by Linda Macdonald and Gavin Bell, The Telegraph, December 20, 2018
An expert guide to the top castle hotels in Scotland, including the best for loch and mountain views, rich history, dog-friendly services, spas and fine dining, in locations including Loch Lomond, Loch Fyne, the Isle of Mull and Trossachs National Park.
Inverlochy Castle, Fort Willam, Highlands
Queen Victoria said she ‘never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot’ than Inverlochy Castle in 1873, and it remains as impressive as ever. There are no bows to passing fashions here. Moving with the times means waterfall showers, Bang & Olufsen stereos and televisions, while the unashamedly country house style – all swags, gilt, silk and brocade, sparkling crystal, polished wood and an all-pervading sense of time suspended – remains. Lying at the foot of Ben Nevis, girdled by a ring of highland peaks, this is a place of quiet beauty, with no indication that the hustling, bustling tourist town of Fort William is only a mile or two up the road. With Albert and Michel Roux Jr in charge of the kitchen the food is as good as the peerless service.
Read the full review: Inverlochy Castle, Highlands
Duchray Castle, Loch Lomond, Trossachs National Park
Hidden deep in a Scottish wood among the hills and lochs of the Trossachs, this is a fairytale castle where everything is just right. It is a picturebook perfect, delightfully domestic, 500-year-old castle gently romanticised in Victorian Gothic style, but with every modern comfort. Carefully restored, the decoration is confidently simple - dark panelling, stone walls and wide planked floors made deliciously warm and cosy with a mix of contemporary and antique furnishings. Lying just outside Aberfoyle, this is Rob Roy country (he is said to have visited the castle) and gloriously off-grid, with nothing but scenery in every direction and a river at the bottom of the garden.
Read the full review: Duchray Castle, Loch Lomond
Dalhousie Castle, Bonnyrigg, Midlothian
This is the real McCoy, Scotland’s oldest inhabited castle: it was a stronghold of the chieftans of Clan Ramsay; it withstood a siege by Henry IV in 1400; and it was captured by Cromwell two centuries later. In between Mary, Queen of Scots, spent the night while touring her realm. The moat has been filled in and the drawbridge has gone, but an imposing entrance hall with a vaulted faux-Gothic ceiling and mini-Imperial staircase creates a grand first impression. Old storage vaults have been converted into a small spa with a laconium and hydro pool, and guests can fly a Russian Steppe Eagle or a Turkmanian Eagle Owl from a falconry in the grounds. It’s on a small estate of woodland and lawns on the banks of the South Esk River with views of the Border hills, 10 miles from Edinburgh.
Read the full review: Dalhousie Castle, Midlothian
Glenapp Castle, Ballatrae, Ayrshire
A fine example of 19th-century Scottish Baronial grandeur, set in extensive gardens and woodlands. More of a country house than a fortress, it offers fine dining and country sporting pursuits. Winston Churchill was a guest of the lord of the manor in 1944, when they discussed the D-Day landings. There's an all-weather tennis court, a croquet lawn, plus wellies, umbrellas and rain jackets by the front door for exploring the grounds. Falconry displays are available on request, guns and rods are catered for with pheasant and partridge in the estate and salmon and trout in nearby rivers. Boat hire is also available for sea fishing. A spa by the sea is a short drive away, as are the golf courses of Turnberry and Royal Troon.
Read the full review: Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire
Crossbasket Castle, High Blantyre, Lanarkshire
A grand, fortified mansion with a 16th-century tower and Georgian and Victorian extensions, Crossbasket Castle was rescued from near dereliction by a nine-million pound restoration by local businessman and art collector Steve Timoney and his wife Alison Reid-Timoney. Nine rooms ranging from cosy doubles to grand suites, some with fireplaces, generate a sense of comfort and well-being with classical décor, luxurious beds and large windows overlooking the grounds. Lunch and dinner menus, overseen by renowned French chef Albert Roux and his son Michel Jnr, are a feast for the eyes and palate with signature dishes of tartar of roe buck deer, Loch Awe sea trout with smoked kelp consommé and rack of Borders lamb.
Read the full review: Crossbasket Castle, Lanarkshire
Glengorm Castle, Isle of Mull, Argyll and Bute
The castle, a country house built in the 1860s, is thrillingly sited on high ground at the northernmost tip of Mull overlooking the Sound of Mull, Ardnamurchan Peninsula, outlying islands and – vivid at sunset in the far distance – the Outer Hebrides. Despite its grandiose looks and proportions, this is very much a private home, with an eclectic mix of furniture and pictures. The hall, with large open fire, is furnished as a sitting room, and the wood-panelled library, with complimentary selection of whiskies, is also at guests’ disposal. Dogs are welcome; the family spaniels may well come for a walk with you. The five bedrooms are all in the main part of the house. They are delightful, with pretty wallpapers, family furniture and charming, unusual bathrooms.
Read the full review: Glengorm Castle, Isle of Mull
The Eisenhower at Culzean Castle, Maybole, Ayrshire
The ‘castle in the air’, a late-18th-century masterpiece of renowned architect Robert Adam perched high on a sea cliff, is arguably the finest Georgian castle in Scotland. A suite of apartments on the top floor, gifted to General Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1945, has been transformed into an intimate six-bedroom hotel. It's in a regal position on a 100-ft cliff overlooking the Firth of Clyde where it flows into the Irish Sea, surrounded by 600 acres of woods, gardens and ornamental ponds. On calm days, views over the sea to the Isle of Arran verge on the ethereal. The heart of the hotel is a circular drawing room with original paintings by Scottish Colourists and panoramic sea views. Richly patterned carpets, period furniture, chandeliers and marble fireplaces create an ambiance of refinement and timeless elegance.
Read the full review: The Eisenhower at Culzean Castle, Scotland
Stonefield Castle, Loch Fyne, Argyll and Bute
Stonefield Castle is a proper high-Victorian Baronial folly, as castellated, crenellated and pepper-potted as any romantic could wish for. Rescued from years of neglect, the drawing room, library and bar have had a gentle refresh, but retain their Victorian character with crackling log fires, stags’ heads, coffered ceilings and candlelight. It has an enviable location on the Kintyre peninsula near the fishing town of Tarbert, with heavenly views over Loch Fyne to the hills beyond. Come in the spring, when the notable collection of rhodedendrons and azaleas are at their staggeringly lovely best. Explore the private island that forms part of the grounds - it’s a great place for wildlife spotting: seals, otters and, recently, a humpbacked whale.
Read the full review: Stonefield Castle, Argyll and Bute
Fasque Castle, Fettercairn, Aberdeenshire
Can a building be jolie laide? The former home of Victorian Prime Minister William Gladstone is an elephantine, liver-coloured LEGO-lookalike castle. There’s a classic interior of imposing hall, sweeping double staircase, cathedral-worthy cupola and impressive period detail, but the décor is relentlessly boutique: some bold colour choices (turquoise, purple, burnt orange), feature wallpapers and intermittent outbreaks of bling. It is set in a picture perfect Aberdeenshire estate – normally an exclusive use venue – and now offers get-away-from-it-all hotel weekends. Expect bucolic peace, good food and some eye-popping interior design.
Read the full review: Fasque Castle, Aberdeenshire
This article was written by Linda Macdonald and Gavin Bell from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]