Since this review was written, the Hilton Dunkeld House Hotel has become the Dunkeld House Hotel. As a result, what follows is now out of date. The contact information on this page has been updated to reflect the change of identity and ownership of the hotel, but the rest of the review remains as it was. It will be rewritten following a revisit, which is planned to take place once refurbishment work is complete.
The Hilton Dunkeld House Hotel is one of Perthshire's best kept secrets. An attractive country house in a wonderful setting has been sympathetically extended over the years to offer 98 guest rooms plus a number of self-contained lodges within the extensive grounds. Add in a wide range of leisure activities including a swimming pool and a gym, four star standards of accommodation, and excellent service from all those you meet, and it is perhaps no surprise that so many of those staying when we visited seemed to be returning guests. You can read our dining review for Hilton Dunkeld House here.
The irony (and for some an added attraction) is that unless you know it is here, it is very easy to overlook the very existence of the Hilton Dunkeld House Hotel. It stands close to the north-east bank of the River Tay within its own 280 acre estate, immediately to the west of the attractive village of Dunkeld. Actually, "immediately to the west" is a little misleading. The arched gateway to the drive stands at the northern end of the village, and from here it is a mile to the hotel itself. En route you realise that Dunkeld Cathedral is effectively set within an enclave that cuts a corner out of the estate, something that has been used to good advantage by a number of brides planning their weddings.
Dunkeld House was built between 1898 and 1900 for the 7th Duke of Atholl. It replaced an older Dunkeld House built much nearer the cathedral in 1676, and the new house was built with stone taken from a grand, but unfinished, palace started by the 4th Duke of Atholl in 1828 and demolished in 1899, again near the cathedral. The "new" Dunkeld House also recycled features such as fireplaces and wooden carvings from the staircases of the 1676 house. Dunkeld House became a hotel quite early in its life and, apart from a spell as a girls' school during the Second World War, it has remained one ever since.
You will probably enter the hotel via the entrance facing the car park, in a corner of the original part of the house. This leads through to the the cosy reception area. Beyond this is the main hall, complete with its impressively grand staircase. There are a number of lounges available, and it becomes immediately obvious that this is not somewhere that has any shortage of areas in which you can sit and relax.
Beyond the hall is the Garden Bar, offering a very comfortable lounge area, and this leads through to the Garden Restaurant, the hotel's main dining room. At the far end of the south frontage of the hotel is the Riverside Room, offering accommodation for functions of various kinds, both commercial and matrimonial, and a little removed from the corner of the hotel, during summer, is a marqee which can offer additional space for larger functions.
Guest rooms at Dunkeld House come in different flavours and standards. The original house and the later extension offer a choice between traditional and more contemporary finishes, while it is also possible to choose between "guest rooms", "deluxe rooms" and "suites". All come with all the fixtures ad fittings you would expect from a 4 star hotel, with steps in grading coming with more space and a slightly wider range of facilities. It is worth knowing that family rooms are also available.
Disabled guests are well catered for. Convenient parking and ramps combine with level access around the ground floor, lifts between floors, and specially adapted rooms to ensure an excellent level of accessibility.
Some of the sporting heritage of Dunkeld House is obvious from the estate's river frontage, and the hotel has its own ghillie and fishing beats. The tennis courts and putting greens in the area close to the hotel are also obvious, as is the well equipped health club and spa, but a range of other activities from 4x4 driving to clay pigeon shooting is also available. Or you can simply follow one of the paths through the estate or along the river and enjoy this magnificent slice of highland Perthshire.
We tend to think of Hilton hotels as focusing largely on the needs of the business traveller, and it is fascinating to find one that is very much driven by the demands of the leisure market. The result is a very different sort of Hilton, albeit one that still maintains the standards guests would expect from the company in any corner of the globe. We were particularly impressed by being explicitly asked, on checking out, whether there was any aspect of our stay that was less good than it could have been: something we are surprised is not done more widely. You can read our dining review for Hilton Dunkeld House here.