We stayed in the Highlands hotel at this resort for 3 nights on a dinner, bed and breakfast package - this appeared to be good value, since it was around the same price as bed and breakfast at some other hotels which we had previously stayed in, and included an expensive dinner.
When we arrived, we had to queue forever at reception - I felt that both of the reception desks should have been attended at this peak time.
When we arrived at the rooms, one of them was executive and the other one was standard. In the executive room, there was a free bottle of Penzolo red wine, a fruit basket, shortbread and a bottle of sparkling water, whereas the standard one only had a bottle of sparkling water and shortbread. Personally, I think that there should also be some still water in the rooms, since despite being nicer during the daytime and the evening, sparkling water is too acidic and bad for your teeth in the night. The sparkling water and shortbread were replaced each day in both rooms [although they forgot to replenish the sparkling water on the last day for some reason], but the wine and fruit turned out just to be welcome gifts. The executive room also had nicer furniture, although it was cold upon arrival, and when you leave the room the heating turns off since you have to insert your room key for power (although you can use any card!). There were bath robes, shortbread, tea, coffee and hot chocolate in both rooms, and ice and fresh milk were available on request from room service.
I found some of the staircases quite depressing, especially the one down to the leisure centre which had nasty plain floors and walls, and I found it irritating that the long corridors had so many doors all the way along them - I know that this seems a little over-sensitive, but the atmosphere of hotel life really is affected by the "environ" as you travel around the hotel.
We went to enquire about dinner - we were entitled to a free dinner each night at either the gourmet Aspect's restaurant or the Giovanni's Italian restaurant. We were told that the menu for Aspect's changed daily, whereas the menu for Giovanni's was fixed. However, it turned out that the Aspect's menu only fully changes weekly, and the daily changes (which depend on deliveries) are usually the soup, one starter and main course - this is especially irritating when you do not know what will change (e.g. I was torn between 2 dishes on the first night, and chose the one that didn't change out of the two!)
We dined at Aspect's for the first 2 nights, as we were under the impression that the menu would change properly each night. Most of the dishes were included, and for the ones that were not, there was a supplement of £4 for starters and deserts, and £6 for main courses [even though the difference in price would have been a lot less for paying customers, e.g. £1 for one of the starters!]. I found that the quality of the food was very good here on the whole - starters ranged from duck cakes to celeriac soup to ham hock terrine, main courses ranged from pork belly to salmon to pumpkin ravioli and deserts included white chocolate terrine, treacle tart and rice pudding. I was very disappointed that the puddings never changed, since the options were very limited. I found it very basic that their ice creams were only chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, and that they did not have any sorbets. I found the service in this restaurant to be very slow - they waited forever to take your order, and then you had to wait forever for every course, with the exception of the interval between starter and main course. However, they did offer bread around, and I particularly enjoyed their tomato bread, dipped in a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The 8-year-old among us had a childrens' menu which included a drink, which was a bonus.
On the third night, we dined at Giovanni's, since despite it being a waste of value, we were bored of the menu at Aspect's. The menu includes a selection of breads (e.g. rosemary), various starters (e.g. bruschetta or minestrone soup), pizzas, pastas, meats and deserts (e.g. tiramisu, creme brûlée and Panna Cotta). We were quite disappointed that you had to choose between bread and a starter, given that dinner here would come to less than at Aspect's for paying customers, and Aspect's includes bread as well as starter. The supplements here for items not included seemed to be the opposite extreme from at Aspect's - they were £2 for a starter, £3 for a main course and £1.50 for a desert. I had a sirloin steak for main course, since this was worth around £10 more than the included items and only a £3. 2 members of my party ordered spicy sausage pasta, but were very disappointed as it seemed to be pasta with normal sausage in tomato sauce, unlike the Carluccio's one! They did not bother complaining. However, for desert I and someone else ordered the Panna Cotta, mainly because it states on the menu that it comes with rhubarb compote and ginger wafer. However, it came with a tiny bit of berry compote and shortbread, so we complained, and, let us choose another pudding and knocked £9.99 off the bill. I chose the Creme brûlée, chocolate brownie and cinnamon doughnuts - I imagined that this would be like a trilogy, where all 3 are equal. However, I was served a coffee cup with a tremendous amount of Creme brûlée, a couple of tiny pieces of chocolate brownie and a couple of tiny cinnamon doughnuts.
The drinks were very good on the whole. These included Prosecco, red and white wines, draught and bottled beers, a good selection of gins, and various soft drinks, such as Irn Bru, 5-alive and Coca-Cola (including Coke Zero!).
I was very disappointed by the orange juice at breakfast - the breakfast in bed order form in the room stated "freshly squeezed orange juice", and I assumed that the orange juice in the restaurant would be the same. However, it was cheap concentrated rubbish. Luckily though, they put out oranges, so I was able to freshly squeeze orange juice myself. They had a very good selection of pastries, muffins, cereals and hot food, and the coffee was ok. Unfortunately the toast was burnt half of the time. I was slightly disappointed that there was a supplement for the smoked salmon, as other hotels which I had recently stayed in in Scotland included this.
The resort had a very big leisure centre. It had a soft childrens' tumbling play area, where the 8- and 14-year olds amongst us spent a lot of time. This cost £4 per child per day, and they used it on 2 of the days. This play area was in a café, where we purchased items such as cakes and Slushee Puppies. I found it to be very good value, at only £1.35 for a piece of cake. The swimming pool was quite big, and included a helter-skelter water slide, which for some reason is only open for half of the time (between the hour and half past the hour), and only one person is allowed on it at a time, which creates big queues, debatably making it more trouble than it is worth. There was a steam room and a sauna. The changing rooms were amazing because rather than a big changing room, it was made up of several cubicles. There were lockers, which were available for a refundable deposit of £1. The leisure centre also contained a gym, which was quite large and included lots of modern equipment, and there was a games room with lots of arcade-style attractions, but unfortunately none of these were free.
The resort had a tremendous shop, which sold all sorts of things. Near to the shop was a huge café where we considered having lunch, but at £6 for a small baguette, £10 for a slice of beef and a yorkshire pudding and £2.70 for a canned drink, we decided to give it a miss, as for a party of 5, this would have been very expensive for a snacky lunch! The resort also had a 3D cinema, which was showing Madagascar 3 and Taken II when we stayed. We considered using it, but then decided that Taken II would probably be unsuitable for the 8-year-old amongst us, and that, given the unbelievably low standard of Madagascar 2, Madagascar 3 would probably not even be worth sitting through if you were paid!
There was a large playground, which had lots of funny attractions which most playgrounds do not have [I will let these surprise you if/when you stay here], there were trampolines with tyres on ropes and a climbing wall, although these were out of action when we stayed, and there was a dry skiing slope.
We were originally going to stay for 2 nights, and added an extra night a short notice - we ended up regretting this, due to feeling "evicted" from Aspect's restaurant due to the limited menu, coupled with the fact that a fire alarm went off at 7:40am, shocking us out of our much needed sleep. It turned out that this was due to steam from someone's shower - the hotel did have warnings about this in some of the rooms, but they should try to design the room so that this does not happen. What annoyed us was the fact that no staff came and informed us of the situation for a very long time - I was standing outside in my pyjamas, barefoot on very cold ground, as I had rushed outside in a panic, and the door to my bedroom was open with valuables available in the room!
I had some work to do whilst I was staying here, but this was hindered by the fact that the housekeepers played music really loudly as they were cleaning other rooms - I think that they should use headphones!
Overall, this hotel is very good value, but as stated in my review, there are several simply changes which they could make in order to make the stay so much more enjoyable.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Relax in style and complete comfort at the 4-star Macdonald Highlands Hotel. With 151 luxury rooms-with-a-view and its own signature restaurant, Aspects, boasting spectacular views of the Cairngorm Mountains, the Highlands Hotel is ideal for discerning business and leisure travellers. For relaxation there's direct access to Aviemore Activity Centre, a TV lounge with comfy sofas and a DVD player, and the cozy Laggan whisky bar. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Macdonald Highlands Aviemore
- Macdonald Highlands Hotel At Macdonald Aviemore Resort Scotland
- Hotel Macdonald Highlands