A Perthshire retreat
Ever since Bridget Jones enthused about the 'mini-break', I have been a convert. Beautiful countryside, roaring fires, tasty food, and a comfy bed make regular weekends away a very appealing prospect. Factor in limited stress over delays due to strikes or volcanic ash and a country sojourn can be as invigorating as a dip in the ocean. So if you too, like to escape the city, you can now add Knock Castle to your menu of desirable destinations.
Less than one hour from Edinburgh, 'Knock' is situated in stunning grounds; beautiful gardens and rolling Perthshire countryside. The hotel was acquired by The Henderson Group in 2007 and a 1.5 million pound refurbishment has ensured that all rooms and facilities are bang up to date. There is even a helicopter landing pad for jet setters who want to arrive in style.
We parked the car and were shown to the Lady MacBrayne suite; Knock Castle was once home to the shipping magnate and although the rooms have been modernised the suites still retain old world Scottish charm and sophistication.
After a nice cup of tea and some shortbread we headed straight for the rooftop Stag's View restaurant. The skies were blue with no sign of ominous ash and it was warm enough to sip a glass of wine on the outdoor terrace whilst drinking in the beautiful and ever changing panoramic views. A swim and a sauna was next on the 'to do' list and we indulged ourselves. A full range of beauty treatments are available and complimentary robes mean you can relax entirely for the duration if that is your wish. Note that no under 18's are allowed at Knock.
There are two restaurants, the Oak which exudes grandeur and the afore-mentioned Stag's View. The Oak serves a la carte and has an alcove for two which is very popular for marriage proposals. We ate in the rooftop restaurant and enjoyed the fixed price dinner menu for £30.
I started with beef Carpaccio with blue cheese cream and my partner had the prawns and smoked salmon salad. The salmon was good quality and my beef was very good. The blue cream cheese however was as uninspired as was the prawn salad.
Main courses lifted the bar considerably. My partner loved her oven-roasted breast of corn-fed chicken with thyme mash, creamed Savoy cabbage and parsnips. I had to agree; the chicken was succulent and delicious, the mash a revelation and the cabbage cooked perfectly to a lovely bright, al dente, green. She informed me that the parsnips were the best she had ever tasted but I didn't get a look in there. I had pan-seared fillet of sea bass with buttered new potatoes, sautéed spinach and char- gilled asparagus spears. The two seasonal veg were cooked to perfection (they are good with vegetables here) and the fish was equally tasting and moreish.
Desserts had a lot to live up to and didn't make the grade. I had a banana crème brulee with shortbread. The latter was chunky, home-made and very good but the brulee didn't have the required glassy topping. My friend had saffron poached pineapple and mango sorbet which was a slightly disappointing 'ok'. The bottle of Rioja from Riscal we drank with our meal was a joy (£33). I would have also liked some low-key, jazzy music in the restaurant. Having said all that it is worth reiterating that the views are priceless.
A good night's sleep in a four-poster and a hearty Scottish breakfast set us up nicely and we were on our way. The last word however, goes to the staff, all whom, were extremely friendly and welcoming and to the chef, general manager, owner and passionate Jason Henderson who has big plans for this delightful highland retreat.
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