Read our review of Ballintaggart Farm B&B and cookery school, with terrace views overlooking the Tay Valley in the Perthshire highlands of Scotland. From bread making courses by day, to autumnal set-menus for dinner. Written by Sophie Pither
Bread Making Day at Ballintaggart
My first introduction to Ballintaggart is via its Breadmaking Day. I’ve done bread making courses before, and always left feeling despondent (one chef had me throwing the dough onto the table like an angry Neanderthal, another got me confused about yeast). But here, in the cosy warmth of Ballintaggart’s kitchen, I find my groove.
“It doesn’t really matter how you knead, as long as you do it till the dough springs back when you poke it,” says Chris Rowley, Ballintaggart’s owner and chef. This is music to my ears. He also puts me straight about yeast with a simple formula: 30g fresh yeast = 7.5g fast action, and says to dissolve the fresh yeast in tepid water before use. He’s a natural teacher, and makes all six student bakers on the course feel great. We even do sourdough (with a dash of yeast, so it rises in time) and leave with a ladleful of precious sourdough starter, as well as our other loaves – filled focaccia, soda, and plain white. Impressive stuff. And I am still making bread six weeks later. (Try one of our best bread recipes here).
The breadmaking day gives me an inkling of Ballintaggart’s foodie magic. Elevenses is a fat slice of chocolatey tray bake; there’s homemade lemon and thyme loaf too, served with locally roasted coffee from up the valley at Glen Lyon. Lunch is outstanding, yielding buttery risotto topped with seasonal pheasant, and a brambly apple crumble for pud.
Dinner at Ballintaggart
Returning with my partner for a night at Ballintaggart, we are treated to more of Chris’s excellent food. The set-menu dinner is autumnal roe-deer tortellini, monkfish with pickled veg and kale oil, and an apple, rosemary and salted caramel tart, plus local cheeses and homemade chutneys. All are extremely accomplished. Breakfast the following morning is even better; a bowl of perfectly seasoned porridge topped with raspberries and toasted seeds, plus a plate of poached eggs from the courtyard hens with chanterelle ketchup, sourdough and Stornoway black pud.
Chris and his wife Rachel used to run the successful Edinburgh supper club, Charlie and Evelyn’s Table. This led to Chris leaving his banking job and retraining at Leiths – winning star pupil award. Now, as well as cook-school sessions, and daily cheffing, he also puts on monthly communal Feast Nights, which are convivial candle-lit eating and making merry sessions. Ballintaggart is a proper foodie haven, tucked away in the rolling hills of Highland Perthshire.
Rooms at Ballintaggart
As their recent Scottish tourism Thistle Award for Most Hospitable Guest House shows, it’s not just about the cooking. What Chris and Rachel, and third partner Andrew – Chris’s wine-guru brother – have created is the perfect place to stay. I don’t use those words lightly. Not only is the converted steading a stylish homely escape, full of arty crockery, interesting paintings, and books you actually want to read, but the personal welcome is exceptional. Arrivals are all greeted with genuine warmth by one of the three owners. Everyone gets homemade tea and cake, before convening later for pre-dinner drinks and nibbles in the lounge (note: while Ballintaggart is waiting for its alcohol license, it’s currently BYOB; they will chill and decant as appropriate). They even give you cake to take home.
There are just two bedrooms, both stylish but practical, with huge beds and cloud-like duvets. Local Charlotte Flower chocolates accompany a choice of Pukka teas or Nespresso, with real milk in a mini flask. There are baths and showers, and direct access to a long terrace overlooking the Tay Valley.
As for what to do around there, Rachel has thought of that too, and printed a series of postcards with detailed excursions to suit everyone. I recommend a mooch in pretty riverside Aberfeldy, with its huge church and attractive shops. Don’t miss the Watermill bookshop and café, and Homer homewares next door, for gorgeous rugs, crockery, cushions and more. There are myriad nearby walks, drives, and country pursuits, too.
My partner and I sit by the firepit later that evening, toasting giant homemade marshmallows on extendable toasting forks, a dram of whisky in our mitts. It’s not often you find somewhere that ticks all the boxes, we muse. Watch this space, too, as they’re planning to refurbish and reopen the nearby Grandtully Hotel next year.
Ballintaggart Farm, Grandtully, Perthshire, PH9 0PX (01796 482738; ballintaggart.com).
Double rooms from £145 per night, b&b. Dinner: three courses £45, five courses £65.
Words by Sophie Pither