Pages

Monday, 27 April 2020

TGO Challenge 2019: DAY 10: Braemar & the Fife Arms


The Fife Arms has been a traditional watering hole for the TGO Challenge for nigh on forty years. I can recall over twenty years of wild parties, late night sessions (we were all residents, of course...)  and meeting all the characters of the Challenge within those hallowed portals. We all held the old girl in our hearts as a place of warmth and good cheer.

COMPLETELY BY CHANCE, A PICTURE OF THIS YEAR'S TEAM TAKEN IN 2013 IN THE FIFE ARMS

However, over those years she had become more and more worn out, with ownership passing from one coach company to another, each trying to wring as much cash out of the business with as little investment as possible or none at all. In short, if the hotel had been a family pet, the kindest thing would have to put it of of its misery with one last trip to the Vets.

Miraculously for a knackered Highland hotel a shining white knight came over the horizon in the form of a wealthy owner of an art gallery who fell in love with Braemar and the Fife Arms in particular and so once again the Fife had new owners but this time ones who wanted to breathe life into the hotel and the village.

After years of ripping out rock, structural alterations and extensive refurbishment, the Fife Arms had reopened this year. This was our first look. She was mightily impressive. We had tried to book a table for dinner yesterday evening in the Clunie Dining Room but had failed as it was completely full, which was hardly surprising as it was Saturday evening. As luck would have it they did have a table spare for Sunday lunch.

Phil and I snapped it up.

We heard that the Architect and Project Manager - local brothers Ben and Tom Addy - would be giving a talk this evening at the Village Hall about the design, project management and reconstruction of the Fife. Both Phil & I had spent a major part of our working lives in civils, design, project management & construction and so we immediately signed up for it.

Of course, this did mean that we would have to miss the annual gathering at Lochcallater Lodge, which we had missed for a couple of years previously due to our routes not going through Braemar. We did feel incredibly guilty about this but as we tucked in to a fabulous lunch our guilt melted away. We have no shame.

For those not familiar with the Fife Arms I've included some photos I've lifted from the Fife's Facebook pages so that you can get a flavour of the place.




THE FLYING STAG PUBLIC BAR



CLUNIE DINING ROOM


CLUNIE DINING ROOM



REAR LOUNGE AREA


THE DRAWING ROOM

Lunch was bloody wonderful. We were on holiday and so went for it. The food was beautiful and the service friendly and efficient. The wines were perfect. So much so that we retired to Elsa's Bar for coffee and then decided to go for cocktails. I know, I know...

ELSA'S BAR

The standard of fit-out and craftsmanship throughout the hotel is superb. For art lovers there's work from Lucian Freud, Bruegel (the Younger), Picasso, Martin Creed, Man Ray and a host of others. You could quite happily spend a few days inside the hotel, before venturing outside to explore the wonders of Deeside. 




THE HEIGHT OF FASHION IN LONDON, APPARENTLY.



ROBERT BURNS FIREPLACE

I've always believed that if you're having a bloody good time, there's absolutely no reason to stop. With this piece of life-guidance to the fore after several cocktails we decided to retire to the Drawing Room for Afternoon Tea. A cornucopia of cakey pleasures were presented, admired and accepted, with lashings of Earl Grey. The afternoon was an absolute delight, sat sitting, as were were, beautifully on our behinds, having our every need and foible attended to by wonderful staff.

I remember wondering if I could just manage one more wafer when Lord Elpus froze.

"Don't move, Al! He can't see us if we don't move."

He'd obviously been watching too much David Bloody Attenborough about lizards or some such nonsense because even though we had turned to stone, the apparition pressing its face to the outside of the window could definitely see us. He caught my eye.


LORD ELPUS, THOROUGHLY AT HOME

I waved the Gent inside to join us for tea. It was great to see Martin, and we generously shared the remains of our cakes and sandwiches. In truth, I could not possibly have squeezed in another crumb. 


You see, all this walking is all very well but you have to learn to enjoy the stopping as well. That's pretty important on a long walk as it adds colour, contrast and recuperation, ingredients often forgotten by those rabidly intent on getting to the next destination. I can thoroughly recommend the Fife Arms Hotel for all three. So much so that we had booked half board for our TGO Challenge the next year - 2020 - until it was cancelled by the gaping maw of Covid-19.

These are desperate times.

THE MAGNIFICENT MARTIN RYE, AT EASE.

At some point in the late afternoon we tumbled from the Fife to buy pies and whisky for the remainder of the walk. Phil was also desperate to visit the crackingly good Braemar Mountain Sports shop.

A quick shower and supper taken in the Flying Stag sent us on our way to the presentation in the Village Hall. It was well attended by seemingly the whole of the village. 

BEN & TOM ADDY


If you click on the link below you should be able to hear the two brothers describe how the project came about and what was entailed to turn an old lady on her last legs to a front line destination hotel. Well worth a listen!



I recall a few beers in the Fife on the way back to our B&B where Phil very proudly produced his latest purchase from the outdoor emporium. A new Afrika Korps cap.







8 comments:

  1. It was a grand day of gormandizing at the Fife - as the size of my belly demonstrates! 😋

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The belly that you see in that picture is just the way you're sitting, Sir.
      With all this lock down I'm currently 6kg over my starting weight for the Challenge...

      Delete
  2. Good to see your fulsome review of the new Fife. My good lady never liked going in the old place. There was always a problem with the temperature of the beer for her.It was either too cold or even colder. I suspect I could persuade her back in there now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As soon as the Fife reopens after the lock-down, go and sample the delights, Cedric. I promise you won't be disappointed.

      Delete
  3. "if you're having a bloody good time, there's absolutely no reason to stop"
    Consider that life guidance rule fully adopted! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. It must be pretty hard for you not doing the Challenge this year Alan. We would have been on our sixth week in the Highlands were it not for this awful virus. Still, next May will come around with rain wind and snow and we'll all be glad just to be out and about again. Keep safe.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Gibson
      I'm over it now, Sir, but when i realised it wasn't possible I was very disappointed - it will the first time I've not walked across Scotland n the Challenge for twenty five years.
      However, i couldn't have gone anyway - for had they lifted the lock-down rule for everyone I would still be stuck at home as I'm on a twelve week isolation because of my kidney transplant. By rights, about now I would be in the bar on the Caledonian Sleeper on my way to Inverness.

      Life, eh?
      Let's hope we're all still here at the end of all this, so we can once again tread wonderfully peaty soils with fresh Atlantic air rushing in from the Hebrides!

      Delete

Hi.
Because of spammers, I moderate all comments, so don't worry if your comment seems to have disappeared; It has been sent to me for approval. As soon as I see it, I'll deal with it straight away.
Thank you!