Being the proud owner of multiple, well-thumbed Jane Austen novels, and with a secret penchant for late 18th century living, the invite to visit and ‘make merry’ at Gilmerton House had me all aflutter.
An exclusive use country mansion, in prime East Lothian countryside, Gilmerton hosts private events, weddings, corporate incentives and garden parties within the house and surrounding 100 acres of garden grounds and woodland.
East Lothian, as a region, has undoubtedly been brought to life with some of the best golf courses Scotland has to offer and an array of attractions, which have put its beautiful landscape, well and truly, on the worldwide map, as a destination in its own right.
Being within striking distance of Scotland’s capital makes the prospect of visiting the area doubly attractive, yet with a sense of calm and tranquility, East Lothian boasts the best of all worlds for both tourists and the corporate market dreaming of escaping to an exclusive country retreat.
Gilmerton House, a Grade A Listed Georgian mansion is a luxurious rural escape, in prime East Lothian countryside and home to Sir David Kinloch, whose ancestors have lived here for the last twelve generations.
Despite, personally having more knowledge of the social history of the period than Georgian architecture, there is no denying the unmistakable Georgian lines of the impactful building and the joy of arriving along the sweeping driveway, from which Gilmerton emerges.
Reviving the building has been a long task for the family and one, which, I hope reaps reward for them, as the restoration project has been a great success, if this can be based on beauty, elegance and original features. The history is tangible throughout each room of the 5 star property. Boundless rooms; the sumptuously expansive, countered by cosy neuks and welcoming log fires, constantly burning and dispelling any preconceptions about an old drafty building; quite the opposite in fact, within these historical, yet invitingly homely, walls.
The presence of two butlers for the evening, was unsurprisingly fitting; they were to add an unobtrusive, highly practiced and hugely welcome service to our evening of period conviviality and offered a vital connection to the fabulous catering team, leaving no questions unanswered nor any wish unfulfilled.
Head butler Simeon, showed our guests to their rooms; the sweeping staircase, lined with family portraits and a glance into familial history; making way to the upper floors. The first floor was surprising in that it not only housed bedrooms but a very pretty drawing room with fabulous views of the manicured gardens and a wood paneled library, no doubt holding many secrets in its archival walls.
My elegant bedroom for the evening was a period delight, with views both of the manicured gardens to the side of the house and the driveway entrance to the front, which would afford me a fabulous vantage point, from which to watch my guests arrive. Exhibiting no less of the period charm as is present throughout the house, all ten of Gilmerton’s bedrooms rate highly on the luxurious accessories scale. Organic toiletries, including a very thoughtful addition of a matching perfume, grace the shelves of the expansive ensuite bathroom, a room in its own right with as much attention to detail within its décor as any of the other, more public rooms. The same fabulous views to the mature gardens and Pentland Hills beyond, are present from both the roll-top bath and walk-in shower, adding an extra dimension of luxury to any stay. The bathrooms, as fitting with the rest of the house, retain all the beautiful original features with the addition of some modern, contemporary luxuries, which are, after all, an expected presence in a 21st century 5 star property.
With all the ambience of a very grand, private house, the sound from the drawing room piano provided our call to dinner; but first, an intimate reception, with drinks and canapés, expertly catered by Hickory and served, grandiose style by Simeon and Duncan. As the bubbles were poured, pre-dinner conversation fell into an easy mood and although formalities reigned, this only heightened the experience, within which, all guests seemed to assume a role, in our very own period drama!
A formal call to dinner by Simeon gained everyone’s attention and his unwavering service ensured all guests were seated, at the quite beautifully perfect dining table, in advance of the commencement of dinner and the main event.
As relaxed conversation continued around our shared dining table, dinner was served. Our starter; a delicious Perthshire smoked salmon with citrus and horseradish cream; not only presented a picture perfect dish with fine brioche wafers and sprouting peas, but this work of art tasted of perfection itself and offered the ideal start to dinner, with expertly chosen, accompanying wines.
Hickory Foods is the award-winning catering and event specialist, based in Edinburgh, offering ‘contemporary catering for the connoisseur’ and regularly engaged for events at Gilmerton House.
Their desire as a company to create dishes, which shall live long in the memory of those who experience them, was evident through every course and not least of all in our main course: corn-fed chicken breast, stuffed with East Lothian mushrooms, spinach and cream cheese, wrapped in smoked bacon and served with a port wine reduction, spring onion mash and braised red cabbage. A mouthful indeed and every single element of this dish was evident in both the appearance and taste, reflecting Hickory’s passion and revealing just one of the reasons they are proud owners of several prestigious awards.
Bravo for the main event Hickory!
Local produce was a great feature in both dinner and the morning’s breakfast, during which Gilmerton’s own honey proved to be one of the many star attractions!
Back to dinner however, where a Scottish slant on our dessert was a fitting tribute in a Raspberry and Drambuie Tiramisu, vanilla mascarpone with coffee and almond biscuits, Scottish whisky liqueur and berries and finished with almond brittle wafers. Need I say more?
We finished our leisurely dinner with a selection of cheeses before retiring to the drawing room, where coffee and petits fours were served and samples of FIRKIN Gin, the new boutique gin, bottled, not far from Gilmerton, in Leith.
The evening was a huge success and after dinner conversation turned to excited chatter about what future events could be booked at Gilmerton – testimony indeed to a well executed, luxuriously catered evening.
Logs continued to burn; however a combined effort of fresh air, fabulous food and animated discussions conspired to slowly dwindle the company (a trifle disguised!) in favour of a massively comfortable bed.
So comfortable and silent was the night, that overly relaxed guests arrived to our breakfast table at a very leisurely pace – at least a handful commenting on “the most comfortable night’s sleep in a long time” – perhaps to do with busy lifestyles but most likely, the blissful beds and utter silence, surrounding our beautiful abode.
Breakfast was indeed, a resounding success (not only for the honey) – probably one of the best I have had (and there have been many) – of course utilising local produce and sourced with absolute care and consideration for the end product.
A more perfect occasion could not have been had; professionalism, attention to detail, a stunningly beautiful product and 5 star partners, worked in complete harmony for a smooth, luxurious and hugely enjoyable stay.
Gilmerton House shall linger in our minds as a most special, magical experience and shall have me swooning for some time to come.
With thanks to:
Gilmerton House. Athelstaneford, East Lothian www.gilmertonhouse.com
Hickory Food, Edinburgh & Aberdeen www.hickoryfood.co.uk
Rosset Bespoke Butlers, Glasgow www.rossetbespokebutlers.com
Tony Smith email@example.com
Firkin Gin, Edinburgh www.firkingin.co.uk
Intimation Creative Ltd, Edinburgh & Newcastle www.intimation.co.uk