CASTLE HIGH

Get lost in the Scottish countryside and live like royalty at this regal riverside retreat. Elysia Agnew checks in for haggis, a history lesson and a healthy dose of spa time...

What does an away-from-it-all retreat mean to you? Perhaps it’s leaving your phone at home and checking in for a spa weekend; or maybe it’s finding somewhere fancy to tick off your foodie bucket list. For us, ‘away-from-it-all’ is somewhere secluded, somewhere off the beaten track. Jumping in the car, following a map (or negotiating with a sat nav) and finding a completely unique final destination. Somewhere similar to what you’ve seen on the big screen – whether that’s a quaint stone cottage, a chick-flick city pad or an enchanting escape seen in fairytales. It’s those fairytale moments that spring to mind as we pull up at Dalhousie Castle.

Set in acres of rolling countryside, the building sparks childhood memories. The dream of living it up in a grand old castle becomes reality as we check in to Scotland’s oldest inhabited castle. Inside the ancient walls you’ll find a luxurious hotel steeped in rich history. With a dramatic backdrop on the banks of the River Esk, this beautiful bolthole boasts over 700 years of history. Once the seat of the Ramsay clan, the castle has an illustrious guest list including King Edward I, Sir Walter Scott, Oliver Cromwell and Queen Victoria.

As far as castle hotels go, this one is pretty untouched. It hasn’t been ripped out and rebranded – it boats many of its original features and quaint characteristics. A working castle that has been expertly crafted and lovingly modified to create a retreat for guests to come in, relax and live like royalty. The moat has been filled in and the drawbridge has been lifted for the final time, but there is still something very real about this place. Tweed, twill and tartan interiors strike us as soon as we step through the lobby. It’s warm, it’s inviting and it has a real sense of place. Subtle Scottish music plays out through the speakers, while stone fireplaces flicker and historical artefacts decorate the walls. This place is sure about its past, but it doesn’t oversee the present and the needs of today’s luxury travellers.

Today, the castle is open as a luxurious destination for travellers far and wide. From visitors who want to get a taste of the real Scottish countryside, to guests checking in for a grand staycation with sumptuous pampering packages and a fine foodie offering. You’ll find history in every nook and cranny, from the pokey passageways, to the secret hiding holes and the deep, dark walls of the dungeon. There are 29 regal rooms and suites on site, all individually designed with a tale to tell.

Dalhousie Castle is a maze of majestic walkways, cloisters and antique furnishings. If you’re not already feeling ‘away-from-it-all’ in the faraway location, the hotel’s stone staircases, grand entrances and high ceilings will quickly whisk you away to another time. A time of pure elegance and majesty. Plush, period furniture makes a statement, rich, Scottish fabrics decorate the communal spaces, and ornate detailing adds charm and character to this regal retreat.

The Scottish style, sophistication and splendour flows through to the suites and bedrooms. Complete with dreamy cotton bedding and all the latest mod cons you’d expect from a flash city flat, they’re a real home from home. A home from home with a mysterious edge. Creaky floors, carved woodwork and cosy, tartan furnishings are combined with a contemporary bathroom suite kitted out with Molton Brown toiletries and fluffy robes for pure relaxation.

Being able to relax and retreat is key to the Dalhousie experience. If you’re looking for something more than sliding into your slippers in your state of the art suite, the Aqueous Spa is well worth a visit. It’s a spa-lovers paradise, proud to be the first hydro spa of its kind in Scotland. Discover the basement’s old vaults that have been carefully converted into a cave-like thermal suite complete with hydro pool, a Roman-style sauna, a Turkish-inspired steam bath and tropical rain showers. The Aqueous Spa is a great place to rejuvenate the body and mind, particularly after a long journey.

The top of the range treatments seal the deal. So good, in fact, we book in for two. A Pure Balancing Facial followed by a Deep Rebalancing Massage, both using indulgent Darphin products. Heaven. The spa facilities really do bring something special to the castle. An opportunity to switch off, take it all in and enjoy a bit of bliss in the basement. But it’s as the sun sets over the grounds, when Dalhousie Castle really comes to life.

Candles are lit in cracks between the stone walls and the doors of The Dungeon Restaurant are opened up to hotel guests and diners. An evening in the hands of the restaurant team starts in the Library’s ‘secret bar’. Seated on a comfy leather armchair by the large open fire, we’re wined, watered and ready to browse the menu. The traditional Scottish dining experience takes diners from the charming coziness of the secret Library Bar, down to the hotel’s ancient barrel-vaulted dungeons. Suits of armour and war-time weapons decorate the stone walls and candles are lit as the dungeon transforms into the area’s finest 2 AA Rosette restaurant. Go here for authentic Scottish dishes, cooked and prepared in classic French style. Starters include foié gras terrine with smoked duck, and slow cooked filled of sole with kale, panna cotta. The main of braised beef cheek is effortlessly tender, served with haggis pomme dauphine, shallots and turnip fondant.

A truly unique experience combining Scottish history, local food and fine dining, The Dungeon Restaurant is well worth the trip. If you’re living like royalty for a long weekend and you’re looking to explore the surrounding areas, you’re in a great place to do so. On-site activities include the noble art of falconry, archery classes and strolls through the grounds, golf-enthusiasts will be pleased to hear there are plenty of picturesque courses nearby, and sightseers can reach Scotland’s capital city in just 30 minutes.

Dalhousie Castle is the ultimate rural retreat for those looking for a bit of out of town downtime, but within easy reach of Edinburgh and the towns surrounding the Scottish borders. It’s the perfect stop off spot as part of a Scottish road trip.


Born from a zest for travel and the finer things in life, Best Loved Hotels is a unique collection of independent hotels, each of which is loved for its own individual quirks and character. Discerning travellers trust Best Loved to recommend places, which they will not only love but will best suit their needs. 

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Aveika

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