Scotland has a long and fascinating history, much of which involves battles and bloodshed, so it’s no surprise that the country is also home to hundreds of magnificent old castles. With wars and strife consigned to the past, many have found a new lease of life as uniquely beautiful hotels – with spectacular mountain panoramas and a laird’s eye view of the surrounding lochs as standard. Whether you’re after a beach break with difference or a chic country retreat, Scotland’s castle hotels have much to offer…
GLENAPP CASTLE – BALLANTRAE, AYRSHIRE
Built in 1870 for James Hunter, the deputy lord lieutenant of Ayrshire, Glenapp Castle might be Victorian but feels Renaissance in style and outlook. Its mellow sandstone battlements are topped by romantic soaring turrets and towers, each of which boasts spectacular views of the Mull of Kintyre and the craggy Ayrshire coastline. Inside, it’s all oak panelled hallways and wonderful old antiques, like a very grand family home. Each of the 17 bedrooms is totally unique, although all come with enormous carved beds and crisp white linen. Spend your time tucking into some of the local food, which at Glenapp, is served up in truly baronial style. Expect gargantuan six course suppers, yo be hiked off in the grounds the next morning.
A stay at Glenapp Castle starts from £235 per night including breakfast. See glenappcastle.com for more information.
ACKERGILL TOWER – CAITHNESS
Perfect for anyone who wants remote beaches without having to brave a tent, Ackergill Tower is wonderful 15th century castle with spectacular sea views and direct access to the beach. As a result, activities have a distinctly nautical flavour, with everything from fishing to private boat rides on offer. If that’s not your cup of tea, swap it for a shot of whisky during a tasting in the bar. Inside, expect old-fashioned luxury, gorgeous antiques and the chance to meet the castle ghost. Legend has it that one of the patriarchs of Clan Keith, the family for whom Ackergill was built, kidnapped a beautiful local girl called Helen Gunn. Desperate to get away, Gunn flung herself from the top tower, and her sad spectre can apparently still be seen dashing through the castle in a red ball gown with her jet black hair streaming out behind.
A stay at Ackergill Tower starts from £125 per person per night, including breakfast. See ackergilltower.com for more information.
KINNETTLES CASTLE – FORFAR, ANGUS
With just nine bedrooms, Kinnettles Castle is the lordly answer to the city boutique hotel but no less grand for that. Built from traditional dove grey limestone, the castle is surrounded by green lawns and colourful flowerbeds but has a more modernist approach inside. Like its outer walls, the interior is all soothing neutrals enlivened with silk covered chairs and huge, squashy beds. Although there’s plenty to do, including clay pigeon shooting and horse riding in the grounds, the pretty city of Dundee is just 12 miles away and Glamis Castle – former home of the late Queen Mother – is just down the road.
A stay at Kinnettles Castle starts from £155 per night. See kinnettlescastle.com for more information.
FONAB CASTLE – PITLOCHRY, PERTHSHIRE
The newest addition to Scotland’s roster of castle hotels, Fonab flung open its heavy wooden doors to guests at the end of May. Nestled on the banks of Loch Faskally, the hotel occupies a commanding spot in the heart of the Perthshire Highlands, so expect magnificent views over the loch and surrounding craggy peaks. Down the road is Fortingall, home to the Fortingall Yew (the oldest tree in Europe), beautiful Glen Lyon, Scotland’s longest glen and Loch Tay. Inside, rooms are a beguiling blend of modern and antique, painted in gorgeously warm hues enlivened by patterned feature walls and heavy oak furniture as standard.
Fonab Castle offers two night packages, including dinner and breakfast, with prices starting from £760. See fonabcastlehotel.com for more information.
BUNCHREW HOUSE – INVERNESS
One of the oldest buildings in the Highlands, Bunchrew House is 400 years old but still looking wonderful, thanks to several facelifts. Despite being just three miles from the centre of Inverness, it feels wonderfully isolated thanks to the 20 acres of garden and woodland and its location on the edge of the Beauly Firth. Originally a two-roomed house built by Alexander of Lovat in 1505, later occupants extended it repeatedly, adding magnificent towers and scores of new rooms – many of which have lake views. Rooms are cosy and comfortable, each with its own character and named after a different Scottish clan.
A stay at Bunchrew House starts from £60 per night. See bunchrew-inverness.co.uk for more information.