By Janice Hopper

For couples looking to tie the knot in a rural retreat with a difference, Douneside House is a wedding venue with a heart. It only recently opened its doors as a luxury country hotel in June 2016, and this historic country house is receiving accolade after accolade.

For any couple that desires Scotland’s Hotel Chef of the Year to cook for their guests this is the venue to book, it’s also the only triple rosette AA experience in Aberdeenshire. The food is exemplary, and Douneside is recognised for its six course tasting menu featuring local produce carefully selected from local farmers, or grown within the estate’s Walled Garden. And if your guests have dietary requirements, the vegetarian/vegan/gluten free dishes are simply exquisite.

Douneside is a mindful choice for couples who care about the traceability and sustainability of food, food miles, and organic produce. It’s a heavenly destination for foodies. Much of the cuisine prepared in the kitchen has a story that the venue is proud to share. Local farmers and producers include the likes of eggs from Katy’s Eggs of Lumphanan, meat from Wark Farm in Alford or Sheridan’s of Ballater, and seafood from Blue Flag in Aberdeen. When it comes to the fresh fruit and veg tended in the Walled Garden, we’re talking food yards rather than food miles. Everything is organic, and as well as staples such as potatoes and carrots, the gardening team can also bring to the table a rich and imaginative range of ingredients including Scorzonera, Red-veined sorrel, Nero di Toscana (Black Tuscan kale), Kohlrabi, Radicchio amaranta (red-hearted chicory), Uchiki kuru winter squash or Fuseau Jerusalem artichokes. It’s rare to find a setting that mixes the elegance of a Jane Austen novel, with the freshness of an organic food market. 

In terms of a setting Douneside, located in Royal Deeside, is synonymous with love and romance, due to it rich associations with one of the most dedicated couples in history, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The accommodation offers 13 contemporary bedrooms with period features, six apartments and three cottages that work especially well for families or large parties. There’s a variety of rooms that brides can choose for their wedding preparations and wedding night. And, if by any chance a couple desire their four-legged friend at the wedding then, as this is a country retreat, pooches are very welcome in the cottages. 

Douneside is an intimate setting. They limit the number of weddings they host each year, so each event can be given full attention during all stages of planning and on the big day itself. It can be booked for exclusive use - accommodating up to 58 adults, it’s a relaxed and elegant location to reunite with family and friends and say ‘I Do’. Or for weddings of less than sixteen guests, the couple is not required to book the entire venue unless they wish to.

Next there are the photographs to consider. In terms of capturing the right images it helps that Douneside was recently awarded RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Partner Garden status. This coveted recognition speaks volumes about the beauty of the grounds. Choose between a rich abundance of terraced gardens, arboretum, pool and stream-side gardens, walled vegetable and fruit garden, seventeen acres of lawn, and an ornamental glasshouse. All locations are at a couple’s disposal so they can experiment with different settings and secure the style of images they desire. 

The Wedding Breakfast is usually held in the atmospheric Library, or in the Conservatory, with natural light pouring in by day, and twinkling lights illuminating the evening. Naturally the Conservatory doors open out onto the gardens allowing the wedding party to spill outside on fine evenings. The space is a notably flexible canvas, and can be decorated as sumptuously or informally as the couple wish. 

On the leisure front, Douneside has a pool and a Health Centre, featuring a jacuzzi, sauna and steam room, a gym and a games room. Whilst the bride and groom may not be inclined to take a dip or hit the gym, it’s a valued option for guests perhaps making a weekend of it and exploring the area further.

A unique feature of Douneside is that, whilst it’s an elegant country estate, it’s run by the not-for-profit MacRobert Trust, which last year donated £1 million to charity. It’s so unusual for couples to be able to book a venue where they’re actually making a difference and giving something back. In a past life, before Douneside opened as a luxury hotel, it was run as a retreat for serving or retired military personnel. It offered them an affordable break (heavily subsidised by the trust), with their families, in the Scottish countryside, alleviating some of the stresses of their challenging day jobs. Today, Douneside hasn’t forgotten its links with the military. The sophisticated bar, where many wedding parties enjoy a pre-dinner drink and raise a glass to the happy couple, is subtly decorated in the blues and greys of the RAF. If the bride or groom is in the military then they too would be eligible to a discounted exclusive rate for their wedding. 

Douneside brings a lot to the table. To discover more, meet with the Wedding Planner, Melanie Dalton, to receive a personal tour of the establishment. To experience the full offering and get a sense of the place, prospective couples can opt for a special rate of £100 (per room per night) for an overnight stay in one of Douneside’s classic rooms inclusive of a full Scottish breakfast for two. And for those intent on a Winter Wedding, Douneside is currently offering a 35% reduction on its exclusive rate for weddings between January-March 2019.

Discover more at