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Visiting Formartines on the Haddo Estate in Ellon, Aberdeenshire is a sure way to guarantee an enjoyable afternoon for all the family and below are some things that I found particularly interesting about Formartines and perhaps some of the reasons as to why it is so popular.
- Formartines is located in a zero-carbon building which is set in the woodlands of the Scotland National Trusts historic castle trail.
- Formartines boast of their use of seasonal and local produce which I always think is something to admire and Aberdeen has a really big ‘shop local’ drive.
- Formartines have a Gold Award in the Green Tourism Business Scheme which is down to their commitment to sourcing produce sustainably and ethically and also in reducing their carbon footprint. I think this is brilliant and truly believe that more business’ should follow suit. And something I found really interesting was to hear that these clouds you see hanging from the ceiling in the eating area are used as a natural way to absorb some of the echos of noise, which I think is really clever.
Formartines base themselves around this shop, eat, walk, play motto so, in keeping with that, I have written some of my thoughts on each.
Shop – Formartines have a genuinely lovely food hall filled with fresh fruit and veg, homemade ready meals, ice creams, nice booze and they also have a deli counter filled with chilled meats, cheeses and antipasti along with produce from their own estate and smokehouse. As well as the vast selection of food, they also sell some homewares and little gift items. There’s no denying that it’s a nice shop. They also host some local sellers so that’s definitely something to keep an eye out for on Facebook.
Eat – The restaurant/cafe serves breakfast, brunch or afternoon tea along with coffees and cake.
There were lots of options on the Formartines food menu that were appealing but when visiting I chose to have the beer-braised beef with hand-cut chips. It was absolutely delicious so I really can’t complain about the standard of food but we did find it a little pricey at around £14 a meal, so maybe that is something to bear in mind.
We felt that the pricier food was presented as you would expect from an upmarket restaurant yet the surroundings and other items on the menu were as you would perhaps expect from the usual style of cafe/restaurant in this setting so it felt a little unmatched.
Of course, there are lighter meals available and yes, I acknowledge that they do use great local produce and that it was our choice to order as such but we did think it was slightly more pricey than expected.
So I’m going to be really pernickety here when mentioning the great produce because their menus spelt Stornoway wrong at the time of visiting and if you have read our blog before, you will know that I am from Stornoway, so this was a mistake I noticed straight away. Of course, it’s a silly spelling mistake and no harm was done and I’m absolutely sure no offence intended but what irks me is that these silly mistakes (of which this was only one), to me, detract from the emphasis they want to create about using great products that they love and while you may see that as subjective opinion, I know there are many people like me who are proud of where they are from and feel pride when they see produce from their hometown being used, so to see silly spelling mistakes that weren’t thoroughly checked and then printed aplenty is a little disheartening. Is Formartines all talk and no substance? Well, I don’t think so, but attention to detail matters.
It was very busy when we visited at lunchtime and we did have to wait for a table but I would say that the food and atmosphere were enjoyable, the staff were very friendly and that the food was worth the wait if you have a larger appetite and despite my minor critiques, I would consider it one of the best places to eat in Aberdeenshire that we have visited so far.
The restaurants open 7 days a week 9.30-17.30
Note that bookings are not possible as the restaurant operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
Walk – Now, in hindsight, I suspect this is part of the reason that the food seemed a little dear. There are vast woodlands surrounding Formartines which they actively encourage people to explore. You also have the added possibility of visiting the Haddo Trout Lake or visiting one of the various play parks and picnic areas before coming back for a warm and hearty meal. There are also many wildlife animals to keep an eye out for while visiting Formartines, including red squirrels, deer and herons.
You can also take the Formartines to Haddo walk and visit the beautiful and nearby Haddo house and its extensive grounds.
Play – Formartines is perfect for children who love to run around. They have tyre swings, treehouses, telescopes, periscopes, monkey bars, fairy doors and slides to keep children entertained. But need we say more than just the great outdoors because where better for kids to let their imaginations run free and thanks to the woodland, wildlife and play areas mentioned above, it’s an exciting place to visit and play for children of all ages.
Another great idea if you would like to take a walk yet keep the children entertained, is the Formartines fairy trail which has plenty of fairy doors and dens to look out for within the woods.
You can check out the Formartines website for more information but personally, I think their Facebook page is the real Formartines. It shows pictures of good food, good produce, you can read reviews and it’s engaging people, whether that’s with talks of country walks or deli foods. It has that human touch and it’s relatable, which is so important for a local business.