Hailing from north of the border, I’m often asked to recommend the best hotel in Scotland, and Glenapp Castle stars in my top three. What’s not to love?
The Scottish baronial seat in Ballantrae, a sensational corner of Ayrshire, is now a five-star hotel.
I loved the sense of anticipation encouraged by the tangy smell of the sea on the approach along the twisting, coastal A77 by the Firth of Clyde. Buzzing the telephone entry system to gain admittance made us feel like VIPs even before we swept through the gate and up the curving driveway, shaded by mature woodland.
Romantic retreat: Glenapp Castle, pictured, is a five-star hotel in Ayshire, Scotland
On reaching the car park, a welcoming committee was ready to take our luggage and show us to our room, called Knockdolian.
Dogs are welcome by prior arrangement and our spacious, antique-filled garden suite had direct access to the grounds – all 36 acres, which we explored with our pet, Minnie. We enjoyed pre-dinner drinks as the sun slowly set behind Ailsa Craig.
Dining in the castle restaurant is special, with a mouthwatering six-course gourmet menu. As dogs aren’t allowed in the public rooms, coffee and petits fours were thoughtfully delivered to our suite.
You can capture stags on camera from Glenapp Castle
An activity from Glenapp Castle’s extensive brochure was included as part of our package, though when the alarm clock rang at 5am, I did wonder why we’d chosen to go photo-stalking. We could have selected star-gazing, a wildlife cruise on a private rib, the adrenaline rush of experiencing Europe’s longest zip wire, or even tank-driving instead.
Yet it was all worthwhile when, creeping through bracken like the SAS behind expert Chris Dalton and his dog Oscar, we spotted four regal red stags and a dainty roe doe in the soft light of dawn, just near enough to capture on camera. Exhilarated by our experience, we also felt we’d earned our full Scottish breakfast that morning, relished before most other guests were even awake.
The USP: A romantic flourish of sandstone fairytale turrets set in a scenic biosphere reserve, just off the new South West Coastal 300 route.
The rooms: A choice of 17 elegant guest rooms (a few dog-friendly) with period furniture, luxurious bathrooms, wi-fi, and garden or sea views.
The food: Local produce (and the kitchen garden) is used to present sublime dishes. Our six-course dinner menu included pan-seared Orkney scallops, breast of Goosnargh duck, plus a melt-in-the-mouth buttermilk and rosewater pannacotta. And don’t miss the breakfast with the castle’s own jams, marmalade and honey.
Glenapp Castle, Ballantrae, Ayrshire. B&B stays cost from £395 or £525 per room per night, including a six-course gourmet dinner. For more information visit glenappcastle.com.