Welcome to the Dowans blog.
Welcome to the Dowans Blog. Here you can find out about life at the Dowans, what we have been up to and a little about our lives running a hotel in this beautiful part of Scotland.
- Deer ‘Stalking’
Are you coming to stay with us, have a long range lens on your camera and want to find out more about the natural habitat of this beautiful part of Scotland? At any time of the year, there is a wide range of wildlife to be found amongst the hills and glens of Speyside and we want to offer you the opportunity to experience it up close and personal with the added bonus of taking the photographic evidence home with you! If stalking deer (without a gun) sounds like your idea of fun then let us know and, depending on availability, you could be walking amongst the deer (and other wildlife) of Speyside!
For more information, please call us on +44 (0) 1340 871488 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Coverage in Whisky Magazine France
Great bit of coverage for the Spirit of Speyside Festival which takes place at the end of this month and the beginning of the next. A fantastic weekend which showcases some of the best that Speyside, a dynamic and exciting area, has to offer. If you haven’t booked your tickets or accommodation yet, what are you waiting for??
- Easter Weekend!
Dear one and all,
We are almost a quarter of the way through the year and we’re honestly wondering where the time has gone-mum and dad have told me that it’s an age thing but I’m not sure whether to believe that or not!
Either way, to help celebrate the fact that we’re very much in the midst of 2016, we’ve dramatically cut our rates for rooms over the Easter weekend (Thursday the 24th until Sunday the 27th) which, if we were you, we’d definitely take advantage of! Here are the details:
£140£120 (includes breakfast)
£160£140 (includes breakfast)
£190£160 (includes breakfast)
If you would like to take advantage of these amazing deals then give us a call on 01340 871488 or email us at email@example.com and quote ‘Easter Weekend Special Rates’.
If you can’t get away but would still like to join us on Easter Sunday then we are serving a two or three course meal from 12-8. Check out the menu here: http://www.dowanshotel.com/easter-sunday-2016/
We hope to see you at some point soon, whether over the Easter weekend or not!
Happy First Quarter of 2016!
- Mention in British GQ!
Excuse the quality of the photos but here’s a wee sneak-peek at the mention that we got in the most recent edition of British GQ, a classy magazine! Grab yourselves a copy to see the full article which includes some other great places to visit in the beautiful area of Speyside.
- Homes and Interiors Scotland Article December 2015
Recently, we were delighted to welcome Catherine Coyle from Homes and Interiors Scotland for a weekend. The fruits of her labour were published in the most recent edition of the publication and you can now read it here. Enjoy!
- Happy New Year!
Happy New Year to you and yours. We hope that 2016 is a successful, healthy and happy year for you all and we look forward to welcoming you back to the Dowans at some point soon. Below are a few things that are coming up over the next few weeks. Check them out and get yourself involved!
- Chivas ‘Art of Blending’ Tasting: Conducted by Matthew Cordiner, Chivas Regal Brand Ambassador, this event will take place on in The Still and looks to highlight some of the fantastic whiskies that go into making Chivas Regal a premium brand and allows guests to try their hand at making their own blend! Interesting, hands-on and great fun, come and join us for a night of good company and great chat! Tickets are available
- Highland Platter: Due to the success of this little gem, we’ll be continuing our Thursday night offer over the next few weeks. £60 for two people which includes prime cuts of meat from the area, vegetables and sweet potato chips with a bottle of red or white wine, we can’t think of a better way to get your weekend started! Call us to book a table on 01340 871488.
- Sunday Brunch: Available every Sunday from 12pm-3pm. Come and join us for a buffet, breakfast dishes or a traditional Sunday Roast. Kids are more than welcome (as they are at every meal time) and we’ll do all we can to make sure they enjoy their brunch as much as the adults do!
- New Market Menu: We benefit from some of the greatest produce that you can find in Scotland and, although we have always sought to use the best that we can get our hands on, our new Market Menu will seek to offer that produce in a much more refined manner with the emphasis on ‘special’. We’re having a great time trying out all of the new dishes so watch this space for the launch date and once it’s up and running, come in, give it a try and let us know what you think!
- Valentine’s Day: Think it’s too soon to think about Valentine’s? Unfortunately, that is what everyone thinks right up until the 13th of February (or the morning of the 14th??)! To book you and your special someone in for either the Saturday the 13th of February or the Sunday the 14th, please call us on 01340 871488 and as soon as we have our menu organised, we will send it over to you. For something a little extra special, why not book yourself in for the weekend? Information on our Valentine’s package will follow so watch this space!
You know where we are so get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01340 871488. See you all soon.
The Murrays and the rest of the team at the Dowans
- 3 Years On and Still Talking…
18th of December 2015…three years on and we (as a family) are still talking to each other. That, I would say, sometimes feels like it has been our biggest achievement over the past three years, especially when we have a ‘bad’ day: when we’re in the process of one of our stages of renovation and we come up against what feels like an insurmountable challenge; when we receive a TripAdvisor review, which can often be so very personal, and it leaves us wondering why we’re in this sometimes thankless business; or, when we receive a genuine complaint and realise that we aren’t quite at perfection yet…these situations occur in any business but, when it comes to a family venture, these inevitable hurdles often feel like a personal attack and it is then, unlike other businesses, when our family bond has to be at its strongest. We have to work through the issues, find the solutions that we believe will work and then learn the lesson and, most importantly, move on. Our continuing forward progression is often aided by a moment of taking the time to see each other and realise that we are in this for the same reason: to make the Dowans Hotel a stand out business in what is a beautiful part of the world. To create a place where people come to be treated like they’re part of our extended family; a place where service comes at the top of a long list of priorities and where, because you like what we offer, we will welcome you back time and time again with the same warm welcome so that you may experience the superior quality of produce that those who frequent our bars and restaurants have come to expect. It is not always an easy journey but, with a business that is nearly three times the size of the one that we bought in 2012, it is the numbers that most strongly demonstrate the success of what we have achieved thus far.
So what, you may ask, have we achieved in 2015? What has accounted for the continuing growth in this past year? At the forefront must be the mention of the completion of the ‘jigsaw puzzle’ which was the ground floor. With The Still, our aptly named whisky snug, embodying the final piece, we could finally show off the look and feel of the hotel as we wished it to be rather than the one that we inherited. Contemporary, rejuvenated and gently modernised, yet still maintaining the character of the 19th century Baronial mansion and respectful of the rich history of the building, the renovation project has created a space which welcomes those from all manner of background who have the common desire to share in something truly special – evidenced by the amount of ‘celebration’ parties that we welcome through our doors, knowing that at their biggest milestones, we will be there to ensure that everything will be as we would wish it be ourselves. And, that, has been the other central element of growth and expansion that we have seen over this past year because what can be a bigger milestone than a wedding celebration. Whether it has been as a meal before the ‘big day’, our accommodation acting as a base for the wedding party, a full in-house wedding or a small, intimate, wedding meal, we have become a focus of attention by both local and further afield couples who are looking for the perfect venue for their big day. Although we do not necessarily believe in the VIP categorisation of certain guests (all guests are the same in our eyes), our aim with those sharing their big day with us is to ensure that we will do all we can to make their day as individual and special as they wish it to be.
However, although extraordinarily important, weddings and big celebrations only happen occasionally. So it is those that travel to Speyside on a more regular basis in relation to ‘uisge beatha’ or the ‘water of life’ and all that its creation and consumption (!) entails that brings the most ‘people traffic’ to this area. The golden spirit attracts more than those who are intimately related to its conception, to the process of its transformation from ‘new make’ through to its bottling at the level of perfection that we have all come to love and appreciate; it also attracts those who have admired it from afar but who have never delved deeply into its brilliance previously. Therefore, with over half of Scotland’s distilleries in no less than a 12 mile radius, there is no better place to experience and learn everything that the whisky industry has to offer than here, in Speyside. Although we recognised this before our arrival in the area, and in fact it was one of our central reasons for buying the business, the completion of The Still (as mentioned above) this past June allowed our piece of the ‘pie’ to come finally to fruition. With personalised tastings, space for privately held whisky and other dinners, the ability to expand exponentially on our collection, an intimate space for quieter moments of contemplation and relaxation (hence, in part, the name) and an ability to pay homage to the most diverse of spirits, The Still really has become a source of interest all on its own and, in fact, an ‘attraction’ for those coming to the area. In May of this year, and at the ever expanding Spirit of Speyside Festival , our work with whisky led us to win the Best New Event at this year’s festival for our Whisky Cocktail Masterclass. With even more whisky, bourbon, blended, and grain whisky cocktails on our menu in The Still we hope to run the same event to the same, if not higher, level of success in next year’s festival so watch out for the publication of festival events at the beginning of next February and we will look forward to seeing you there or at one of our other events.
With The Still’s completion heralding the finished front of house project, our renovation attention moves to the remaining bedrooms which, although more than sufficient in what they offer currently, are not wholly representative of the style that the rest of the hotel has come to have. Over this past year, and indeed since we first took over, several of our rooms have been renovated with our first Junior Suite, named Macallan, completed at the beginning of this month. The largest of the rooms with a front facing view down over the stunning Spey Valley and the ‘Penny Bridge’ will not only be our signature room (until another Junior Suite joins it later next year), but will also offer a comfortable and indulgent base for those travelling in the area (on business or holiday) who are looking for a little extra luxury. It provides all of the ‘mod-cons’ for those that are looking for that ‘home away from home’ feeling but with the added extra of having our team on-hand to ensure that you have everything you could possibly need for the perfect holiday break or business trip. A bit of before and after:
So, what are our plans for this coming year? It’s definitely not ‘sleep more’ as we have far too much to do, as you would expect! As mentioned in brief above, renovations will continue to top the list of ‘things-to-do’ with another 6 rooms to complete including the finishing touches to each of the hallways in the separate wings which will bring to an end our renovation cycle. With all fingers crossed, we are hoping that we will be able to write about (in the past tense!) our progress in our ’round up’ at this time next year! The beginning of the year will see us finalising our list of events for the Spirit of Speyside Festival in May and also looking forward to the new addition to the festival which will occur in September, a great addition to an already fantastic event. The ‘other’ September Whisky Festival, run expertly by the team at the Whiskyshop Dufftown will be another key event on our calendar next year and, if it is anything like this past year then it will be yet another reason to book yourself a holiday to Speyside! In addition to the line up of ‘official’ events throughout 2016, we will also be hosting a couple of independent events of our own, including a Chivas Regal related event occurring in the first few weeks of the year so keep your eyes peeled for details of anything up and coming on our social media sites:
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of our ‘up and coming’ and yet I’m sure you are getting the idea that it is already lined up to be another busy year here for Team Dowans!
With that in mind, we better make sure that we get everything done that we need to in the rest of 2015! We’d like to take the opportunity to thank every person who has supported us throughout not only our last year here at the Dowans but also, throughout our last three years. It has been wonderful getting to know you all and we know that we would not continue to feel as strongly and passionately about the Dowans if it weren’t for the people who join us on our journey here. We also look forward to meeting new faces in 2016 and hope to add them to what feels like our ever expanding group of family and friends!
We wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas, a Happy New Year and all of the very best for 2016. And we look forward to seeing you all soon!
- Highland Platter for 2!
From this coming Thursday the 29th of October, we will be serving a Highland Platter to all of those who wish to have it plus a bottle of wine for two people for £60. The platter will include some of the area’s best game (rabbit, grouse, venison, partridge, pheasant-depending on availability) that is available to us and a few great cuts of Scotch Beef. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate some of the fantastic produce that we are spoiled by up here in Speyside. If you would like to be part of the celebration then give us a call on 01340 871488 to book a table for you and your fellow lover of all things meat!
- Afternoon Tea is Now Available!
Do you enjoy the lavish lifestyle, eating finger sandwiches and decadent little cakes and scones? If so, then our afternoon tea is the perfect option for you. With a large selection of home-made sandwiches, cakes, scones and other little treats, it is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. A selection of Taylors of Harrogate Teas and Coffee will perfectly compliment the food, however, to make it that little bit special, why not add a glass of champagne or one of our hugely popular cocktails and the day will be complete. At reasonable prices, it really is the best way to spend an afternoon or celebrate a special occasion: Traditional Afternoon Tea £19.50; Champagne Afternoon Tea £29.50 ; Cocktail Afternoon Tea £24.50 (all prices are per person and include your tea/coffee).
Now available every afternoon from 1 until 4, please feel free to contact us on 01340 871488 or at email@example.com for more details and to book a table for you and your nearest and dearest.
- Best New Event 2015!
Another Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival down and another year until the next. And what a fantastic one it was, showcasing some of the best that Speyside has to offer to those that love whisky, to those that are learning to love it and for those who came up to the area hoping to find something new to add to their calendar: there was definitely enough on offer for all with one of the largest offerings of events that the festival has seen. In recognition of this, a new award was created to determine which of the wide range on offer could be pointed to as ‘different’ and ‘fresh’. Judged by the International Festival Ambassadors, Jacqui and Frank Scott, five were put onto a shortlist for the nomination. We were very happy to find ourselves on that list for our Whisky Cocktail Masterclass: an event that we had been trying out on willing (!) guinea pigs for a couple of months prior and, although perhaps sacrilegious to some who declare themselves as purists, we knew that the concept of the whisky cocktail has been growing in popularity not only in the wider industry but also in our small part of the world! Quietly confident, we knew that regardless of a win, we really just wanted to make sure that the group who came to join us on the afternoon of the 1st of May would enjoy what we had to offer: a little bit of knowledge, tasting of four cocktails which we currently run on our own list, access to the bar in order to make them and free reign in order to create their own with the hopes of winning a coveted prize from Benromach Distillery, courtesy of Gordon & MacPhail.
With lots of laughs, quite a lot of spillage, some brilliant attempts at new cocktails from the individual teams, friendly banter and some ‘wild and exuberant’ photo taking sessions, Lauren and Steph certainly enjoyed themselves and with the declarations of ‘see you next year’ as our participants left, we definitely knew that regardless of anything else, we had provided an event that was different enough to get some attention but also enjoyable enough that those who were there were already signing their names up to the next session! So in the middle of the busy Sunday the 3rd of May service, it was with great surprise that we were told, via Twitter (the brilliance of technology!), that we had won the ‘Best New Event 2015’. I would like to say that the news was received with quiet acceptance but, as our guests who were with us on that evening will attest, Lauren was less than quiet in her declarations of ‘I won, I won’. We are still trying to deflate the ego!
Joking aside, we were amongst a group of events that were innovative, fresh and, if we hadn’t been working, would have been the ones that we would have chosen to attend. We feel very fortunate that out of these events, our attempt was recognised and for that, we thank Frank and Jacqui for joining us and the festival for creating an award that pushed all in the area to make this festival the best yet! We for one are already looking forward to next May but in the meantime, watch this space for information on September’s festival when we will be joining Mike and his team at the WhiskyShop in Dufftown for some brilliant events!