Throughout our two-night stay at superstar tennis player Andy Murray’s five-star hotel, Cromlix, squally February weather puts paid to any hopes of a knockabout.
The seductively stately 15-room grey-stone Victorian country hotel, which sits in 34 secluded Perthshire acres, not far from the double Wimbledon champion’s home town of Dunblane, has a tennis court resplendent in Wimbledon purple.
But the closest we get is during a visit to the adjacent hotel chicken coup, where the alpha cockerel cock-a-doodle-doos so loudly my four-and-a-half-year-old daughter is forced to cover her ears.
Andy Murray pictured at Cromlix with his wife, Kim. The tennis superstar bought the hotel in 2013
Cromlix sits in 34 secluded Perthshire acres, not far from Andy Murray’s home town of Dunblane. The building extending outwards is the hotel’s private chapel
Ted writes: ‘The loudest noises tend to be the occasional clinking of an ice cube in a glass of whisky and the gentle creak of a floorboard as guests amble from one plush room to another.’ Pictured is one of the lounges
The boisterous meteorological conditions prompt us to hole up inside the hotel, a plan B we’re more than happy with.
Here the loudest noises tend to be the occasional clinking of an ice cube in a glass of whisky and the gentle creak of a floorboard as guests amble from one plush room to another.
The peace and quiet is broken by the aforementioned daughter screaming with delight as she explores our simply magnificent quarters – the Carnegie Suite.
Cromlix boasts two tennis courts – a small practice court and a full-size one (pictured). Both resplendent in Wimbledon purple
Ted and his family pay a visit to the hotel’s chickens, which help out with the supply of eggs for the restaurant
Ted and his family stay in the ‘magnificent’ Carnegie Suite (similar suite pictured), which has a bathroom that’s almost big enough for a game of tennis
The history of the Cromlix estate stretches back to at least the 15th century
Through her eyes it’s a hide-and-seek haven, through ours a sumptuous step-back-in-time Downtown Abbey-esque bolthole of our dreams.
There’s a 355-square-foot master bedroom, a 258-square-foot living room and a bathroom almost big enough for a game of tennis, featuring an oversized standalone copper bathtub, twin rain showers in a glass cubicle, each with an exotic waterfall setting, and twin basins.
The curtains in each room are decidedly deluxe, oil paintings of various noble-looking types line the walls and quirky antique furniture abounds – there’s a huge dressing mirror with extendable candle-holders and, I discover, a secret pull-out toilet seat in one of the wooden bedside cabinets (well, either that or a watermelon holder as one of my friends suggests after I send her a picture of it).
The predecessor to Cromlix was built by Captain Arthur Hay-Drummond, son of the Earl of Kinnoull, in 1874, but it burned down in 1878. The property was rebuilt in 1880, with the design replicated
Like antiquing? Then you’ll love Cromlix, where interesting old furniture is plentiful
This image shows Cromlix’s swanky lounge, where it’s possible to order from an almost-all-day menu
Chez Roux has an open kitchen, pictured, which serves dishes that are ‘consistently very good’ and that ‘occasionally verge on genius’
Dining highlights in Chez Roux (left) include venison loin with a ‘sensational’ red-wine sauce and a pear crumble souffle (right) that’s ‘Michelin-star-standard divine’
We busy ourselves with looking for secret passageways (it’s that kind of vibe), lounging around on the regal bed watching the TV – which is disguised as a mirror – playing billiards in the grand billiards room (complete with multiple stag heads) and exploring the hotel’s various lounge-y areas. And the chapel.
Yes, the hotel has its very own little church (used for weddings and events) – and the pipes for the organ are fully exposed on the staircase leading to our suite.
Very handy for bonus would-you-believe-it Instagram posts (and Toccata and Fugue wake-up calls).
Cromlix became a four-star hotel in 1981 and was bought by Andy Murray in 2013 for £1.8million, reopening after a huge refurb in 2014
During their stay, Ted and his family are quite happy to hole themselves up in Cromlix as Storm Eunice swirls outside. Pictured left and right is the reception area
CROMLIX – A POTTED HISTORY
The history of the Cromlix estate stretches back to at least the 15th century. There used to be a castle on the site, but that no longer remains, the hotel’s website reveals.
The estate was acquired in the early 15th century by Edmund Chisholm, whose son James became the Bishop of Dunblane in 1487.
The family named switched to Drummond by marriage in the late 16th century and became Hay-Drummond in 1739.
The predecessor to the hotel was built by Captain Arthur Hay-Drummond, son of the Earl of Kinnoull, in 1874, but it burned down in 1878.
Only the chapel survived, though it was badly damaged.
The house – known then as ‘Cromlix Cottage’ – was rebuilt using the original design in 1880, with an expanded version as it stands now completed in 1903.
It became a four-star hotel in 1981 and was bought by Andy Murray in 2013 for £1.8million, reopening after a huge refurb in 2014.
In the lounges we read the papers and sip tea, revelling in the hotel’s grand opulence as the outer edges of Storm Eunice agitate the plumage of the Cromlix estate trees.
Dinner is served in the three-AA-Rosette Chez Rouz restaurant and here, disappointingly, a few unforced errors occur.
Not in the food department, though. The dishes are consistently very good, occasionally verging on genius.
I have a put-down-the-cutlery-and-sigh-in-ecstasy moment upon tasting the sensational red-wine sauce served with the venison loin (£34), and the desserts on both evenings – a pear crumble souffle (£12.50) and chocolate fondant with peanut butter ice cream (£13.50) – are Michelin-star-standard divine.
The quality doesn’t drop one notch at lunch or breakfast, either, with celeriac soup at the former and the porridge and Eggs Benedict at the latter highly agreeable.
The restaurant’s décor and furniture pleases, too – eye-catching and luxurious yellow-and-blue-hued chairs and banquettes contrast with the noble interiors elsewhere, yet don’t clash. And the huge restaurant tables are perfect for dining with a joyfully messy little one.
The unforced errors come courtesy of the service, which at times is almost surreally hit and miss for a five-star hotel and for a restaurant overseen by no less than two-Michelin-starred Michel Roux Jr.
It’s not a behind-the-scenes association, either. The plates and napkin ties carry the Roux name and the waiting staff’s aprons carry the Roux name, written in unmissably large letters.
Yet on occasion the service lacks structure and is no more elevated than a run-of-the mill chain restaurant.
I write in my notes for the first dinner that ‘no one… offers us the wine list [I have to request it], offers us an aperitif [though the guests at the table next to us are], explains the menu, asks us what sort of wine we like, checks back on us, refills the water glasses or clears the table in a timely manner’.
In fact, we sit with our finished main course plates on the table for nearly 20 minutes and then a waitress clears them away, but leaves a sizeable, discarded lettuce leaf on my daughter’s placemat. She is about to depart when I sarcastically offer to put it in the bin for her. Then she picks it up (but leaves the butter wrappers on the table).
We have to ask for the dessert menus, too. And on the second night this pudding-hunting ritual is repeated, but is even more frustrating because despite the restaurant being less than half full, even waving our arms around at the waitress fails to get her attention.
Cromlix has its very own private chapel, pictured, which is available for weddings and private events
The picture on the left shows how the chapel’s organ pipes are in full view on the stairs leading to Ted’s suite. The picture on the right shows a secret wooden toilet that Ted discovers in one of the bedside cabinets in his suite
Small doubles at Cromlix start at £250 per night on a bed and full Scottish breakfast basis and based on two people sharing
And when we do finally get to order, my daughter’s ice cream dessert is completely forgotten.
What’s more, on both evenings at Chez Rouz, there’s little in the way of camaraderie or even the lightest chit-chat. Mainly, it’s ‘have you decided what you want’ at each menu stage, which is ok, but Chez Rouz and Cromlix aren’t billed as ‘ok’.
The sommelier is great, though. She’s perky, knowledgeable and reignites the embers of five-star restaurant service whenever she’s in attendance.
And no complaints are warranted at lunch in the lounge bar and at breakfast back in Chez Roux.
Double faults followed by aces.
Verdict? I’m keen to return and will bring a tennis racket next time just in case Sir Murray is there for a knockabout. And to wave around for a dessert menu…
Ted and his family are hosted by Cromlix, where a small double starts at £250 per room per night on a bed and full Scottish breakfast basis and based on two people sharing unless otherwise stated. Visit www.cromlix.com.
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Blacklane chauffeur service
Ted uses the superb Blacklane chauffeur service to transport him and his family to Euston station from his south London home. It has a brilliantly user-friendly booking system and operates in more than 200 cities around the world. Visit www.blacklane.com/en.