The Atholl Palace Hotel is a magnificent edifice standing in its own extensive grounds and beautifully tended gardens at the south-east end of Pitlochry. The main A9 has long bypassed Pitlochry to the west, and for travellers on the road the distant views of the Atholl Palace Hotel set against the lower slopes of Ben Vrackie make it the most prominent landmark in the town, with the turrets on its south-east face making it look for all the world like a very large castle. You can read our dining review for Atholl Palace Hotel here.
The Atholl Palace was purpose built as a hotel and, in the guise of the Athole Hydropathic, was officially opened on 7 June 1878. It has remained in use as a hotel ever since, apart from the period of the two world wars, when it housed two schools relocated from more vulnerable parts of the UK. Today the story of the Atholl Palace is told in its own museum on the garden level of the hotel. In the early years of the current century the Atholl Palace was purchased by the Irish-based Castle Hotel Group, who provided the investment needed to turn back a long period of slow decline and restore the hotel to the magnificence - and the STB 4 Star grading - it deserves.
This magnificence is especially obvious in the public rooms on the ground floor of the hotel. A broad lobby lined with comfortable seating areas and open fires leads to the imposing main guest lounge, beyond which is the Verandah Restaurant, replete with magnificent views over the valley of the River Tummel. Another seat-lined corridor runs across the breadth of the hotel, and from here you can access the Bow Lounge, originally the ballroom, the atmospheric Stagshead Bar, or continue on through to the large Atholl Suite, a circular function room attached to the north-west side of the hotel capable of accommodating up to 300.
All 106 en-suite guest rooms at the Atholl Palace are accommodated within the original building. Most are spread over the upper three floors of the hotel and no two are exactly alike. The result is that the rooms are as individual as the guests, and many regular visitors have firm favourites. Both double and twin rooms are available, as well as some singles, and there are a number of family rooms and suites, offering a double and one or two single beds. There are also superior double and twin rooms offering the best of the views towards Ben Vrackie or over the Tummel Valley: though it has to be said that the hotel's dominant location in the landscape means that most rooms have good views. The two turret suites offer double bedrooms with an upper lounge occupying the top floor of each of the hotel's turrets. The Atholl Palace Hotel also offers self-catering accommodation in the grounds, either in purpose built modern lodges in the old walled garden, or in converted existing buildings on the estate, including the Gate Lodge and the Garden Cottage.
The setting and style of the hotel and the choice of accommodation make it a popular venue for a wide range of weddings, from 20 to 250 guests, and the hotel is also a popular choice for conferences, seminars and corporate events.
The Lavender Spa builds on the Atholl Palace's origins as a hydropathic hotel and offers a wide range of treatments and facilities. The latter include two swimming pools: one indoor and heated, the other outdoor and decidedly summer only! There is also a snooker room available, plus four all weather tennis courts, a putting green, and a pitch and putt course.
Disabled access at Atholl Palace is reasonably good. There is access to the level ground floor via the Stagshead Bar, plus disabled facilities, and the layout and sheer size of the public rooms make wheelchair use relatively straightforward. The Atholl Suite is also accessible. Lift access is possible to all main floors of the hotel, and several guest rooms are designed to ease access, while one, on the ground floor, as been specially adapted for use by disabled guests.
We had stayed at the Atholl Palace Hotel before the current owners took it over, so returned to undertake this review with considerable expectations, and a few fears. A huge amount of investment had been needed when we last visited, and that need had clearly been addressed. But would the hotel feel as comfortable and friendly as it had before? We needn't have worried. The magnificence has been put back into the Atholl Palace, but without losing anything which previously made a visit such an enjoyable experience. You can read our dining review for Atholl Palace Hotel here.