History of The Huntly Arms Hotel Aboyne
In 1432 a fortified wooden coaching inn was built by the Marquis of Huntley in Aboyne on the same site, which now serves the Huntly Arms Hotel. This makes this particular hotel arguably the oldest continuously occupied coaching inn in Scotland, which has stood on the same spot for more than 500 years. The inn was built to provide protection, refreshment, rest and a change of horses for riders and carriages on the route from the east coast, Aberdeen and Stonehaven, to Braemar and beyond.
Around 1770 the old wooden construction was replaced by a stone building enclosing the cobbled courtyard, which can still be seen today. The buildings and windows looked inwards to afford maximum security against marauding robbers and knaves. One entrance was from the River Dee, which was forded just below the bridge – later built – visible to the south of the hotel. Another entrance was through the protecting wall to the north, which can still be seen in outline although long since bricked up. This approach was protected by a guard with a blunderbuss, from an aperture above the arched entrance.
History was never far from the Huntley Arms. In 1715 during the first Jacobite uprising it is recorded that the Earl of Mar rested and conferred here on his way to raise the Standard at Braemar. The rebellion was doomed and it was not until 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie returned to Scotland that Jacobite voices were raised once again in the Huntly Arms Tavern.
Between 1700 and the early 19th century, many changes were made to the shape and buildings of the Huntley Arms. The then Marquis of Huntley (note the change of the spelling through the ages) took a personal interest in the development and commercial activities of the ‘inn at Aboyne’, but in the early 1800s left the management more and more in the hands of Alexander Sanderson who added the Baronial Hall section – the current function suite with bedrooms on two floors – to serve as his private quarters.
This is the southern wing, which protrudes into the garden.
It was around this time in 1850, that the Marquis of Huntley after accruing considerable gambling debts asked Alexander Sanderson to pay off his debts for him and agreed to compensate Sanderson by giving him the Huntley Arms Inn. This incredible folly is commemorated by the gazebo, or garden house, in the garden of the hotel which still shows the four suits or ‘hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs’ in its roof tiles. The flowerbeds shaped in the suits are visible adjacent to the gazebo. During this period, the hotel became known as the Huntly Arms, the ‘e’ having been dropped. This may have been due to the Marquis changing the spelling of his name.
Queen Victoria often rested at the Hotel on her way to Balmoral. She had her own private dining room in the area now occupied by the bedrooms at the top of the stairs. After dinner, the gentlemen would retire to the smoking room (the old bathroom and cupboard area), where they no doubt discussed the fishing and hunting prospect of the season over a glass of whisky.
In 1950, the Dinnie stained glass window was commissioned in Glasgow and four specialists worked on commemorating one of the greatest Scottish sportsmen, Donald Dinnie. Born on 8th July 1837 in Balnacraig, Aboyne, he won more than 11 000 prizes at Highland Games and other athletic meetings all over the world. This fine work of can still be admired in the Dinnie Lounge Bar.
By this time the Hotel had passed into the hands of Allied Hotels who, urged on by Gamic Clarke (Once a boo,ty boy in their Gloucester Hotel in Aberdeen), added the Deeside wing. However, over the years the premises faded from their former glory into a state of extreme disrepair and it was Gamic Clarke son, also called Gamn, who finally sold the hotel (greatly to his fathers chagrin) to enable the new Allied Hotel in Ayr to be roofed and completed. This was in 1969 and the new owner, Brendan Burns, an hotelier from Banchory faced an uphill struggle to repair and restore the ‘old lady of Aboyne’.
Brendan and his family realized that a massive injection of capital would be necessary to do justice to the Hotels reputation and decided to let a new generation of hoteliers and grapple with the banks. A London partnership grasped the nettle for three years but despaired as the deep recession of the early 1990’s destroyed their vision for the Huntly Arms.
Then in 1992 the Gunn and Ward families – Under the name of Euroscot – picked up the baton and assumed responsibility for returning the Huntly Arms to its premier position in Aboyne. The coffee shop was re opened and new bedrooms with en suite facilities added. All of the bedrooms now boasted colour televisions, coffee making facilities and comfortable furnishings. Modern restrooms were added for functions and the Grill Room restaurant was confidently promoted for excellent food in relaxed and informal surroundings.
Gradually standards were raised and the ‘old lady of Aboyne’ was lifting her head once more to proudly gaze down Royal Deeside and welcome, 500 years on, the weary traveler as she always has done. Following a brief ownership by Swallow Hotels, the Huntly Arms was then owned by Oxford Hotels and Inns. The hotel was further refurbished in 2005 to add a modern feel yet maintaining her wonderful traditional charm. And in 2012 the management was taken over by Bespoke Hotels.
We are happy to extend this welcome to you as you share in the atmosphere and history at the Huntly Arms. We are aware that in doing so we are but custodians of a long tradition, and that long after we are gone the Huntly Arms Hotel will continue to serve Royal Deeside and travellers from further afield.