Carberry Tower Castle Hotel, Musselburgh, near Edinburgh, Scotland, is an award winning, luxury 4 star hotel with a history going back to the 15th century and connections to the infamous Mary, Queen of Scots.
There is a superb bistro restaurant here and you can enjoy a drink at the Champagne Terrace, or some aristocratic style afternoon tea, all in beautifully elegant surroundings.
The setting is peaceful and atmospheric, with flower filled gardens, ancient woodlands and the famous Carberry Hill where in 1567, after being on the wrong side of the Battle of Carberry, Mary, Queen of Scots would announce her abdication from the throne.
They have a range accommodation from small single rooms, to a top of the range suite, the 700 square feet Royal Suite. Between those two extremes are various other classes of rooms and suites (check your options on the booking page here).
In some hotels there isn’t always a huge amount of difference between superior or executive rooms and junior suites but in Carberry, if you have the budget, we’d advise paying the extra for a suite.
Though there isn’t much of the medieval to be felt in the rooms, they do all display a nice mix of old fashioned ambience, think late Victorian to early 20th century, and modern comforts, with the bathrooms though being generally contemporary in style.
Their bistro restaurant, The Campaign Room, is very highly rated and serves up a nice range of traditional dishes, locally sourced, and seasonal, as much as possible. They also do traditional afternoon teas, breakfast, brunch and supper, and you can drink a cocktail or two at the elegant Champagne Terrace, originally a gift from the Queen Mother to the ex-owner of Carberry, her sister, Princess Margaret.
You can also lounge around the fireplaces in the elegant drawing room, the library, or the music room complete with its own pipe organ. The estate grounds too are lovely to discover; beautifully tended gardens and wild woodland that make for peaceful, relaxing evening strolls.
Carberry Tower is set in 35 acres of of its own semi wild parkland outside the village of Wallyford, near Edinburgh. The nearest train station being Wallyford Station, a 5-10 minute taxi ride from the castle and just 10 minutes by train from Edinburgh Waverley Station.
Coming by car is straight forward too; from the center of Edinburgh should take about 20 minutes depending on traffic and about 40 minutes from Edinburgh Airport. While the journey from Glasgow, and its international airport, should take less than an hour and a half. The hotel also has a helipad.
The first recorded mention of the lands around Carberry was in the 11th century when King David I of Scotland granted what was then known as “Caerbairin” to the monks at Dunfermline Abbey.
It would remain in the possession of the Abbey for hundreds of years and during the 15th century it was recorded as leased out to the Johnstone family who built the original tower, a simple, defensive, stone structure with little in common with the ornate manor house we see today.
The Johnstones would remain there until 1541, when a regional Kings Advocate by the name of Hugh Rigg, took it over on a 44 year lease.
In some historic trivia, six years later, it was rumoured (by no less a character than John Knox) that Hugh sneakily kept Carberry away from the English by advising the Scottish forces at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh to confront them down by the River Esk in Musselburgh, and not by the tower as originally planned.
Carberry was famously the site of a pivotal moment in history when, in 1567, forces loyal to Mary, Queen of Scots faced off a rebellion by a confederation of lords but came away on the losing side. Right on Carberry Hill Mary herself was forced to announce a humiliating abdication in favour of her infant son James. A monument commemorating the incident stands there today, with the hill, a part of the Carberry Estate, also going by the more noble title of ‘Queen’s Mount’.
Read more about the history of Carberry Tower:
In 1587 the Abbey would finally lose Carberry to the Maitlands of Lauderdale, for whom it was annexed by the Crown not long during the Scottish Reformation. Historical records from 1600 note a charter from King James VI’s wife Queen Anne requesting a stay at Carberry. It was addressed to a family by the name of Riggs, who were now it seems the owners of the estate.
The next record of ownership was in 1659 when it became the property of a Sir Adam Blair of Lochwood and thirty years later it was in the possession of Sir Robert Dickson of Inveresk.
His son, also Robert, was to become Chief Baillie of Musselburgh and held on to Carberry through the Jacobite rebellions including the nearby Battle of Prestonpans in 1745. In 1760, and more peaceful times, it became the property of John Fullerton, who started a process of upgrading, altering and extending the tower, a process that would be continued after his death, and the tower thus started to become more of an extension to a mansion house/manor house than vice-versa.
In 1774 his niece Elizabeth, married the Hon. William Elphinstone, and twenty seven years later, in 1801 it became the possession of the Elphinstone family. More alterations were done in 1830 but it wasn’t until 1861 that the entire estate got a complete upgrade, with the gardens particularly getting an overhaul.
Royalty would return to Carberry when Sydney Herbert, the 16th Lord Elphinstone, married Lady Mary Bowes-Lyon, sister of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, with Elizabeth herself, and George VI, visiting on many occasions.
More extensive work was done on the estate during Lord Sydney and Lady Mary’s time there, including another overhaul of the the grounds, and the laying out the formal gardens we see today.
Lady Mary died in 1961, six years after her husband, and left the estate to the Church of Scotland in her will. The Church used the building as a formal conference centre and sold off parcels of land in the, at the time much larger, estate.
The next refurbishment was in 2008, by the Gartmore Housing Trust who bought it from the Church four years earlier. It would see two more new owners, the companies Clarenco LLP who again refurbished it and opened it as a hotel, and Kingsland Estate, the current owners.
WHAT OTHER GUESTS SAY:
“The place is beautiful. Beautifully kept and decorated. Gardens and grounds stunning and it’s wonderfully peaceful. Staff are very helpful and really nice- even to rude guests on check out which we witnessed. Classic rooms are not huge but lovely and the named rooms and suites are exquisite and sizeable…”
“The staff were absolutely amazing. The hotel was outstanding and had a lot of character. Plenty of grounds for lovely walks too. Couldn’t fault the place at all…”
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- Carberry Tower Mansion House