Friday, June 14, 2024
Friday, June 14, 2024
HomeEditor's PicksThe Fife Arms

The Fife Arms

The transformation of The Fife Arms in Braemar is now complete and the hotel has re-opened just in time for Christmas. This 19th-century Victorian coaching inn has been rewoven for the 21st century by owners, Iwan and Manuela Wirth, who bought the
hotel a couple of years ago and who also own Roth Bar & Grill and Durslade Farmhouse in Bruton at Hauser & Wirth Somerset; The Bull Inn at Hardway in Bruton and the Manuela Restaurant at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles.
They couple are also co-Presidents of Hauser & Wirth, founded in Zurich in 1992 and today admired as one of the world’s most important and influential galleries for modern and contemporary art. They also are founders of a new hospitality enterprise that combines love for art, culture, and food with a dedication to building community and fostering environmental sustainability which is exactly what they have done at The Fife Arms.
The transformation of The Fife Arms was inspired by the dramatic landscape, colourful stories and rich cultural connections of Braemar. It’s also a paradise for art lovers – in keeping with Iwan and Manuela Wirth’s decades-long dedication to modern and contemporary art as co-founders of the acclaimed global gallery Hauser & Wirth. As a result, more than 12,000 works of art, antiques, and objects have been thoughtfully integrated into its every room, corridor and corner. Each piece is placed not merely to provide visual pleasure but also to tell stories and enhance the experience of staying here and that includes some newly commissioned contemporary works.
The new look as also been driven by the owners’ passion for the heritage and craft of the region, and they brought together a cast of architects, designers, craftspeople and artists, many with deep ties to Scotland, with a similar ethos. The interiors are by Russell Sage Studio, bring a strong Scottish narrative with the use of specially designed tweed, tartan, hand-printed wall coverings, rare specimens of the natural world, obscure treasures and whimsical curios.
American artist, writer and naturalist James Prosek designed the hotel’s coat of arms and the logo for the public bar, now named The Flying Stag. These contributions are complemented by an array of mainly Scottish artworks collected for the hotel, from important paintings and drawings to prints, pamphlets, caricatures and a delicate watercolour of a stag’s head painted by Queen Victoria.
The new-look Fife Arms has 46 bedrooms, including suites, a restaurant overlooking the River Clunie, a cocktail bar, a Library, playroom, spa, village bar and garden.
When you enter the hotel you cannot miss the monumental 19th-century mahogany and pine chimneypiece which is over 3 metres tall. This tour de force, discovered at Montrave House, Fife, was carved by Gerrard Robinson (1834-1891) with depictions of various scenes from the work of Scottish lyricist and poet Robert Burns. It was restored by Tom Ironside, whose workshop is just 20 miles from the hotel.
The era-spanning spirit of The Fife Arms is perhaps best expressed by the contrast between two chandeliers made expressly for the hotel: one has been fashioned according to longstanding Scottish tradition from hundreds of magnificent antlers ethically sourced by Gareth Guy of The Horn Shop in Braemar, while the other has been created by Los Angeles-based American artist Richard Jackson, whose joyful interpretation this Scottish decorative classic is an assemblage of cast glass antlers lit from within.
It’s not just the public areas that have bespoke furnishing. Each bedroom and suite at The Fife Arms offers its own one-of-a-kind furnishings and décor, each one a homage to a place, person, event or activity integral to the life and legacy of Braemar. All of these stories have been meticulously researched with the help of consulting historians from Aberdeen University – and translated into design elements, to tell these local stories and share them with guests. The celebrated figures include Robert Louis Stevenson, who began to write Treasure Island whilst on holiday in Braemar, staying in a house a stone’s throw from the hotel and the poet Lord Byron who as a child, lived for a while at a farm just east of Ballater with his Scottish mother.
Moxon architects, based in Crathie and London, were the master planners of the refurbishment. No doubt it helped that the firm is headed by Ben Addy, who grew up in Aberdeenshire. As a result, it has been a careful, sensitive and craft restoration of the listed building, which includes sympathetic alterations to ensure the key areas of the hotel have been opened up, to give easier access to both locals and visitors.
This includes the restoration of the hotel’s original public bar, now re-named as The Flying Stag. This will be a place where the owners hope locals will rub elbows with visitors, at the oak bar hewn by Tom Addy,.During the hotel’s renovation, a number of other artists were invited to take up residence in Braemar and to immerse themselves in the local landscape and the community. Among them was Scottish luminary Alec Finlay, who was commissioned to create “Gathering,” a poetic guide to the Cairngorms that uses place-names and their underlying meanings to explain the landscape, ecology and lives that have been lived in the area. Words and lines taken from this book have been carved into the custom-made bed headboards in some of the guestrooms. They were designed by Alec Dinaldy and made by Briodie’s Timber. The doors too were made by hand by David Urquhart joinery. David made several hundred doors by hand, in his workshop – for the guest rooms and public areas. While Urquhart Stonemasonry in Aboyne restored the hotel’s portico, and repointed and laid the slate floor with local materials.
The Fife Arms spokesperson Lucinda Buxton says of the hotel, “has been reimagined to fill visitors with a sense of delight and discovery.” She is not wrong.

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