Head of SWD Chris Phin visits 2017 VOWS Award winning venue Achnagairn Castle, and finds the team there as impressive as the venue itself.
I arrive late in the day to Achnagairn estate, finding the castle emerging from the evening gloom of a small wood like a secret.
I’m staying in the deluxe castle suite, a huge but welcoming room which anywhere else would be dominated by the four-poster, but here it’s the freestanding whirlpool bath in the corner that makes the place.
I know I’ll be getting into bed late, and I have to leave literally before dawn, but I don’t care: I’m setting a 5am alarm because I am not leaving without trying that bath.
Downstairs and “ via a beautiful, comfortable space with doors out into the gardens, the kind of place you can just picture a wedding party relaxing and chatting in “ into the vaulted ballroom.
It’s perfect, grand but not overwhelming, all wood and stone, and with space for as many as 260.
I can’t help but start to dress it in my head; candles, lush foliage, and¦ muted colours or a deep Autumnal palette? I can’t decide; nearly anything would work.
It was the food that drew us here for this visit to Achnagairn; head chef Euan Walker and sous-chef David Macdonald work closely with local suppliers (as well as using the freshest possible produce from Achnagairn Farm) to create truly glorious dishes, completely focused on flavour.
Loin of lamb with chickpeas, little gem and mustard seeds; sweetcorn panna cotta; halibut with salt-baked roots, fennel and sea spinach.
The other thing that makes a wedding at Achnagairn so special is that as well as being able to take over the castle completely for exclusive use, there are seven luxury lodges just 200 metres away to accommodate even bigger wedding parties (up to 130) “ or for deeply fabulous hen and stag parties.
Each of Achnagairn’s ˜Mini-Manors’ has a unique theme, so you can have fun matching guests to lodges!
And don’t forget to look out for Achnagairn’s brand new spa, coming very soon.
All this would mean nothing if the team at the castle were aloof or unhelpful, but they’re warm, lovely, and totally focussed on making your wedding perfect.
You don’t even have to take our word for it, either; they were recently named the best venue in Highlands & Islands in 2017’s VOWS Awards, and the whole point of VOWS is a focus on customer service.
The castle may feel like a secret, but it’s one we’re happy to share.
Check out our Green Room interview with owners Gillian and Mike…