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Murrayshall House Hotel & Golf Courses (Scotland)
Member Name: calypte
Murrayshall House Hotel & Golf Courses (Scotland)
Date: 25/05/08, updated on 25/05/08 (235 review reads)
Advantages: Gorgeous setting, lovely room
Disadvantages: The private dining, just not as posh as it tries to pretend
It's been seven years, and this is my first ever travel review! Largely because I just don't go away very often - and when I do, I'm usually heading for a friend's spare room. Occasionally, I do end up in a hotel for work, but so far these have been fairly bland, chain-types, and have left little impression on me. Last week, however, the chosen hotel didn't have enough room for our extended party of 18, and so we ended up at Murrayshall.
Now, from the above, you're free to infer that I don't really have vast experiences of hotels, so it's perhaps not a difficult task for Murrayshall to easily have been the most impressive hotel I've even been in! My scale of 'wow' is definitely not on the 5-star list, but I was still very pleased with the room, the setting, and... oh, let me just launch into the specifics!
The first negative wasn't so much about the hotel, but rather, the instructions for getting there - from google or multimap, I believe. Try AA Autoroute, but if you don't want to end up in Dundee (one of our convoy nearly did!) then don't believe all you read on the web! If you're in the Perth area, the best bet is to follow signs to Scone Palace - that'll put you roughly in the right area, at least.
After a few wrong turns thanks to our duff directions, finally spotting the Murrayshall sign was surprisingly easy. The positive impressions started immediately: the drive up is a long, winding affair, lined by absolutely gorgeous trees and a feeling of calmness. Reaching the car park, there's a double lovely view of the old building (see top of page) and an absolutely amazing sweep of Perthshire scenery - more on that later.
Going into the building reminded me more of old churches than anything - just, the mix of stone and wood, and the double set of doors and high ceilings. The reception area was a little on the small side for our gaggle and our luggage, so there was a bit of mayhem trying to get us all booked in with our reservations! I had to fill in a bit of paper with my name and home address details, and sign a further slip that would be used should I want to charge anything to my room (absolutely banned by our trip co-ordinator, of course! ;)). Then I was handed my key - a chunky, old-fashioned proper key! - and told to go back out of the building, turn left, then the second building on my right. Urm...!?
Murrayshall has had an extension, you see, so while half of our party disappeared off past reception down a somewhat dark corridor, or up the grand set of stairs, I headed back outside (thankfully we had lovely weather for the two days I was there!) to one of the newer lodges. These are two, two-storey Alpine-esque buildings, each with 6-8 rooms (I'd estimate) - or rather, 'junior suites'. The walk is really only a minute or so, but not knowing where I was going it was a bit daunting heading off from the main building! It's actually a rather pleasant walk, with trees and an unseen stream (down a very deep cleft, btw!) on one side, and the pretty lodges on the other. Each lodge has a mini front garden, and there is something very homely about wandering up with your front door key :)
Now, please don't laugh too much when I tell you my first split-second thought on opening my door was, "Where's the bed?!" Yes, homely little calypte has never had a full suite before LOL! So, on entering my lodge room, I was greeted by a very house-y sitting/dining room: large sofa and TV as you go in, dining table and mini cooking-area (sink, microwave, kettle, and cupboards with a minimum cutlery, etc selection) at the top end of the room. There are windows at both ends (although the one at the back of the room faced a grass embankment!), making the space very light, but also very un-private, given I had a ground floor room. There are curtains, but it was still a bit offputting, especially when you don't really want to shut of natural light while it's there.
The bedroom suffers a bit of the same problem, with a large window at the front. These curtains were closed instantly! The room was very spacious, with a large double bed (with hideous floral headboard!), built-in wardrobe, two bedside cabinets and a dressing table. Really, why you'd need *14* drawers in a hotel bedroom, I really don't know, but rest assured there was plenty of storage! There was also the ubiquitous Corby trouser press, which I didn't feel the need to even experiment with! Mainly, I give the room top marks for just feeling *clean*. This is the first time I've stayed in a hotel room, where I felt reasonably happy walking across the carpet in my bare feet!
The bathroom was also rather impressive, especially as I'd read a few negative comments on a travel review site. I didn't hear anything bad from my colleagues in the older rooms, but I think there is an obvious advantage in being in the newer lodge rooms, just in terms of 'freshness'. My ensuite was completely tiled in beige faux-marble, which looked fairly lush. It was again a very large room, with bath/shower (ooh, how I wanted to use that bath!), sink unit and toilet. The shower got a good trial: I arrived from our team-bonding day incredibly sweaty and dusty (trailing around fields doing team puzzles, would you believe!) and couldn't wait to be clean again! The temperature setting did take a couple of minutes to work out, and I would warn you that the shower does a funny stop-start thing when you touch the temperature dial.
Important point: there is a hairdryer in the room! Also pleased to report that it wasn't attached to anything (like the back of the drawer!) which is a problem I've had elsewhere, but rather just a basic, shop-bought version, with plenty of choice of electrical sockets, too.
*Some negative extras*
Overall, I was well impressed with the room, but while my expectations were pretty low, this still wasn't quite 5-star.
One complaint: the towel provision was very skimpy. My room came with one hand towel and one bath towel, which really was the bare minimum. I used the hand towel for my hair, and had to reuse slightly damp towels the following morning, after failing to make the towel heater work at all.
Another issue was the millipede I found crawling across the carpet (scratch the earlier bare feet comment, then!) after dinner. Now, I *might* have brought this in on my shoes, but I did notice that the front door had quite a sizable gap underneath it. While not really an issue in the summer, and with another door you can close off the bedroom, it still wasn't a great sign - and definitely something that would put me off a winter stay.
My biggest disappointment, however, was the food. I always scan menus on websites, and was reasonably looking forward to my choices, only to find we were on a restricted group/conference menu - which, even with 3 choices per course, was a struggle to pick from for this picky eater. I'm allergic to seafood, which ruled out a couple of options, and also meant that I was horrified when an unexpected 'amuse bouche' was brought in pre-starter - urm, no, don't you dare assume you can put raw fish in front of me! It was just a mouthful of something fishy, with a herb salad, but I didn't see too many impressed faces around me. Worse was the unexpectedness: one dining companion had ordered fish starter and main as it was, and would have liked a forewarning she'd be eating more!
The food I did eat was just a bit... pretentious. Matched by the waiters in their white gloves, and refusal to serve us the wine we wanted because it hadn't been chilled for a full 24 hours (!), the 'fine dining' image was shattered by the quality of the food. My main of gnocchi in red pesto was really gnocchi in... some oiliness. The chicken and fish options both looked better, but really - is "pomme puree" really so much better than saying potato? *That* kind of pretention: where the waiters are horrified if you try to get your own wine (well, you shouldn't have stopped pouring, mate!), and even more so if you want beer instead of wine - I don't drink the stuff, but even I know not to pour it into the glass like that! Oh, and it was the wrong beer, too!
Breakfast didn't go much better, with slow service and my order just being half-wrong. I'm not a fan of the 'full Scottish', and had asked if I was 'allowed' to pick some alternatives from the veggie menu. I did get my hash browns, but I'd asked for a boiled, not fried egg, and never requested bacon (which was greasy) at all! It took so long to arrive I couldn't be bothered complaining, either. At least the continental and other buffet options were good!
I wouldn't complain so much if there were alternatives, but the hotel didn't feel close enough to many other places to be practical, at least on so short a stay. Definitely points off. I suspect, however, that the food would improve vastly if you were dining in the main restaurant area, rather than with a large group in the private dining arrangements.
There's also a bar area (not a great deal of seating), and a 'lounge' that we took over for the night. The hotel really wasn't geared up to deal with a crowd of drunken work-escapees, though, and getting served past 11pm proved challenging!
*A wider view*
Complaints over, and I do think the positives outweigh the negatives. The room was nice, and the setting is absolutely gorgeous. The morning after our stay, we had a meeting in the conference room (the same room as we'd used for dinner the night before), but afterwards we just *had* to stroll around the grounds. Murrayshall is both a hotel and golf resort, meaning the surroundings are gorgeously open and green, and with a sprawling vista of countryside around that. Obviously it's not a good idea to wander across a golf course, and there is a problem in realising when you've left a path for the green, but there are route maps available from reception for suggested walks, of about an hour each. Definitely something I would have enjoyed if there was more time. Golfers also get reduced rates on the greens if they are staying in the hotel.
The conference facilities were adequate. We were in the smaller of the business rooms, but there are two larger conference rooms available (see website). Of course, there are only 41 rooms in the hotel, so our overnight team event couldn't really have been done on a bigger scale!
Talking of rooms, while I was impressed with my suite, most of the rooms (25/41) are more basic, and the few members of our group who ended up in those wouldn't have rated anything above 'adequate'.
It does seem that Murrayshall will cater for people with disabilities - one of my colleagues had an adapted room, with wider doors, handrails, and a low sink, for instance - but I wouldn't say it was ideal. The main entrance, for instance, requires navigation of two sets of heavy doors that I struggled with myself. The first set of lodge rooms should be acceptable, but the one I was staying in was reached via several sets of steps. And the impressive grounds would be of very limited accessibility to anyone in a wheelchair - you'd probably be limited to the car parking areas!
See the website (www.murrayshall.com) for all the details on pricing, etc. Prices vary depending on season and type of room, and there are deals available both on the website and to large business groups such as ourselves. I don't know how much we were charged, but our organiser told me she was impressed with the rates. However, booking myself in to the room I had would have cost £110, including a single person supplement of £25, which is too steep for my personal budget.
Despite several shortcomings, I would be happy enough to head back to Murrayshall should I ever require a stay in Scone/Perthshire - and as long as someone else was paying for it! The room was lovely - very homely and comfortable, and I think that has to be the main judgement criteria. Certainly I could picture a full week or fortnight in that room quite happily. The public areas of the hotel also looked very grand and quaint at the same time, which definitely had an appeal - although my last word: some of the old-style wallpaper was *hideous*! ;)
Summary: A nice room in a pretty hotel, shame about the extras
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