When stunning accommodation and an amazing vista collide
When Whisky Corner went to Speyside, we were incredibly lucky to stay at Balneden Steading (@balneden), on the Glenlivet Estate.
We stayed in the Grain Store, and as you can see from the photographs the building and the location was quite simply stunning, and trust me, it’s even more spectacular when you are seeing it for yourself.
The first records of Balneden being used as a farm date back to the 18th century. In those days the hill upon which Balneden stands was a thriving local market. The market remained on the till for many years until a ferocious argument over cheese (of all things)! This resulted in the market being moved to nearby Tomintoul. The house was passed down through generations of framers until it was abandoned in 1946 and remained unoccupied until the mid-1990’s
About the Owners
Richard and Anita, along with their children Charlie and Ruby, had been regular visitors to the area, and on one of their trips, on the way back to Manchester, they had what they describe as an “I have a dream” moment and the following Monday they put their home on the market!
They viewed 7 properties before visiting Balneden Steading, which was near a state of collapse, but blown away by the view, they took a chance, and after gaining planning consent they started building in 2008 with the first guests visiting in May 2010.
Booking was particularly easy, Anita was helpful and nothing was too much trouble. The welcome pack, with comprehensive directions (trust me you will need these) were very useful, and I would absolutely recommend following Anita’s advice and book a food shop to be delivered to the estate. It really isn’t until you arrive, or try to go somewhere, you realise just how remote you are.
After an interesting drive, with a very interesting hill, we arrived. What a view, sheep and fields as far as the eye can see. Incredibly peaceful. You need to be prepared to get your hands somewhat dirty, you must open and, more importantly, close the farm gates behind you.
The Grain Store itself is very modern yet sympathetic to its location. There is laminate flooring throughout. There is a wood burning stove located in front of the large window gable end. There is also underfloor heating throughout. Richard and Anita think of everything and there is a basket full of firewood, firelighters and matches. Even if you didn’t need to use the fire, you would still want to. There’s something special about curling up in front of the fire, staring at the stunning vista, whilst sipping a dram.
The comprehensive welcome book gives you all the information you could need, with lots of interesting history coupled with practical advice, places to go, to eat, and how all the electrical items worked.
The kitchen is modern and has all that you could require. It’s large, open plan, there are pots, pans and cleaning products, an ample sized fridge and even a dish washer. The lounge itself is stunning, spacious and with ample comfortable seating, a large TV with built in DVD player and a freeview box.
As you can see from the pictures the welcome basket was incredibly thoughtful and well stocked, the whisky was a particularly welcome find.
The bedrooms were spacious and beautifully decorated. The beds are comfortable and luxurious and there is ample space in the wardrobes and cupboards. We had the second bedroom set up for three beds, all comfortable and beautifully presented, and even with the three beds there was still ample space to move about.
The master bedroom is very spacious and is light and airy. The bed was large and comfortable, with huge amounts of pillows that will appeal massively to us ladies, Stewart however just threw his on to the floor (boys!). I loved that there was a dressing table, complete with a stool, it was the perfect place to get ready for the Opening Dinner.
The large bathroom/wet room makes for easy and disable friendly
access and is stylish and modern, I would be lying if I said I hadn’t hoped for a large, roll top bath, but the shower is very practical.
Those of you with little ones, will find that there is plenty to keep them entertained. There is ample view for them to run about, they will surely be delighted to see the chickens, sheep and lambs close up, alongside rabbits and plenty of grouse. The children are even welcome to play on the Ruby and Charlie’s climbing frame set.
We really enjoyed our stay and could not recommend this enough. I would have to say it’s perfect if you just want to go and relax, to shut the world outside and just get back to basics. It is perfect for family time, for a break away as a couple or even for a bunch of friends looking for a nice holiday or even stags and hen, who want a classier send off.
One of its main draws (particularly for us) is that it’s part of the Speyside whisky region, and if you want to visit distilleries it’s a great place to stay. The only point I would really labour is that you definitely need a driver! When we visited Tomintoul, even though it was Festival season, there wasn’t a taxi to be found anywhere, and if you could get one to come out to you, they were coming from such a distance they wanted to charge you enough that you would be forgiven for thinking that you had bought a part share in the car!
That said, do not let that put you off, the location is stunning and largely undisturbed, and to get that you have to compromise. You can drive to any number of distilleries in under 30 minutes. Top tip alert: if you are the designated driver then take sample bottles with you and ask the distillery to put your samples into the bottles for later.
If you are looking for a friendly, family run self-catering accommodation, that manages to really achieve the perfect balance between modern and rustic, with jaw dropping scenery and somewhere to unwind then they really don’t come much better than this. We all enjoyed our stay and would happily go back again at a moment’s notice. In fact, our one complaint is that Stewart and I wished we could have spent more time in (we had a full schedule of Festival events) and really switched off.