Images Credit Glenapp Castle

The Must-Have Bucket-List Holiday of Glenapp Castle, Scotland's Magnificent Masterpiece by the Sea

Apr. 9th, 2019

Scotland is a beautiful country filled with rolling hills of farmlands, paddocks with grazing sheep, verdant pine treed mountains, and lovely little villages and towns. Scotland has a colorful history and rich culture with friendly people quick to say hello, share a joke or to bend the elbow with a frosty pint and a traveling stranger. Strewn throughout these lands are grand castles where lords once ruled over the terroir.  Overlooking the seashore hamlet of Ballantrae, across the Atlantic Ocean inlet of the Firth of Clyde, is one such grand estate and one of the finest in Scotland, the Glenapp Castle.

In the southwestern part of Scotland in the county of Ayrshire is where you’ll find the Glenapp Castle. This is the country with serene woodlands that are sparsely populated due to the grand property holding of the estates in the area, protected zones and farmlands. 

The entry into the castle estate is what one would expect. A long winding driveway that leads to the reveal of the castle’s grand façade of ramparts, and crenelated roofs tops, turrets and towers and sandstone battlements surrounded by manicured gardens and circular drive.  It is at that point when all of those well-deserved clichés of fairytale, magical, enchanted and more come to mind.  

The Glenapp Castle a Relais and Chateaux property and is among the finest in the UK. The grand castle was completed in 1870 in the traditional Scottish Baronial architecture of the Victorian and Edwardian era. Beyond its wonderful movie set exterior, it is so much more. This is the consummate five-star castle hotel with all of the accouterments that go along with it. Beyond its lore, it is the perfection of the most minute details that make a stay the Glenapp Castle so wonderful. Decadence and opulence at every turn from the décor and interiors to the world-class dining experiences , majestic gardens and grounds. Beyond the physical, the service and care of the staff are what truly warms the heart with a stay at the Glenapp Castle.

The setting of the castle and its grounds are breathtaking.  Many of the rooms and common areas look over the sweeping valley past the seaside fishing village of Ballantrae. The brisk waters of the Atlantic Ocean are then interrupted by the area’s most iconic landmark, the Ailsa Craig, which is a conical granite mountain formed from a dormant volcano. The 240-acre island is stunning to behold with its only inhabitants being the countless wildlife of birds, seals and rabbits that make it home. The views of Aisla Craig from the castle are one of the countless highlights of the stay.

The castle is enclosed in an enchanted forest of 36 acres with a countless specimen of exotic trees.  One of the most stunning features of the Castle and forest is the stone walled gardens.  Through the gates, you’ll find yourself in a wonderland of rows and rows of beautiful flowers mesmerized by the sights sounds and smells of the place. It's not a manicured garden so the flowers and plants are able to grow in a natural state. The centerpiece of the garden a turn of the century Victorian glass building and working garden house. There are hundreds of exotic plants as well as fruit trees and all types of berries that you can expect to see during your meals. And the exquisite flowers that you’ll see throughout the walks through the garden will appear each day in your room, at your dinner table, or around the castle in lovely fresh flower arrangements. There is a second Italian garden as well with fewer flowers but just as impressive with its neatly trimmed bushes in circular shapes.

After your meandering through the gardens, there’s a special treat on the other side of the walled structure. What was once the gardener’s residence is now a lovely tea room. It couldn’t be more charming with bric-brac tea cups of lovely prints and not one matching the other or the saucers as well. There are all types of teas served of course along with delicious cakes and scones.  

Inside the baronial castle is like a walk back in time to the Edwardian era when Scotland’s beau monde lived a lifestyle of privilege entertaining at extravagant galas, or elegantly dressed ladies hosting high tea,  or gentlemen in their plaid kilts smoking cigars and sipping the finest whiskey after a fox chase in the woods. The grandeur and opulence is evident in every detail from the craftsman ship of the period furnishing, priceless oil paintings and antiques, oak wood paneled walls,

The library is a lovely place to relax and read a novel with ancient books and Rembrandt like paintings adorn the walls. The drawing room is elegant with a regal old world with a lovely fireplace, fifteen-foot ceilings with sparkling chandeliers made of the finest crystal. After a long day of exploring, the drawing room is where guest would want to settle in front of the fireplace with a glass of single malt whiskey from their extensive collection while overlooking sunset on the Firth of Clyde. This is Scotland after all, so whatever you do, don’t call it Scotch when in Scotland!

The fairy tale of sleeping in a castle comes to life at Glenapp. There are only seventeen rooms that vary in size and décor, so all are unique. All the accommodations are gorgeously decorated with exquisite antiques and period pieces, comfortable armchairs and opulent furnishing. The splendor continues with lightly colored wall coverings, rich silk window drapes in pretty colors and patterns, original oil paintings and of course lovely plaid accent blankets. The bathrooms are opulent as well with marble surfaces, soaking bath and top-notch amenities.

The grandeur of the Master Sea View suite is noted immediately upon entrance. The spacious and sumptuous suite offers high ceilings with large windows let in copious amounts of natural light while providing sweeping views of the sea and gardens of the property. There’s a lovely sitting room a sofa and fireplace and  Victorian-era furnishings making it ideal for a morning tea or a sherry as a nightcap before turning in.

One of the many well-earned accolades of Glenapp Castle is for their exquisite dining experience.  Again, this is a Relais & Châteaux property, so the standard of the dining experience is a high one and the Glenapp Castle exceeds the mark. The focus on food is clear where sourcing ingredients from the surrounds. The lovely walking gardens are not only a treat for the eye; the glasshouse and walled gardens provide the herbs and vegetables for each meal. The fish and shellfish are line-caught or hand-dived off Scotland's west coast and always fresh and flavorful. Scotland is also known for the high-quality Ayrshire lamb, beef, game meat and cheese which are sourced from local producers within a 17-mile radius.

This entrenched principle to source local with fresh ingredients is the hallmark of the dining experience so each day the menu changes based on what their talented Executive Chef David Alexander sources that day as well his inspiration for that week. Your menu is provided for you in the afternoon and they’ll also set a time of when to expect you. When you sit for your meal all is ready and the dishes come out.

Each six-course meal is an inspiring culinary journey with menus like Breaded John Dory, Pea Risotto followed by West Coast Cod, Roast Breast of Goosnargh Duck, Haggis Bonbon and finally Buttermilk and Rosewater Pannacotta with Scottish Strawberries. Not to be outshined and on equal footing is the wine list from their vast cellar and the talent of the sommelier to perfectly match the chef’s creations with a fine bottle of their wines from around the world.   The dining at Glenapp Castles is one of the finest experiences in all of Scotland a surely a feast that is not to soon be forgotten.

The culinary indulgences don’t end with the dinner feast. One ideal way to spend an afternoon is at high tea at the castle which takes place in surrounds of the Drawing Room or Library.  In between gazing at the views over the property grounds and Aisla Craig, guest indulge on sumptuous finger sandwiches, carrot cake and strawberry tarts or the irresistible fluffy scones topped with rich cream and jam made from the castle’s glasshouse fruit trees.  Some guests will opt for the teas served in pretty floral tea sets while most will opt instead for a glass or two of brut champagne. 

There is so much to do around the castle from visits to Ballantrae, the ocean, and just exploring the grounds. You’ll want to get your pair of wellies ready for hours that feel like minutes walking through the gardens and wooded trails of the estate.  A visit to the glen is a must as the trail takes you along the babbling stream and its waterfalls and constant gush of water.  The property has deer, all types of birds and wildlife such as the enormous hares which are the size of a small dog. Beyond the property, there are hikes along the rugged beaches to explore as well as the area’s nearby spas for pampering after.

Other excursions can also be arranged such as a boat ride to Ireland, salmon fishing on the Stinchar river or climbing the Ailsa Craig. Nature lovers will love exploring the Isle of Arran known is birds and wildlife with 150, 000 sea birds. In fact,  it has the largest colony of Gannets in Britain with 36,000 pairs.  

Scotland is known for golf and there are 40 courses in the area including five of the top courses in the UK and three Open Championship Courses including the ‘Birthplace of The Open’ where it all began at Prestwick Golf Club.

A visit to Scotland's Glenapp Castle is a truly rare gem of the holiday experience that seems to get everything just right. From the exquisite setting, the stunning beauty of the castle and grounds to the opulent interiors. The decadent dining experiences as well as all of the fun things to do with the pampering service that makes the Glenapp Castle one destination worthy of your must-do travel shortlist.  

Glenn Harris

Glenn Harris is an accomplished journalist focusing on international travel, fine dining, and luxury lifestyle events. His wanderlust has taken him to over 105 countries where he is constantly straying off the beaten path uncovering new and exotic finds. He particularly enjoys seeking out lesser known travel gems and places to stay, dine, or experiences to capture. ...(Read More)