The Scottish Highlands appear as if crafted by a divine hand. From foggy mountain peaks to deep murky lochs – one of which may or may not be home to a mythical monster – this cinematic swathe of wilderness is a magnet for adventure seekers and city dwellers. To make your escape extra special, you could even stay in a storybook castle. Here’s our round-up of the best, all bookable on Culture Trip.
Less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow, this 17th-century-citadel-turned-five-star-hotel is surrounded by landscaped lawns and gardens, and walkable woodland with a river flowing through it. It’s the sort of place you’d imagine if you were reading a Jane Austen novel; except this one comes with free Wifi, as well as period furniture, a medieval-style ballroom and prints of her majesty Queen Victoria adorning the walls. There is a strong national identity too – from tartan patterns and tweed fabrics to full Scottish breakfasts (think whisky-smoked salmon) served by warm and friendly staff.
There are nine bedrooms and suites to choose from, including a four-storey tower which outdates the rest of the castle – if you’re really looking to experience a fortress stay to the fullest.
The Fonab Castle Hotel’s red-brick façade peeks out from behind a canopy of lofty trees at the foot of Ben Vrackie, also known as the “speckled mountain”. Wake to the drumming of great spotted woodpeckers, and curl up in deep velvet armchairs with the latest Sally Rooney in the modern Woodland Lodge Rooms. Alternatively, gaze out at the rugged Highlands from the pillowed window nooks in the Castle Signature Rooms. To rest aching limbs, go for a gliding swim in the spa’s 15m pool, and treat yourself to a hot-stone massage.
The battle-worn Dalhousie Castle is around 800 years old, and its walls would certainly have a few tales to tell if they could talk. Its spiral staircases wind down to grim windowless dungeons, while its redstone walls are flecked with musket shots. There’s even a ghost – some guests have reported seeing a broken-hearted Lady Catherine roaming the decadent halls. Follow in the footsteps of Mary, Queen of Scots as you climb the imperial staircase, or dine among suits of armour and battle axes in the Dungeon Restaurant. Don’t forget to visit the oak-panelled library to sip a dram of whisky next to leather-bound books.
Bring your wellies and binoculars if you’re staying at Stonefield Castle Hotel, as it overlooks the glistening Loch Fyne and has a private island where you can catch a glimpse of languishing seals and otters. After wildlife-spotting, hike back through the estate’s tangled woodland and recharge in plush rooms with tartan chairs and Egyptian cotton bedding. On rainy days, you can hole up in the library perusing the well-stocked shelves and squinting through the telescope. It also has an Austen-like drawing room with a crackling fire for warming cold toes and a wood-panelled bar serving equally warming Scottish whiskies. Well-behaved dogs are also welcome (for a fee) if you’d like to bring yours along.