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Issue 13 - Hire a piece of history

Scotland Magazine Issue 13
March 2004


This article is 14 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Hire a piece of history

Myres Castle is a nine-bedroom castle near Auchtermuchty, a few miles south of Perth. You hire it exclusively, and it might well be haunted. Dominic Roskrow spent a night there all alone.

It’s not often you get the chance to sleep in a room which played host to Mary Queen of Scots. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the Queen’s Room at Myres Castle was used regularly by the monarch when she was a little girl.

Had I been choosing a room to stay in, this would have been my choice. No contest.

As it was my hosts picked it for me – and there was plenty of scope, because on the night I stayed I was the only resident in the nine room castle.

But none of the rooms would disappoint if you decided to hire the castle for you and 17 other people. For every room is stunningly decorated, and no two are alike.

Which provides the ideal starting point if you were to hire the castle in its entirety over a weekend or longer. You can happily spend your first hour traipsing from one room to the next and exploring what each has to offer; everything from modern rooms with tastefully erotic art and flat marble sinks to the historic, such as the aforementioned Queen’s Room, large and sprawling and with a large quilted wedding blanket on the wall.

There are neat and relatively conventional bedrooms and plain quirky ones, including one decorated as if it were a striped marquee, the creases and folds running up to the ceiling. There’s even a painted rip near the light switch and, in one corner, a painted mouse escaping through a hole.

Each and every one of the rooms has been composed with a great deal of love and care. Decades, or even centuries, of history have bestowed on the castle a wealth of artefacts and keepsakes that have been tastefully placed around the property.

And the feeling that you’re in someone’s private home is reinforced by the large number of family photographs placed on sideboards and dressing tables throughout.

Add in framed letters covering everything from a hand-written letter from the present Queen thanking the owners for presents they have sent her to official letters from the forces during the first world war informing the family of the death of a close relative, and it really is the most intimate experience.

That is the point. For Myres Castle is not, and does not pretend to be, a hotel. You hire it in its entirety – it can cater for between six and 18 people and you can stay for as little as two nights – and you have the run of it.

There are full time staff on hand; a front of house manager with an impressive knowledge of wine and whisky, among other things; an amenable and efficient general manager and in Christopher Trotter, a wonderful chef with a healthy love of organic food and a passion for ‘real’ cooking.

But they will play as big or as small a part in your stay as you want them to. Should you wish to wander in to the cottage-style kitchen and rustle up a sandwich you can.

You can be as flexible as you want with meals. And if you’d prefer to help yourself to drinks rather than have them brought to you, that’s fine, too.

Nor will you be short of things to do. If lounging around in a 16th century castle and relaxing in the library with its roaring fire isn’t enough, then there are plenty of options.

There is a games room complete with full-size snooker and billiards table, for instance, there are large grounds to walk around and enjoy, and you’re on the doorstep of some of Scotland’s finest golf courses.

Should you wish it, a ceilidh can be organised in the castle, and there are any number of options for you to hold a private party or banquet for a major celebration.

The balance of old and new extends beyond the bedrooms, too; full business facilities including conference call telephones, computer points and internet access make the hotel an ideal company retreat, a helipad provides access to high-flyers, and a large television with a wide range of satellite channels allows the real world to intrude on your stay should you wish it too.

Indeed, Myres Castle prides itself on its flexibility and can be exactly what you want it to be. It’s not the cheapest place you’ll ever go, but compare it with top quality hotels and consider the quality of the package that you’re being offered – only alcohol is charged outside the quoted price – and it all adds up to a truly marvellous and value for money experience.

After a superb dinner, some excellent wine and a couple of large glasses of cask-strength Lagavulin – something of a favourite of mine – it wasn’t hard to feel totally relaxed and ready to sleep.

If the castle’s spiritual occupants had formed a band I doubt I’d have noticed.

And for all I know, Mary herself might have popped by.

A wonderful stay, a magical place.