Scotland has so much more to offer than its iconic capital city Edinburgh and vibrant Glasgow. Off the beaten path you can find some truly hidden gems. A fam trip / site inspection report. 

Areas and Regions in Scotland off the beaten path

At the end of April, I seized the opportunity to get a bit more familiar with a (for me) lesser-known region of Scotland. Typically, incentive trips and corporate events are held in and around Glasgow or Edinburgh. However, rising prices and limited availability, particularly in Scotland's capital city, are making it increasingly unattractive—especially for clients with restricted budgets and fixed travel dates. To provide my clients with excellent alternatives, it's crucial for me to personally experience the regions, locations, hotels, and activities I include in my incentive programmes. This hands-on knowledge ensures I meet my own high-quality standards and speak from genuine experience.

After a face-to-face meeting and insightful discussion with Wilfried Klöpping, der SchottlandBerater in Germany, I decided to explore several hotels and "Exclusive Use Venues" in Aberdeenshire, including Aberdeen and Royal Deeside. These areas appeared to be sufficiently large and capable of meeting the "usual requirements" for incentive trips at first glance.

From Edinburgh up to Aboyne - Day 1
My first stop took me directly from Edinburgh to the Douneside House Hotel in Aboyne, part of Luxury Scotland. The drive there along the Old Military Road (A93) was absolutely stunning, showcasing Scotland at its finest. If you enjoy winding roads, I highly recommend this route. We could take groups up there using either Land Rover 4x4 (self-driven or chauffeur-driven). Otherwise coach transfers would work fine as well.

Douneside House Hotel is truly remarkable. The 13 rooms are beautifully and lovingly decorated and equipped. The service and food are top-notch, and the location is fantastic. The extensive grounds allow for various team-building activities, and the on-site gym and pool provide opportunities for those looking to stay active. Additionally, the hotel offers several cottages that can also be rented. It was a fantastic start to my site inspection.

From Castles to Cities
The next day, I visited Kincardine Castle, an exclusive-use castle with 12 bedrooms, privately owned. I met the wonderful Rose, who took ample time to answer all my questions, show me every room, and we discussed various options that are suitable for corporate groups. In my opinion, the castle is an authentic experience with all its pros and potential cons. The rooms vary in size and decor, and not every room has its own bathroom, as it is an old castle built in the 1890s. This is something to be mindful of. However, the owners go above and beyond to make guests feel at home and ensure a memorable stay. The estate also offers numerous opportunities for outdoor activities, including fishing and even hunting. As a novice hunter myself, I found this particularly interesting.

My tour continued to the Chester Hotel, located in the heart of Aberdeen's West End. This modern city boutique hotel features 64 rooms and suites, all furnished in a contemporary style. The restaurant offers a delightful selection of scottish and locally sorced food, complemented by an impressive drinks menu. I was particularly surprised by the large ballroom, the "Granite Suite," which can accommodate up to 500 people for a reception and is in excellent condition following its 2019 renovation. Additionally, there are various smaller rooms and semi-private areas ideal for exclusive whisky tastings, a kilt fitting class, or private dinners.

More Castles & Cows  
The following day, I made a brief stop at the Aberdeenshire Highland Cattle Farm to see the iconic Scottish Highland cattle up close, before heading to the Ardoe House Hotel & Spa. Upon arrival, you're greeted by a charming castle facade with turrets made of typical granite stone. The grand entrance hall, with its elegant wood-paneled ceiling, is truly awe-inspiring. The 120 rooms, mostly located in the newer wing, are modern, spacious, and equipped with amenities like a Nespresso machine and a stocked minibar, typical of upscale hotels. With some time to spare that day, I spontaneously treated myself to a quick spa session. The therapists were very friendly and helpful, and the massage provided much-needed relaxation after all the driving. My stay was perfectly rounded off by the excellent food in the hotel restaurant and the friendly service. The hotel offers various meeting rooms, including a large ballroom that can accommodate up to 500 people, a pool, and extensive grounds for various team-building activities.

Fasque House

Final stop before heading back to Edinburgh
After breakfast the next morning, I headed back towards Edinburgh. I made one last stop at Fasque House, a rather large exclusive-use venue in the village of Fettercairn, which is also home to the small Fettercairn Whisky Distillery. Fasque House is a typical wedding venue with 19 uniquely decorated rooms. Not every room has an en-suite bathroom here either. The various public rooms offer ample space for drinks receptions, dinner events for up to 100 people, and cozy evenings in smaller groups. For small incentive groups, it’s a lovely location that offers many options and possibilities. However, I always like to remind my clients that venues such as castles and mansions are not hotels! Each room is unique in size and design. Additionally, there are no castle properties with 50+ rooms. Clients who value uniformity in room appearance, amenities, and size should reconsider choosing a mansion or castle and go for a hotel instead to avoid potential disappointments.

With that, my personal fam trip / site inspection came to an end, and I returned home with a bouquet of "new" hotels and venues for my clients. A thousand thanks to Wilfried, who made this possible in collaboration with his partners Luxury Scotland and VisitAberdeenshire!