Most Famous Guest: Oliver Cromwell. Standing sturdy and tall, near John O’Groats on the Read more [...]
Most Famous Guests: Queen Victoria, Oliver Cromwell.
Dalhousie Castle in Bonnyrigg, near Edinburgh, has the distinction of being Scotland’s oldest continually inhabited castle, one which has in recent years been transformed into a very fine luxury castle hotel & spa. With 29 plush B&B rooms, a top class restaurant, excellent spa facilities and a serene woodland setting by the banks of the River Esk, it is now one of the ultimate places for a luxury, relaxing break near Edinburgh, but with the added mystique of having an enormous amount of history to its name.
The castle has a great selection of luxury B&B bedrooms and suites, all of them with modern comforts and facilities but with classic styling and warm inviting colours. Some of the suites, though obviously expensive, are really the last word in opulence and spaciousness. 29 of the units are within the castle while six of them are located in the lodge, a nice old style country house hidden in the woods. Guests of either though can of course enjoy full access to the common areas of the castle and the grounds.
And the castle has many common areas to explore; there is the very atmospheric, medieval style, Dungeon Restaurant for some fine dining, the more informal Orangery Restaurant which has lovely views over the river, and outside you can enjoy a relaxing walk through the beautifully tended gardens and surrounding woodland.
There are some excellent spa facilities on offer too, including a multi massage jet pool, a Turkish style steam bath, an ancient Roman style dry sweat room, Kneipp foot baths and a rain & fog shower. Massage services are offered too as are various health and beauty therapies using the Darphin line of beauty products.
In terms of activities, inside the castle you’ll find board games and book collections, while outside in the grounds guests are welcome to try their hand at archery, clay pigeon shooting and falconry.
One of the advantages of Dalhousie Castle Hotel is its proximity to Edinburgh. The city centre is less than ten miles away in fact and a stay at Dalhousie for many means enjoying all that Scotland’s lively capital has to offer before retiring to the peace and tranquility of the castle for the night.
Outside the city of Edinburgh, and near the castle, there are also some other interesting diversions and sights to be enjoyed. Glenkinchie Distillery for example is a must for lovers of whisky, with informative tours and tasting sessions available. Another interesting, more alternative day out, maybe is the also nearby Butterfly World, which has a huge collection of butterflies and other insects from around the world.
There are also opportunities for horse riding near the castle at Lasswade Stables with lessons for all levels and for both adults and children above the age of two. And for golf lovers there is centre which offers preferential rates for guests at the castle hotel.
The staff and concierge at the castle hotel can also arrange many other excursions and activities in the area and in many cases can get guests preferential rates, days out salmon fishing on the River Tweed for example or day passes to Edinburgh’s Duddingston Golf Course, so don’t hesitate to ask for advice and recommendations.
The castle dates all the way back to the 13th century, though of the original building only the sturdy foundation walls and the vaults are left. Most of the rest of the basic structure dates back to the middle of the 15th century when red stone from around the River Esk was used to update the building, and thereafter various modifications and small touches were done here and there throughout the following centuries.
The castle has long been synonymous with the Ramsay surname which is believed to have arrived in the area in the late 11th or early 12th century from Cambridgeshire, possibly in the company of King David the 1st of Scotland when he returned to his homeland from exile in England.
Not much is known about the Ramsays in England but it would seem that they arrived with the Norman Armies of William the Conqueror, but were possibly of German origin. Their original surname was de Ramesia and the first recording of the name in the area is of a Simundus de Ramesia being granted lands in Dalhousie. Not long afterwards, i.e. in the early to mid 12th century, it is believed the castle was built.
The first notable member of what was then recorded as the Ramsays of Dalwolsey was a William Ramsay who allied himself with King Edward I of England in his battles against William Wallace. In fact the King was to spend a night or two at Dalhousie Castle on his way to defeat Wallace in the infamous Battle of Falkirk. The Ramsays were later to turn sides though and join up with the forces of Robert the Bruce, with William himself being present at another infamous battle; the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. As a sign of his increasing influence and power William was to also to become a signatory to the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 when Scottish noblemen appealed to the Pope to aid them in their struggle against the English.
The English would gain the upper hand in these struggles and before long they were in possession of most of the land and the castles in the region, including Dalhousie, and had forced the then King of Scotland, King James II, into exile in France.
William’s son Alexander was to become an even more renowned figure and was to be at the forefront of efforts to defeat the English and take back Dalhousie for the Ramsays. After many raids and small battles much of Scotland was to be liberated and by 1342 King James had returned from France.
After a particularly daring raid led by Alexander to remove the English from their last fortress at Roxburgh Castle, King James would grant him the title of constable of Roxburgh and Sheriff of Teviotdale a title previously held by Sir William Douglas who on quite a few occasions had himself tried in vain to take back the castle.
The stripping of his title provoked a strong reaction in Douglas and not long afterwards he would capture Alexander and hold him prisoner in the dungeons of Hermitage Castle. It was a place from which Alexander would never escape, and after it is believed he was left to starve to death it took four hundred years for his remains to be found, buried deep beneath the castle.
The later Ramsays were also loyal to the Scottish Royals and a thorn in the side of the encroaching English, with another, later, Alexander Ramsay withholding a six month siege on Dalhousie by King Henry IV of England, and two years later being killed by the King’s forces at the Battle of Homildon Hill.
They were also supporters of Queen Mary of Scots when she escaped from Loch Leven and rallied loyalists around her, and later of King IV of Scotland, when in 1600 John Ramsay saved the King’s life after uncovering and thwarting a plot against him by the Earl of Gowrie. Royal titles were to abound for the Ramsays during that period but a little later John’s nephew, and the new head of the family, William, was to turn his back on the family tradition and side with the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War, joining them in battle while also allowing Oliver Cromwell to use Dalhousie as a headquarters for his lowland campaigns in 1648.
After the Act of Union in 1707 peace was to come to most parts of Scotland and Dalhousie was left undisturbed, so undisturbed in fact that by about 1800, in line with a lingering downturn in the Ramsay family fortune, it had started to fall somewhat into decay. The 8th and 9th Earls of Dalhousie though were to, little by little, restore some of its grandeur and by the time the 9th Earl had died in 1832 the castle had undergone much of the renovation still in evidence today.
The Ramsays by this stage had long forgone the Scottish nationalism of earlier centuries and were loyal subjects of the Crown. Queen Victoria was recorded as visiting the Castle in 1840 “to take tea with her devoted servant” the 10th Earl of Dalhousie while in 1848 the first Marquis of Dalhousie, James Ramsay, was at the age of just 36, appointed as Governor of India, the youngest ever. By the early 20th century, the Ramsays had moved the family seat to Brechin Castle, although they retained ownership of Dalhousie until 1977 when it was finally sold, thereby ending eight long, illustrious, centuries under the same famous surname.
Address: Dalhousie Castle Hotel
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