The Fife Arms hotel is a Victorian coaching inn situated within the magnificent Cairngorms National Park. The hotel is positioned at the heart of the historic village of Braemar, which attracts thousands of visitors to its annual Braemar Gathering. A passionate project conceived of by its owners Iwan and Manuela Wirth; The Fife Arms brings together Scottish heritage, craftsmanship and culture with world-class contemporary art and a strong sense of community. This brochure tells the story behind the restoration project, introduces you to the community, history, collections, commissions and residencies that contribute to this special place.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Built in the 19th century, The Fife Arms is a Braemar landmark and is a category B listed building. Its size is evidence of the popularity of Braemar in the wake of Queen Victoria’s visits, cemented in 1852 when Prince Albert purchased Balmoral for his Queen.
Her Majesty’s impact on culture is shown by the adoption of the term, Victoriana to reflect the tastes of the period; commonly used to refer to printed work, domestic and industrial objects, interior decoration and furniture.
The tradition of collecting to demonstrate global experiences of the world can be found in The Fife Arms where literature, elaborate carving, taxidermy, prints and paintings adorn the architecture, including a drawing of a stag by Queen Victoria herself!
When people hear the word Victorian, one thing that comes to mind is majestic Victorian architecture. The hotel displays many of the traditional architectural characteristics of the area with its timber bargeboards, pink and grey granite and multi-gabled principle 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 plans for the hotel by Alexander Marshall Mackenzie, who remodelled the original building, are held by the National Archive of Scotland. Mackenzie was an architect of national repute whose fame grew after royal patronage. He was responsible for the design of Crathie Kirk in 1893 and was subsequently chosen by the Duke and Duchess of Fife for the new Mar Lodge in 1895. Mackenzie was also the Architect for two prestigious projects in central London, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and Australia House.
Today, the same aspects that made Braemar strategically influential make it an important tourist destination. Braemar Castle provides a rich history, the bridge across the Clunie offers an exceptional view of the waters below and the games which originated for recruiting soldiers, have now become the world-famous Braemar Gathering and Highland Games. It is a short drive to Balmoral and the historic village of Ballater.
The Fife Arms contains over 16,000 antiques, artworks and curios including several site-specific works by world-renowned contemporary artists. We offer special art tours for our guests, which allow you to experience the world class art which can be found throughout the hotel, from Pablo Picasso, Lucian Freud, Gerhard Richter and Bruegel to site specific commissions from contemporary art stars and water colours by Queen Victoria and Prince Charles.
The Fife Arms has an in-house forager Natasha Lloyd, who is passionate about sharing her expert knowledge of the local plants and vegetation. Natasha leads tours of the surrounding areas, identifying, explaining and sharing the taste of plants that can be transformed into teas, tinctures, condiments or cosmetics. Both adults and children will love these guided walks.
From whisky distilleries to winter sports and the annual Royal Highland Games, Braemar has plenty of local attractions to keep you busy during your stay. The local whisky distillery is ‘Royal Lochnagar’ at Crathie by Balmoral Castle. Further afield you will find Speyside and Highland distilleries, both boutique and established. For novice or beginners, Glenshee is 3,504 ft of mountain winter adventure that beckons skiers and snowboarders alike. The Braemar Gathering takes place annually on the first weekend in September and welcomes thousands of visitors. It’s the only Highland Games with a Royal Patron, HM Queen Elizabeth II, who attends every year to see the best of the best toss the caber, battle it out in tug o’ war or perform the traditional Highland fling.
Surrounding the hotel and the village of Braemar is the extraordinary Cairngorms National Park. Visitors can walk out of the hotel and within 5 minutes be on walking trail which will lead you through historic forests of heather and Scot’s Pine before you emerge at the top to experience a panoramic view of the village and the Deeside valley below. Each season brings something new to see; autumn is the rutting season for stags where you can hear their roars across the hills; winter sees the native Ptarmigan change into their white camouflage while the Atlantic Salmon swim upstream along the River Dee; Spring brings promise of red squirrel dashing around the forest and with Summer comes the vibrant heather and its mix of pink and purple hues. There are many self-led trails requiring different degrees of stamina. Alternatively the hotel can arrange for a guide to lead you on various walks or hikes.
There are 40 Munros accessible from Braemar, from Ben MacDui to Beinn Bhareac, offering a wealth of hill walking. The network of local paths and tracks are suitable for all abilities, including Morrone Birkwood and Creag Choinnich. This is also the perfect opportunity to experience the wonderful native flora and fauna of Upper Deeside, including red squirrels, ptarmigan, osprey and red deer.