The Low-Key Scottish Country House With A Fine Dining Restaurant Hiding Inside

Nestled in the middle of Scotland, the Cairngorms National Park is the largest of the UK's national parks. Sprinkled throughout the vast space lies a handful of distilleries that offer Scottish heritage in liquid form to refresh weary travelers. 

One ambitious couple, determined to bring their own experiences from London's food and drink scene, brought their own talents to the land of mountains and verdant forests. In 2020, Tom Tsappis and Matilda Ruffle set out to transform the Killiecrankie House while simultaneously preserving the charm and history of the 19th-century establishment. "We're like those idiots on Grand Designs who turn up and say, we'll just re-decorate and it'll be fine," Tsappis told The Scotsman.

Yet the couple's efforts succeeded, and the duo has managed to tastefully merge traditional aesthetics with modern appeal to create a backdrop that offers both respite and inspiration. Tsappis, an experienced chef, and Ruffle, a trained sommelier, have created a space that Michelin describes as "sumptuous." 

A taste of Scotland

From Wednesday to Sunday, a 15-course menu is served. The menu is described as adventurous, and an array of dishes artfully made from locally-sourced produce offer portions of seafood like Moray Firth squid and carefully plated displays of venison tartare, fried porridge, and Highland wagyu. 

The £105 culinary experience is meant to celebrate the best of Scotland while adding a modern, inventive spin on well-known Scottish recipes and ingredients. "The tasting menu makes the most of the wonderful Scottish produce we have access to like game, seafood, seasonal fruits and vegetables, bringing them to life in unexpected ways and often riffing off anecdotes of traditional Scottish dishes," Ruffle told Tasting Table.

Ruffle has curated drink pairings to complement the menu, and for those wanting to arrive early to settle in, a bar list serves up inventive cocktails and drinks from local producers: Craft beer from Wasted Degrees, traditional cider from Fife's Naughton Cider, roasted coffee from Glen Lyon, and natural soft drinks made in Glasgow. 

While 15 courses may sound like a gastronomic challenge, Tsappis assured The Courier plates are carefully portioned to settle into stomachs like three-course meals. Plan several hours to fully enjoy the offering, but if you're looking for an abbreviated experience, a shorter tasting menu is served on Saturdays.

Home away from home

Before settling into the dining room or taking your seat at the chef's counter in the kitchen, belly up to the bar to sample a dram or the Killiecrankie Cure-All, a concoction made from Islay whisky, blended Scotch, ginger, salted heather honey, citrus, and egg whites; the Glasgow Punch, a blend of Scottish rums, Italicus, citrus, demerara, and burnt lime rapscallion; or sip A Naughty Night, a refreshing mix of elderberry gin, Cocchi Americano, and brown butter liqueur. The cocktails are each served for £14.

For those who want to fully indulge or participate in guided whisky tasting without worrying about driving home, Killiecrankie House offers five rooms for overnight stays, and guests are treated to a gourmet breakfast upon waking.

"We're not fancy or formal people. There won't be any white tablecloths," Tsappis assured The Scotsman. "This is our home, we live here, so it's a bit like inviting you to our house for dinner. You can sit and have a drink by the fire, and there's a record player if you want to put some music on."

Sometimes the best experiences come in unexpected packages, and Killiecrankie House might be the perfect surprise for those looking for ample servings of Scottish refreshment.