Note: Since publishing this article, I have been advised by Castelton House that they have addressed several of the issues raised.
Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of country house hotels. I enjoy the luxury of a really good room that’s just a footstep away from an excellent dinner, and previous visits to wonderful places like Kinnaird and The Summer Isles hotel have formed part of an occasional series here on wine-pages. I was delighted to turn up a new name for me, Castleton House, which I booked for a family celebration.
Castleton House is a small, country house hotel with just six bedrooms and a restaurant currently rated with three rosettes from the AA. I was not put off by the prospect of £200 per night bed and breakfast for a “beautiful and spacious” room, plus dinner at £70 for two. The claims it made on its website for quality and luxury were reassuring.
However, when I joined a party of six for a night at Castleton House, my disappointment extended to almost every area of the operation.
I was upgraded to a superior room that should have cost £220 (in 2008). The room was reasonably large, but had no seating area or particularly “spacious” feel, and décor that included torn silk lampshades, paper peeling around light switches, an old-fashioned portable television offering four channels and a 1980’s pale blue bathroom suite with a weak over-bath shower. The owners have clearly invested in some of the finer details that they hope will say “luxury”, like good quality bed linens and thick, fluffy towels, but the rooms simply do not deserve a £200 – £220 price tag.
Unfortunately my disappointment with this hotel didn’t stop there: before dinner we ordered a bottle of Champagne, and were brought a tray containing old-fashioned coupes, already filled with wine. The glasses were horrible, but being denied the chance to taste the wine before it was served raised a big warning flag about what was to come.
The dining room too was a shock – a pleasant conservatory, but with wooden tables painted a lurid green, with large red spots.Quite extraordinary for expensive “fine dining,” but then so were the small and particularly unattractive wine glasses that looked like something form a pub circa 1975. The food? Well it was actually quite good, though not 3 rosette standard. An unusual “cassoulet terrine” was a highlight, a thick and dense slice of duck and pork meat, liberally studded with haricot beans. My fillet of beef was well cooked, but somehow lacked flavour, and the dauphinoise potatoes were undercooked.
To be honest, not much could redeem this experience, but at least the cooked breakfast was excellent, with very good quality juices and coffee. The hotel’s grounds, whilst unspectacular, provide another high point: a small menagerie of ducks, chickens, and incredibly cute and friendly Tamworth pigs. The kitchen staff happily provided a bag of apple chunks which the Tamworth’s accepted with gusto.
I intensely dislike ‘hatchet jobs’ on any honest restaurant or hotel operation, but there was just so much wrong with Castleton House that my overriding impression after settling a £350 bill for one night, was of a hotel with ambition, but one which should set its prices accordingly until it can actually deliver.
Angus DD8 1SJ
Tel: 01307 840 340