sourced by the owner of the local horn shop, are locked together either side of the mounted stag over the bar. And as for the bar, it stocks more than 180 whiskies, including single malts from Royal Lochnagar, the distillery up the road from Balmoral.

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