Here is the Manor Castles definitive guide to the very best luxury castle hotels in Scotland, hotels that provide accommodation which no other type of luxury hotel can match.
A one time holiday spot for both Queen Victoria and the present Queen Elizabeth II, 5 star Inverlochy Castle Hotel is possibly the most grand of all Castle Hotels in Scotland.
It is a very fine, very imposing, 19th century mansion house with a stunning lake side location in the heart of the Scottish Highlands.
Its interiors are opulent, and brimming with old fashioned sophistication, it can boast one of Scotland’s best restaurants and it has has an army of staff that consistently deliver the highest levels of 5 star service.
A fine example of the 19th century upper classes newly found obsession with the Scottish Highlands, the forty two thousand acre Inverlochy Estate was bought for 76,000 sterling, an enormous sum at the time, by the Honourable William Scarlett or to go by his official title, the 3rd Baron Abinger. Scarlett was originally from Surrey, England, but having often visited the Highlands on hunting and fishing trips, so enchanted was he to become with the Highlands that he sought to buy up some of it for himself.
Like for most of his aristocratic peers, having a Scottish estate wasn’t enough, given the means to do it, one had to join in the burgeoning ‘arms race’ of the time; to build a grand manor houses on the property, ideally just that bit bigger and more grand than your neighbour. Though there was already a mansion house at Torlundie on the estate, it seemingly wasn’t nearly enough.
Baron Scarlett drew up plans in 1860 and all of ten years later he would end up having built one the finest castles in the Highlands. Though many of these grand structures would only serve as summer houses/holiday homes, Scarlett would almost immediately move himself and his family into Inverlochy Castle from their old estate in Surrey. Just a few years later, in 1873, he was to have the honour of receiving H.R.H of the time, Queen Victoria, at the castle. She stayed a few days and was recorded as remarking “I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot”.
The estate remained in the hands of the Scarletts until WW2 when a Canadian businessman called Joseph Hobbs, having already bought up two of the biggest whisky distilleries in the Highlands, paid an undisclosed, but in all likelihood pretty large, sum for the estate and set about the task of converting the estate into an American style cattle ranch. He filled it with cattle, mainly the famous Scottish breed, the Aberdeen Angus and renamed the estate the Great Glen Cattle Ranch.
Inverlochy had nearly twenty years of the cattle ranch before Joseph died and his son Joseph Jr. took over. A few years later a new idea took hold and by 1969 it had welcomed its first guests as a castle hotel, and just two short years after that again, it was named Britain’s number one hotel by the prestigious Egon Ronay Guide, and over the years has played host to a large number of famous guests from H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth to the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Elton John.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Expect old style elegance throughout the castle and very plush accommodation. There is a mixture of rooms, junior suites and full suites, all of which are highly impressive but the suites particularly being incredibly opulent and spacious. The castle is full of atmosphere and you’ll probably spend much of your first evening just wandering through the immaculate hallways, drawing rooms and lounges, with possibly the Grand Hall particularly drawing your attention.
There is also the restaurant of course, one of Scotland’s best, with the famous father and son team of Albert and Michel Roux in charge. It is formal dining, it must be noted, and men are required to wear a jacket at dinner.
The atmosphere at Inverlochy is generally quite formal but children are welcome, as are pets. They have a well stocked games room for the kids plus of course outside there is the enormous and incredibly beautiful estate grounds to be explored. There are landscaped gardens and miles of rugged wildlife filled countryside that can be hiked through, as well as various sports to be enjoyed, things like archery, horse riding and clay pigeon shooting as well as boat trips on the loch and mountain biking. The staff can arrange all sorts of things for guests around the estate and beyond, from tours with a Rolls Royce Phantom to guided mountain climbs, including that of the nearby Ben Nevis, and of course reservations for local golf clubs etc.
The location is perfect for exploring the Highlands, being very near to Fort William, for many the starting point of a tour of the region, though even if you never leave the confines of the Inverlochy Estate you will be guaranteed a truly wonderful Highland holiday.
A work in progress: More Scottish castle hotels to be added soon..