Typically you come to Scotland and have hopes and dreams of staying in a Castle. Unfortunately the ones we had in mind were fully booked, so we opted for the next best thing, a Scottish Stately home. And our experience at Hillhouse was exemplary. Built in 1780, the house belonged to the McKerrell family for over 300 years. The Thorneycroft family, the current owners purchased the house in 1903. Raj Gill along with her family had the pleasure of embracing Hillhouse’s rich history and modern luxuries.
The estate is the type of place you come to when you need to get away from all the pressures of city life. From the moment you arrive, you leave behind all your worries and enter a secret not so little hideaway. Hillhouse is set in expansive grounds and you could be forgiven to think that you are worlds away from civilization, whereas within ten minutes you could be in the next small village, and within twenty minutes you can be in Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow.
Hillhouse has a rich history and James Baird Thorneycroft put his personal stamp on it at the turn of the century, in 1906 he built the East Wing, which in turn doubled the size of the existing house. During the Second World War, the family split the property up into apartments and offered it up to evacuees from the city who were escaping the threat of being bombed out of their homes. After the war ended the estate was neglected and fell into a state of disrepair. In 2002, the family made the decision to rectify this sad state of affairs and carried out extensive renovations, which were completed in 2006.
There is something serene and inviting about Hillhouse. My family commented how they would definitely return and book it for some milestone, a big birthday, an anniversary and so on. For me I felt so at home here, I saw Hillhouse as a big comforting hug, and somewhere I would return if I felt happy or even bereft, as once you enter the grounds, a lovely sense of tranquility comes over you.
The Estate houses ten spacious bedrooms and suites between two sections of the house, the east wing and west wing. The rooms are individually styled, White Company linen is used throughout, marble baths and luxury bathroom products are also provided. There are six reception rooms, all of which are elegantly appointed with original artwork and furniture which has been collected by the family, since they inhabited the house. The Games Room was a big hit, with its American sized snooker table and board games in abundance, the children spent the majority of their time holed up here.
When it comes to dining, the options are, you self-cater in the spacious kitchen or you can hire the services of the in-house chef, who has an excellently equipped kitchen, with every mod-con imaginable. And I was lucky enough to get a sneaky peek and catch Head Chef Gordon whipping up a storm in the kitchen. He very graciously welcomed the intrusion and kindly took me through the dinner menu, talking me through the ingredients from farm to table. Prior to our visit we were given the option to discuss the menus and any culinary requirements we may have. I am pleased to say that Chef Gordon took all this into account and prepared a menu accordingly. And the food was outstanding as was the presentation.
It has to be said, my favorite room was without doubt the dining kitchen. At the heart is an aga cooker, and a very large kitchen island, perfect for hanging around for pre-dinner drinks. It is modern and decorated to a high standard. The night we had dinner cooked by Chef Gordon we were originally planning on having it in the formal dining room. After a discussion with Andrea (the General Manager) she agreed that she would switch it over to the dining table in the kitchen as that is where we were most comfortable. Last minute change was of no issue, and we enjoyed a relaxed evening of informal dining with delicious food, well prepared by the chef.
Hillhouse has attained Visit Scotland’s “Taste our Best” award, which recognizes consistently offered high quality food sourced locally. Thanks to being surrounded by grassy fields and local dairies, Hillhouse has an excellent supply of milk, butter and delicious local cheeses. Being located next to the coast ensures that they have the very best seafood. The staff work with local suppliers to source sustainably caught fish from the West coast and Scottish Islands.
While staying at Hillhouse you can also enjoy the services of the masseuse who has a massage room located on lower level of the House, ensuring that you can have a quick retreat to your room, should you wish to stay in your robe.
Local activities, golf, horse-riding, information about the coastal walks, can all be organised via Andrea, whose knowledge of the area and what is available is spot on.
So instead of being a typical tourist and heading straight to that Castle, think stately home and head to Hillhouse, you will not be disappointed.
Byline: Raj Gill