Staying in a castle has long been etched onto my bucket list. Growing up watching Disney, I developed a penchant for all things fairytale (although truth be told – I always wanted to be a mermaid most of all). With over 2000 castles in Scotland, it seemed like the perfect place to make my dream to stay in a castle come true!
When we started planning our road trip to Scotland, I also immediately started looking into the best castle to stay at in Scotland. I knew after two weeks on the road that a bit of luxury would be well and truly needed. With this in mind, we chose to stay at Glenapp Castle. Our stay at Glenapp Castle far exceeded all my expectations and will remain one of my favourite ever travel experiences. It also made it firmly onto our list of top castles to visit in Scotland!
Our stay at Glenapp Castle
Glenapp Castle was in the perfect location for us to stay following our road trip. Being 70 miles south of Glasgow on the Ayrshire Coast, the location was perfect as it allowed us to edge our way closer to England while seeing a new, beautiful part of Scotland.
The castle itself is nestled into the rolling countryside in Ballantrae, less than two miles from the coast. However, you won’t find any street signs for this hidden gem, so make sure you have Google Maps loaded or a paper map with you!
Arriving at Glenapp Castle
Upon arrival at the gates to Glenapp Castle, I immediately felt like a VIP. There’s something special about the exclusivity you feel from having to press the buzzer to gain access to the castle. We proceeded through the gates and up the sweeping mile-long, tree-lined drive, which added to the feeling of seclusion.
Our excitement was piqued as we first glimpsed the beautiful ivy-clad turreted façade of the castle. Arriving at the entrance, we were met immediately by two smiling staff members, ready to assist us into our new home.
Stepping through the doors, you immediately feel like you’re coming home (albeit a home I could never afford!). There’s no stuffy reception desk or check-in counter; instead, you enter a warm welcoming parlour that is neatly lined with wellies, umbrellas and rain jackets for guest use. Rather than filling in forms, you are merely asked to sign the guest book. The interior is a flawless blend of Victorian character and charm, with the modern amenities you’d expect from a 5-star hotel.
Exploring inside Glenapp Castle
From here, we were met by the lovely Hazel, who led us up the carpeted staircase to the drawing-room.
Natural light flooded through the ceiling-high windows, bathing the room with a warm glow. The room was clad with perfectly appointed period furnishings and antiques, and the tables were set ready for afternoon tea – so I knew where I was going to be spending the afternoon!
The far window framed a stunning view across the Irish Sea to the island of Arran and Ailsa Craig. We learnt that Ailsa Craig is an uninhabited, volcanic island, and is where the granite for all the Olympic curling stones comes from (including those around the castle used to hold open the doors).
Adjoining the drawing room are two exquisite dining rooms, each boasting similar coastal views. Here you can enjoy outstanding Michelin-star-worthy food.
Continuing along the oak-panelled hallway, we reached the library. This was not just for decor, the library here was complete with more books than you could ever read during your stay, as well as board games to keep all the family entertained.
Hanging on the wall as you enter is a portrait of Winston Churchill. Churchill visited the castle in 1944 as a guest of the lord of the manor, during which they apparently discussed the D-Day landings.
But now it was time to visit the part of the castle I was most excited about… our bedroom!
Our room at Glenapp Castle
We were shown to the “Countess of Inchcape” room, which is one of their Grand Sea View rooms. Our room had the most incredible views over the castle gardens to the Ayrshire coast and beyond. The bed was ENORMOUS – I mean three rows of pillows enormous! But the best part was the bathroom, complete with free-standing bathtub. I absolutely love a good bath at the best of times, but appreciated it even more so after two muddy weeks on the road!
While it was tempting to not leave the room… the scones downstairs were calling my name.
Cream tea at Glenapp Castle
We both wanted to save our appetite for our 6-course tasting menu at dinner, but also couldn’t resist some cheeky afternoon scones. We, therefore, opted for a cream tea, rather than a full afternoon tea.
To my American friends: no, a cream tea/afternoon tea is not just tea with milk/cream. And yes, I have had to explain this to Adam several times.
So now you might be wondering,” what is it, then?!” Well, a cream tea is scones served with clotted cream and jam, alongside a pot of tea or coffee. An afternoon tea is all of this, plus rounds of sandwiches and cream cakes!
I’m not sure what kind of wizardry they use at Glenapp Castle, but their coffee is some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Just writing about it makes me want to go back just for more! Put this alongside warm, soft scones, homemade raspberry jam, and a generous helping of clotted cream, and there was one happy Sophie.
Exploring the grounds and wildlife spotting
Feeling suitably stuffed, it felt like a good time to get a bit of fresh air, something that Glenapp Castle isn’t short on! With 36 acres available exclusively for guests to enjoy, we set out to explore the grounds, take some photos of me pretending to be a princess, and find some wildlife. After nearly three weeks in Scotland, I still hadn’t seen a red squirrel, which was the one thing that I was most excited about seeing.
After happily dancing around the front of the castle, it was time to go looking for wildlife! Within 5 minutes of walking from the castle entrance, we spotted a small doe, or more accurately, the butt of a small doe, as she fled from us into the forest. It wasn’t quite the majestic stag that we’d hoped would pose for a photo, but it was a deer nonetheless.
We continued walking, keeping our eyes carefully peeled for deer and red squirrels. After about 45 minutes with no luck, we headed back towards the castle. Clearly, we weren’t getting lucky with the wildlife spotting so we may as well go make the most of the luxury that awaited us back at the castle.
…And then, Adam excitedly whispered… “there’s a squirrel!”. Knowing my doubt, he quickly followed with, “I’m serious, look, there.”
There it was! Sat majestically in the tree watching our every step. I had to refrain from squealing with excitement and frightening the little red squirrel away. I HAD FINALLY SEEN A RED SQUIRREL, and he was adorable! Even better, he hung around for long enough to have a scratch and let us get a few shots before a pheasant came squawking overhead and made him scamper away!
Taking some time out to relax
With our mission to see a red squirrel complete, we thought it was about time to enjoy our castle chambers. We returned to our room to find that we each had our own personalised dinner menus waiting for us, as well as some sweet treats.
We took some time to relax before dinner, and I immediately ran the bath and soaked away my troubles (who am I kidding – I had no troubles; I’d just seen a red squirrel in the grounds of the castle I was staying in!).
Dining at Glenapp Castle
We started our dining experience in the drawing-room, where we were served champagne and canapes next to the roaring fire. When we were ready (which took us a while as we got chatting to some of the other lovely guests!), we were shown to our candlelit table in the dining room.
We had ordered the 6-course tasting menu, but I’m pretty sure it ended up being 8 courses if you include the canapes and petit fours! Every single dish was superb. It was so good that Adam even ate the vegetables (which, if you know Adam, is a big deal).
I was interested to learn that the ingredients are locally sourced, with some of the produce even being grown within the gardens at Glenapp Castle. Both the food and service were beyond 5-star standard and far exceeded my expectations.
Waking up in a castle
I’d always kind of imagined that staying in a castle might actually be a bit creepy, but this absolutely wasn’t the case. It’s hard to explain how somewhere that’s so opulent can also be so homely. Somehow, there is just a feeling of comfort throughout the castle. I think this in part due to the staff doing a wonderful job of making you feel like both a member of the family and an honoured guest at the same time.
If you’d like a wakeup call or coffee to be brought to your room, then this will happily be provided. However, we preferred to go downstairs to the dining room for breakfast and coffee. If you’ve not yet tried haggis or black pudding in Scotland, then you should absolutely order the Scottish breakfast and try it. I love haggis, but I’m not usually so keen on black pudding. In this case, both were excellent.
Seeing Glenapp Castle from above
After breakfast, we were shown around the top floor of the castle, which is currently being converted into a penthouse apartment. While it is still very much a work in progress at present, it is clearly going to be a stunning space. Once complete, it will contain enough bedrooms to sleep 8 guests, their own private kitchen, chef, butler, sauna, and roof terrace.
The 360-degree views from the roof terrace were also incredible, and we were even able to get a few photos of me up there, really feeling like a princess in my tower!
Activities at Glenapp Castle
One of the reasons we decided to stay at Glenapp Castle was due to their stargazing experience. The castle is located close to Galloway Forest Park, which is not only the largest forest in the UK but also the only Dark Sky Park in the UK. Unfortunately, stargazing requires clear skies and the weather gods were not on our side, so we didn’t get to experience the castle under the starry skies.
There are many other tours that Glenapp offers and many activities to do in the local area. As we had just spent over 2 weeks exploring Scotland, we were much more inclined to use our last couple of days to just relax, but there’s plenty to do if you’re feeling more adventurous. They recently launched their award-winning Sea Safari, which sounds and looks incredible, so I’d definitely recommend checking that out if you have the time and weather!
Final thoughts on staying at Glenapp Castle
We genuinely could not have been happier with our stay at Glenapp Castle. It was a truly unique experience and one that will be hard to beat. There’s no wonder why this fairytale castle has won so many awards, and I honestly couldn’t think of a single way to improve our stay… except maybe staying longer so I could see more red squirrels!
If you’re planning a trip to Scotland, I would highly recommend adding a stay at Glenapp Castle to your itinerary. It was an absolute highlight of our time and a once in a lifetime experience!