From Pride and Prejudice to Wuthering Heights and Downton Abbey, there’s no doubting the timeless appeal of period dramas. So next time you’re in Scotland, why not star in your own by checking into one of these six historic abodes?
There’s no more Scottish an image than that of a castle surrounded by swirling mist – and most of Scotland’s castles ooze a colourful and turbulent history, the stuff of swashbucklers, legends and ghost stories.
All the classic imagery can be found in abundance: secret passageways, spiral staircases, dungeons, haunted rooms, four-poster beds, old oil paintings, chandeliers, suites of armour, stuffed game and roaring log fires.
The good news is that you can spend the night at many of these castles.
Generally, there are two types of castle hotels – those operated as regular hotels with rooms rented individually by the night, and castles that must be rented on an exclusive use basis, where your group will have sole occupancy as the only guests. These are usually smaller luxury castles, with several guest bedrooms, and it’s these that perhaps offer the most personal castle experience of all.
Here are six of the best castle stays in different regions of Scotland.
ANYONE FOR CROQUET?
Set within a 44-acre estate only a 45-minute drive from Edinburgh, the original Myers Castle in Fyfe was a Z-plan fortress dating from the early 1500s which has been altered and extended over the years.
Castle guests can enjoy all the usual country pursuits: fishing, clay-pigeon shooting, archery and even that old Tudor favourite, falconry. And don’t forget to pack your candy-striped blazer for a round of croquet on the perfectly manicured front lawn.
Myres Castle offers both exclusive hire and luxury bed & breakfast accommodation.
STAIRWAY TO CASTLE HEAVEN
Anticipation builds as you drive the wooded approach towards Culzean Castle in Ayrshire. Designed by noted Scottish architect Robert Adam, this storybook Georgian castle stands dramatically on a rocky promontory on the Ayrshire coast, with spectacular views across the sea to the mountains of Arran and Mull of Kintyre.
Highlights include the Circular Saloon, the clematis-draped 17th-century walled garden, a Swan Pond for genteel walks and real-life smugglers’ caves beneath the castle. On the upper floors is the Eisenhower Hotel with a selection of guestrooms arranged around the magnificent Oval Staircase.
Originally built in the mid-16th century, this ancient monument was in virtual ruins when Ian Simpson and his life-long friend John Macaskill decided to start East Lothian’s Fenton Tower’s restoration in the late 1990s.
Historic Scotland supervised the meticulous restoration of this Category A-listed building which included using the identical materials when it was originally built.
Today, the tower combines five-star luxury and sophistication with the informality of a private home and is available for exclusive rental for up to 13 guests.
Located just 20 miles east of Edinburgh, Fenton Tower is the castle of choice if you are interested in playing any of the dozen or so excellent golf courses within a ten-mile drive.
MORE STORIES YOU’LL LOVE
With its turrets and imposing towers, this five-star Scottish Baronial mansion house set amid the rolling hills north of Dundee looks like something from a historical romance novel.
Once inside Kinnettles Castle in Angus, you are greeted by sweeping staircases and grand fireplaces that contrast vividly to strikingly contemporary décor, from designer-chic bedrooms and cutting-edge bar to the games room with poker table, roulette wheel and snooker table used during the 2006 World Championship in Sheffield.
This 15th-century Dornoch Castle Hotel in the Highlands region is situated in beautiful gardens worthy of any BBC period drama opposite the inspiring 12th-century Dornoch Cathedral. Steeped in history and stories of witchcraft, the castle is connected to the cathedral by a secret underground passageway allegedly haunted by a harmless ghost, an unhappy sheep-stealer who was imprisoned in the vaulted dungeons below the tower.
To splash out, book one of the deluxe rooms with hand-carved four-poster beds, open log fires and spa baths hidden away in the oldest part of the castle.
CASTLE IN THE TREES
This 450-year old Fernie Castle in Fife is situated in 17 acres of woodlands with its own loch and vibrant rooms (some with four-poster beds) is first glimpsed through the wooded drive as you approach.
After settling in, perhaps enjoy a drink in the stone-vaulted Keep Bar dating from 1530, before enjoying dinner in the beautiful Auld Alliance Room, with its massive Georgian chandelier, fresh flowers and candles, all reflected in a huge mirror.
Perched in six lofty sycamores nearby is the Fernie Castle Treehouse – which is a perfect hideaway for romantic couples. The balconied bedroom features a huge elm kingsized bed plus a flat screen TV, coffee maker and a fridge full of champagne, chocolates and other goodies.