Knock Castle: Princess for a Night

02 Aug 2009, Posted by Jennifer Iannolo in chefs & restaurants, travel

Every woman should feel like a princess once in a while. It makes the world a better place. After our long, winding journey south from the Scottish Highlands, we found ourselves on the lush grounds of a castle, and I felt right at home. (Shocking, I know.)

When I think of romantic, bucolic settings, Knock Castle in Crieff is what I picture in my mind’s eye. Aside from being an actual castle, which comprises a certain ancient mystique, there is a sense about the place of intimacy, respite and unpretentious welcome.

As I strolled through different parts of the grounds, I found myself conjuring up little stories — the romantic in me cannot resist when presented with such a canvas for creativity. In the lush gardens, I imagined lovers frolicking among the vivid blue of hydrangea, stealing into shady nooks for hidden kisses. The grass was so soft it felt like carpet beneath my feet, and I could picture many an afternoon spent picnicking on its inviting softness.

In the summer house, where we took afternoon tea, I pictured ladies awaiting their gents’ return from croquet, or perhaps a fox hunt. It was as if I stepped back in time and into the fairy tales in my head.

Note that I haven’t even gotten to the food yet. You’re already in love, aren’t you?

I also haven’t mentioned the rooms, private cinema, spa, incredible staff or chef/proprietor Jason Henderson.

Each room in the castle has a different theme, with most leaning more toward the masculine or feminine sides. Mum and I stayed in the Lady MacBrayne suite, which is the largest on the property, and the former suite of the Lady herself. (I am *so* high on the favorite child list right now.)

Our plush suite had a sitting room, two bathrooms (one with a spa tub), and a large bedroom. The sitting room has leather couches and a stained glass-framed bay window complete with seat to overlook the grounds.

Alas, I did not get a chance to experience the spa, which I think made me die a little bit inside, but this gives me a wonderful reason to go back. Now I just need to find a prince to come with me (feel free to leave your name and address in the comments section).

I did, however, get to spend some time in The Egg. Nanoo nanoo.

And while we’re on the subject of princes, let’s talk about the king of the castle himself. Chef Jason Henderson is the owner of Knock Castle along with his father and siblings, and the personal investment they’ve made is evident in every piece of the property, from the decor in each suite to the helicopters that assist guests in getting back and forth from major cities with ease.

Jason’s approach to cuisine is the kind that speaks to my soul, and after dinner we sat down for a long chat about food, cooking, its meaning for him, and his adventures in running a country hotel. As it turns out, we both worked for Relais & Chateaux, so we spent some time talking about the specifics of country hotels, and how different the dynamic is from managing larger hotels and restaurants. Look for that discussion on an upcoming Food Philosophy, because I couldn’t resist recording that exchange to share with you. Jason is the kind of chef I only come across once in a while, and such discoveries light up my inner gastronome like a neon lantern — perhaps he’ll spark something in you, too.

His commitment to the comfort of his guests is also very evident. I’ve stayed in a lot of country hotels where the service is polite, but either a little too intrusive or standoffish. Many times it can feel like you’re living in a fish bowl, which takes what could be a relaxing country stay and introduces a dynamic of odd discomfort. It seems that Knock Castle, however, has found an optimal balance of helpfulness and warmth, as we truly felt like guests in someone’s home, but with none of the bad parts. It was also clear this was a genuine way about the place, and not simply because we were there with our cameras — these people are authentically as sweet as toffee pudding.

Our respite at the castle was all too brief, but I’m most eager to go back. I’m actually working on some ideas to take you with me next time, so if I can bring that to fruition you might just become part of my fairy tale stories!

Thanks to Jason and his marvelous staff for a day very well spent. We can’t wait to see you again.