Ever wondered what it’s like staying in a palace or castle? With a stay in one of these grand stately homes in Scotland, you need wonder no more
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Standing sentinel in the Scottish Borders, this rose-pink castle, which has been home to the Maitland family for over 400 years, is one of the oldest and most refined inhabited castles in all of Scotland. Now run by a charitable trust, with all profits going back into the upkeep of the castle and its grounds, guests can either book one of the five-star suites in the main castle or the whole of the South Wing (which sleeps 16).
For a really extravagant reunion, you can hire out the entire castle – including access to the Victorian kitchen and grand state rooms, where you can dine beneath the portraits of past owners in the state dining room. It’s also possible to book a private tour with the current owners, Edward and Sarah Maitland-Carew, while other add-ons include a piper to pipe you in for dinner, a storyteller to regale you with tales of Border Reivers and folk heroes, plus deerstalking, archery, whisky-tasting, horse-riding and more.
At Scotland’s oldest inhabited house, which for many years served as a hunting lodge for kings and queens, you can check into one of four period bedrooms, which come with canopied beds and antique furniture, on a bed-and-breakfast basis at a very reasonable rate. Unfortunately, you can’t sleep in the King’s Room, which Mary, Queen of Scots once slept in (see above), though you can view it. The Pink Bedroom, originally Lord Traquair’s Room, can be booked and looks out over the maze, while the White Room, in the 17th-century wing of the house, has views of the Bear Gates that have remained closed since the 18th century when the house’s then owner decreed they should remain shut until a Stuart was back on the throne.
For bigger gatherings, Howford House on the Traquair Estate (a 10-minute walk from the house), is an attractive Georgian property, with tennis courts, overlooking the River Tweed that sleeps 18 people on an exclusive-use basis.
While you cannot stay in the beautifully restored Dumfries House itself – the stately home in southern Scotland that His Majesty The King saved for the nation back in 2007 – you can do the next best thing and stay in the five-star Dumfries House Lodge, which sits on the edge of the 2000-acre Dumfries House estate. Officially opened by the-then Prince Charles, Prince of Wales in 2012, the lodge features 22 luxurious guest rooms as well as three divine self-catering cottages.
Guests can enjoy the freedom of Dumfries House estate and are within easy reach of the 18th-century Palladian country house that is home to the largest known collection of furniture designer Thomas Chippendale’s early work. Dumfries House remained untouched for 250 years before Prince Charles’s intervention. It now operates primarily as the headquarters of The Prince’s Foundation, whose education and training programmes are funded by revenue from commercial activity, including profits from overnight stays at Dumfries House Lodge.
Far from the typical image of one of the typical stately homes in Scotland, this mid-century, post-Bauhaus glasshouse, where Sir Hew Dalrymple, currently the 11th Baronet, and his siblings spent an idyllic childhood running free, is now available as an exclusive holiday let. The single-storey home designed and created in 1960 for Hew’s father by the highly regarded architect James Dunbar-Nasmith won many plaudits for its bold design. While other mid-century houses are fitted out with furnishings of the period, Leuchie Walled Garden was, and still is, unusually, designed around the family’s 300-year-old collection of furniture and portraits: an intriguing juxtaposition between modernity and tradition.
Set within a 60-acre estate in East Lothian near the pretty seaside town of North Berwick, known as the ‘Salcombe of the North’, it’s also well off the main tourist route. Sir Hew Dalrymple says of the house: “When I was a child, my parents opted to upsticks from Leuchie House, as it was too large and impractical and moved into this stylish modern home, built within the walled garden. “We have now transformed it to accommodate contemporary standards of luxury, complete with groundsource heating, while retaining the unique features of the mid-century building, with its striking, bold angles, glass and timber.”
For group gatherings, Carlowrie Castle, in the town of Kirkliston, just 10 miles from Edinburgh, are hard to beat. Exclusive-use guests get full run of the 32-acre estate, including nine ensuite bedrooms in the castle itself, plus the option of booking a further five bedrooms (with two bathrooms) in the Gate Lodge, or seven ensuite bedrooms in the Stables. Victorian-built Carlowrie was the family home of the Hutchisons for 130 years – the family coat of arms is carved into stone above the front door. The most famous family member was Isobel Wylie Hutchison, who in the 1920s and 1930s was an intrepid explorer. Today, like-minded adventurers can abseil down the castle walls, or recreate some of the decadence of the inter-war years with a lavish vintage party.
This Grade A listed Palladian mansion in Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders can easily lay claim to being one of Scotland’s grandest – thanks to a sensitive 20th-century restoration, which has retained many original features including 18th-century George II period plasterwork by one of Scotland’s most revered plasterers, Thomas Clayton. Today Marchmont is a place with art and creativity at the heart of everything it does, with artist studios and workshops in its grounds. A private family house, Marchmont is only open on certain days for tours and art-related weekend events. However, guests wishing to hire it out in its entirety can book in year-round. Staying true to its artistic ethos, Marchmont’s exclusive-use guests can participate in pottery, printmaking, silversmithing – even rush seat chair making – while here.
Scone Palace is one of the most historically significant stately homes in Scotland. Home to the Earls of Mansfield, whose family has lived here for over 400 years, the palace, set amid a 20,000 acre-estate, has its origins in the 12th century, though Scottish kings were crowned here long before even that. Queen Victoria famously visited in 1842 – the owners were given two years to prepare for her arrival – and guests who hire out the private apartments, which include 12 double bedrooms – 10 of which are ensuite – can dine in the very same room that hosted the queen.
Private tours of the palace with The Countess of Mansfield, her eldest son Viscount Stormont, or a head guide can also be arranged, and guests can wander the extensive grounds at their leisure. The six-person apartment – The Balvaird Wing – can be hired on its own for smaller gatherings. Add-ons include bird of prey displays, mini-Highland games, whisky tastings, pipers, chauffeur-driven tours, and pheasant shooting.
This is an extract. Read the full feature in the January/February 2022 issue of Scotland, available to buy from Friday 16 December.
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