The Fife Arms has reopened its doors, following a complete restoration project which has brought back the splendour of the former Victorian coaching inn and will once again establish it as a hotel for the Scottish highlands. Within the magnificent Cairngorms National Park, the hotel lies at the heart of the historic village of Braemar. It was officially opened by HRH Prince Charles, accompanied by Camilla, in their roles as Duke and Duchess of Rothesay.
Built in the 19th century, The Fife Arms is a large and highly distinctive part of the streetscape in Braemar. It dominates with its imposing scale and displays many of the traditional architectural characteristics of the area with its timber bargeboards, pink and grey granite, and its multi-gabled principal elevation. The building has retained all of its timber sash and case windows with their distinctive Arts and Crafts multi-paned upper sashes, and a large number of original chimney stacks. The building is evidence of the expansion of the tourist grade in Braemar in the wake of Queen Victoria’s visits and purchase of Balmoral, and the coming of the railway to the area.
Today, The Fife Arms is owned by Iwan and Manuela Wirth of internationally acclaimed art gallery Hauser & Wirth, and brings together Scottish heritage, craftsmanship and culture with world-class contemporary art and a strong sense of community. The interiors are by Russell Sage (whose famous past projects include The Zetter Townhouse and The Goring) and feature over 12,000 historic objects and artworks that have been collected over three years in order to tell some of the many stories associated with Braemar. The hotel’s 46 suites and bedrooms have all been individually designed with unique furnishings – each one a homage to place, person or event with links to the area, such as Robert Louis Stevenson, who began writing his classic novel Treasure Island in Braemar.
The Fife Arms offers several bars and restaurants including: The Clunie Dining Room with a focus on wood-fire cooking; The Flying Stag, the hotel’s re-named but much-loved traditional public bar; the elegant Drawing Room that will serve afternoon tea; and Elsa’s, a chic art-deco cocktail bar that is inspired by legendary fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who visited Braemar.
In keeping with the Wirth’s dedication to contemporary art, The Fife Arms features prominent works specially commissioned for the hotel from internationally renowned artists such as Zhang Enli, Guillermo Kuitca, Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher and Richard Jackson. James Prosek has designed the hotel’s striking coat of arms, which includes the Flying Stag after which the public bar is named. The reception, meanwhile, features a special Steinway piano that is a unique collaboration with American artist, Mark Bradford. These contributions are complemented by an outstanding array of (mainly) Scottish artworks collected for the hotel, from important paintings to prints, pamphlets and even a delicate watercolour of a stag’s head painted by HM Queen Victoria. During the hotel’s renovation, a number of other artists were invited to take up residence in Braemar and to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of its surroundings. Among them was Scottish luminary Alec Finlay, who was commissioned to create Gathering, a poetic guide to the Cairngorms. Words taken from this poem have been carved into the custom-made wooden bedheads in many of the guestrooms of The Fife Arms.
Moxon architects, based in Crathie and London, have overseen the refurbishment. Headed up by Ben Addy, who grew up in Aberdeenshire and is a Director of the Cairngorms Trust, Moxon has executed a careful restoration of the listed building. Araminta Campbell, who grew up in Royal Deeside, has designed the house tartan and tweed, used throughout the hotel. Chelsea Flower Show and RHS medallist, Jinny Blom, has remodelled the riverside garden, which overlooks the River Clunie and links the main hotel to the Spa, which will offer treatments inspired by the Scottish landscape.
The Fife Arms will delight and surprise visitors from around the world, while serving as the lively and welcoming home for Braemar locals that it has been for decades. In celebrating the picturesque charms of Scotland, the hotel encourages the writing of new stories – tales of adventure lived by both The Fife Arms’ neighbours and guests, from outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, to those simply seeking a charming and wonderful original place to stay….
For more information, visit www.thefifearms.com.