Morag Bootland gets back to nature with a relaxing stay at Rufflets Hotel, St Andrews.
SCOTLAND is experiencing the little known phenomenon that I’m told is known as ‘summer’. So, when the opportunity to head to St Andrews arose I was over the Queensferry Crossing before you could say ‘seaside’.
The reason for my visit to Rufflets, a gorgeous family-owned country house hotel in lush countryside just outside the university town was to be found in the garden. The hotel’s head gardener is Logie Cassells and I was here to chat with him about the hops that he is growing at Rufflets. But for more on that fascinating story you’ll need to keep an eye on upcoming print editions of Scottish Field.
The gardens at Rufflets are unique in being the only place where hops have been successfully grown in Scotland, but the ten acres have lots more to explore besides. Alongside the hops in the kitchen garden there are fruit trees, herbs, honey berries, bee hives and hens, which provide the tasty organic eggs that I would enjoy the next morning.
Directly in front of the hotel the formal gardens are pristine with areas of lawn intersected by paved paths and punctuated by round lavender beds. They give way into a shady woodland area with a meandering burn and a giant swing that’s sure to be heaven for brides and grooms or anyone with a penchant for Instagram.
The hotel will celebrate its centenary next year and a special garden project will be unveiled in celebration of this.
Dinner is a relaxed affair in the restaurant with views over the gardens. I sip on a chilled Futtles green hop ale, made locally using hops grown right here, and enjoy the rich mushroom ramen amuse bouche that precedes my starter. Having spent much of the afternoon in the garden I couldn’t resist the Rufflets’ Vegetable Garden, a mix of raw, cooked and pickled veg with seeds and rye, all served in a mini plant pot and garnished with a flourish of edible flowers. It’s light and refreshing and perfect with the ale on a summer’s evening.
The menu is succinct and each dish is shown with a recommended wine pairing that can be ordered by the glass. The restaurant staff are friendly and attentive helping the meal to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The main event is a huge helping of steamed sole, with a sea trout mousse, brassicas, tomato and a lobster sauce. The latter is the flavoursome star of the show and only manners prevented me from scooping it up with a spoon. The fish was cooked nicely and the roasted cauliflower perfectly charred.
Taking my time I decide to try out the dark chocolate and beetroot fondant with an orange sorbet. Melting in the middle the pud is warm and unctuous with the sorbet adding a zing of freshness to counteract the rich chocolate.
The morning brings breakfast and those aforementioned hens have really excelled themselves. The Eggs Florentine with spinach grown in the garden lives up to all of my expectations and sets me up nicely for a drive into St Andrews and on down the coast taking in some of the pretty fishing villages of the East Neuk.
As well as the main hotel there is a self catering lodge here, and plans are afoot to add a glamping offering allowing guests to get even closer to nature. I take another brief stroll around those amazing gardens before I depart, wondering if there would be anywhere better to spend a summer’s day.
Strathkinness Low Road
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