Sliding into a bubbling hydropool, looking out across acres of frost-kissed Scottish countryside, a somewhat selfish thought grips the mind: we can’t have another Scottish indyref, this wonderful place needs to stay part of our country for sure.
Whatever happens in the future, in the here and now, Dalhousie Castle Hotel & Aqueous Spa draws on its rich Scots heritage and blends it with modern luxury to deliver an unforgettable stay. For anyone looking for a romantic escape to the country located just a stone’s throw from a fantastic capital city, it’s nigh-on impossible to imagine a better setting.
The 13th Century building is Scotland’s oldest inhabited castle. Its grand slabs of pink-tinted stone stand out against a backdrop of 11 acres of beautiful woodland and rivers. The castle was inhabited by Earls of Dalhousie for 700 years, so its historic credentials certainly check out.
Step inside, and the grandeur of Dalhousie Castle strikes anew: from ornate high ceilings decked in wood hang eye-catching chandeliers. It may be four star, but it feels truly five star in every way.
Thirty five grand rooms, many complete with high ceilings and four poster beds, large bathrooms and views of the sprawling grounds, make for an unforgettable hotel experience - and that’s before you step inside the aqueous spa.
Complete with a steam room, sauna, foot spas, a cosy relaxation room and of course, the aforementioned hydropool, Dalhousie is not short of opportunities to unwind in these truly special surroundings. And if you can bear to tear yourself away from the pool area, there are opportunities to indulge in an array of spa treatments, from manicures and facials, to a wonderfully relaxing full body massage that promises to banish every ache and pain.
A library bar is the perfect setting for a whiskey or glass of bubbly before dinner is served.
Evenings at Dalhousie Castle start here: aperitifs are served from the ‘secret’ bar hidden behind a bookcase before we are whisked downstairs to the dungeon restaurant.
Lit by candlelight, shaped into the stone of the castle’s original features and decorated with knights in armour, swords and shields, the underground eatery is as romantic as it is characterful.
And the food?
Absolutely divine. Diners have two choices at Dalhousie: the Orangery, which is a family friendly brasserie which serves burgers and light snack options, and the dungeon restaurant, headed up by chef Francois Giraud. The French twist on classic British cuisine was welcome - even more welcome was the special gluten free menu laid on for me, the awkward coeliac disease sufferer who can’t go near wheat. What was served up was as delicious as any gluten-y meal: starters included butternut squash soup, a wonderfully supple braised beef with purple potatoes and a dessert of a light, mousse style vanilla cheesecake. Delicious, classy food without being overly pretentious.
Outside of the castle’s impressive walls, there’s also falconry and archery on offer - not to mention the stunning views of the countryside. Going further afield, Edinburgh is just a 25 minute drive away.
Whether you’re heading for a romantic escape or a family trip in style, Dalhousie Castle is not just a step above your typical hotel - it’s an entire historic spiral staircase beyond expectations and it’s very easy to recommend.