The Scottish county of Aberdeenshire boasts the Cairngorms, Britain's largest national park; mountainous countryside dotted with rural villages; and an unspoiled coastline. One of its major tourist attractions is the "Castle Trail," a chain of 13 castles in various states of ruin or renovation. Visitors who come to Aberdeenshire to see these ancient landmarks can augment the experience by staying overnight in one of the county's castle hotels, a description that incorporates genuine castles, grand country houses and historic family estates.
Kildrummy Castle Hotel
Kildrummy Castle Hotel is an imposing stone country house in the Grampian Highlands of Aberdeenshire. Its 16 guest rooms have en suite baths and formal, classic decor and furnishings. Two rooms, named Clochter Pot and Mill O'Brux, feature canopied four-poster beds. All room rates include a daily breakfast, and bed, breakfast and dinner rates are available for a minimum two-night stay. Guests may choose a welcome package that includes a chilled bottle of Perrier Jouet champagne, a fruit basket, chocolates and fresh flowers in the room. The hotel's restaurant offers locally sourced, traditional Scottish fare with a contemporary twist, such as dry-cured wild boar prosciutto, chicken breast stuffed with oak-smoked cheese and venison fillet with chestnut mashed potatoes.
Castle Forbes, the seat of the Chief of Clan Forbes for six centuries, is the centerpiece of a 6,000-acre estate in the Vale of Alford, also home to an ancient stone circle dating to 3,000 B.C. The present structure, constructed in 1815, remains a family home as well as a luxury hotel. It features a large, log-burning fireplace in the entrance hall, as well as open fireplaces in all the public rooms, creating a warm and cozy atmosphere. All the guest rooms overlook parks and ancient woodlands. The dining room is adorned with tartan, hosting candlelit dinners that showcase game, fish, wild mushrooms and garden vegetables from the estate. The River Don flows through the estate, allowing for fishing from February through October, and a trout lake is also available to guests. The on-site restaurant, Laird's Kitchen, offers afternoon teas with homemade cakes and scones.
Delgatie Estate offers self-catering apartments in Delgatie Castle, in the adjacent coach house and in individual cottages. The circa-1030 castle, which was rebuilt in the 16th century, retains historic features such as the main tower, built around 1100; painted ceilings depicting animal motifs; and a turnpike stair. Mary Queen of Scots stayed at Delgatie Castle in 1562, and her bedchamber has been preserved. Lodging options inside the castle consist of two suites: the Symbister Suite, which accommodates up to five guests and includes a fully equipped kitchen; and the three-bedroom Hayfield Suite, with views of the castle grounds. The coach house includes four self-catering apartments, each with large picture windows, a full kitchen and laundry facilities.
The Castle Hotel is a former family home built in the 18th century and refurbished with stone from the ruins of Huntly Castle. Its storied history includes service as an Army hospital during World War II and playing host to the Prince of Wales in the 1990s. Accommodation options include 14 standard rooms with parkland views; three deluxe rooms with Italian tiled bathrooms, plush bathrobes and hot water bottles; and two spacious suites, one with a four-poster bed and the other with a private lounge with complimentary sherry for the guests. The property includes a helipad, and the hotel offers free Internet access. The on-site Distillery Bar has a cozy, wood-paneled lounge, a fireplace and leather armchairs, as well as a menu of 140 Scotch whiskies. The restaurant offers an a la carte menu of gourmet Scottish fare such as seared wood pigeon breast, confit of duck leg and paupiette of rainbow trout.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images