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At its heart, hospitality is about people. Here are some of the people that help make Douneside House the special place that it is.

melanie dalton

Melanie Dalton

Operations Manager (Guest Experience)

Mel is our Operations Manager and we don’t know where we’d be without her.  Part of the team for nearly 10 years ago now, Mel has worked in various roles in the restaurant and reception (she can turn her hand to everything!!). She now leads our amazing team, ensuring all our guests are well looked after.

It doesn’t matter if it’s first thing in the morning or late at night, everything is approached with her cool, calm manner and always with a smile. Mel has worked in the hospitality industry since college days (we won’t mention the date!) and Douneside now holds a special place in her heart.  Originally hailing from Yorkshire, she moved to the area in 2008 and has found Aberdeenshire the perfect spot to settle with her family – with its beautiful scenery and sometimes four seasons in one day!

Mel is always keen that the MacRobert family’s legacy is at the heart of everything we do, and works hard to ensure our guests have the most memorable and enjoyable visit when spending time here with us in this special place.

Guest recommendation:
A lovely stroll down to the Tomnaverie stone circle, via Alastrean Woods, where you will find wonderful views. On the walk back, make sure you stop by the village for an ice cream!  Or, if you like live music, the village local pub has a music night on a Tuesday evening where you may even spot a famous local fiddler or two!

James Payne

James Payne

Sommelier and Dining Events Manager

It’s approaching 30 years since James first became a sommelier, working at Le Pont de la Tour in London. Head sommelier posts in notable Michelin starred establishments followed, including one in the Roussillon, France. James’ passion is in explaining the story behind a wine, and how this influences its flavour profile and why it works to enhance a dish, especially during the tasting menu experience in the Library.

We are delighted that James has made Douneside his work home for the last 5 years, as not only do our guests benefit from his unmatched approach to hospitality, but as a team we are always learning something new too (and our wine knowledge has consistently grown since James joined the team!). A keen runner, hill walker and home cook, James, his wife Sally and son Edward continue to discover the best of Scotland.

Guest recommendation:
Get down to breakfast nice and early and then head out for a day walking around Bennachie hill. Take in Craigievar Castle on the way, and if your appetite gets the better of you after enjoying the views from the top of Mither Tap, call in to The Old Post Office at Chapel of Garioch for a restorative snack. Dinner back at Douneside is well and truly deserved after this day out.