The best Scottish castles you can stay in near Edinburgh
Many Scottish castles are open to residents looking to live like royalty for a night
With Edinburgh as a base, you don’t have to go very far to live like a princess for a day (and night)
Voted favourite UK city by Condé Nast Traveller magazine in 2010, and named Britain’s best city for tourists – for the 11th year in a row – in the Guardian and Observer travel awards , you might wonder why anyone would ever want to leave the city that ‘truly has the best of everything’, according to City Council leader Jenny Dawes. But for those who prefer more peaceful surroundings in the nearby countryside, there are gems awaiting.
Less than half an hour’s drive from Edinburgh, on the banks of the River Esk, is the 13th-century Dalhousie Castle. There, guests can experience luxury of a kind the original inhabitants could only have dreamt of. The clash of steel on steel no longer rings out in the wooded grounds, but the castle’s fortress character remains. Visitors can lock themselves away in sumptuous bedrooms decorated in tweed, tartan and twill, revel in the formal fine-dining restaurant in the barrel-vaulted dungeon and relax in the hypnotherapy spa with its extensive beauty treatments.
Further south, in Peebles, is Stobo Castle Health Spa, a 19th-century castle set amid the rolling hills and lush greenery of the Borders. Billing itself Scotland’s only ‘destination spa’, it is famed for its pampering treatments and therapies, with the focus on total relaxation. There is a swimming pool and gym with experts on hand to give advice and instruction. Stobo also majors on luxurious interiors, with castle rooms and lodges to choose from. And while guests can opt for the old health-farm idea of self-denial, there is also an excellent menu of local produce, including wine and desserts for those who’d prefer to indulge.
Out on the East Lothian coast, overlooking the championship course at Muirfield, is Greywalls, an Edwardian country house designed by Edwin Lutyens as a family holiday home – albeit a rather grand one. With refined country-house style and classic food from Michelin-starred chef Albert Roux’s kitchen, plus more golf courses in the area than you can shake a mashie niblick at, this is elegant living at its finest.
Castles and grand surroundings are all very well when you’re in the mood for living it up, but there are times when something more intimate is called for. Nowhere fits the bill better than the luxurious four-star Boathouse, which sits in the heart of the 500-acre Dundas estate, just eight miles from the centre of Edinburgh, near South Queensferry. A secret one-bedroom cottage, this hideaway nestles on the shores of a private loch that is home to swans, herons and ducks. It’s a completely private retreat for a romantic stay, where you can wake up to a champagne breakfast on the veranda, and where the city will feel a million miles away.
Dundas Castle, South Queensferry, 0131 319 2039, www.dundascastle.co.uk
Hotel and Spa Bonnyrigg, 01875 820 153, www.dalhousiecastle.co.uk
Muirfield, Gullane, 01620 842144, www.greywalls.co.uk
Stobo Castle Health Spa
Stobo, Peebles, 01721 725 300, www.stobocastle.co.uk