Glenapp Castle review: Scottish luxury with an adventure streak
If there is one benefit to the uncertainty surrounding international travel, it’s the opportunity – or the obligation – to explore our own islands.
Among the smaller of these is Ailsa Craig, a craggy granite wedge off the coast of southwest Scotland. It may be a little over half a mile in diameter, but it has an outsized presence in history – and in the geographic present. In fact, he will appear to follow you down the coastal road to Glenapp Castle, where he will remain your serene and steadfast companion.
Why come here?
Covered with forests and bordered by gravel beaches, this part of southern Ayrshire looks like well over 100 kilometers from Glasgow. Hikers, golfers and bird watchers will be suitably entertained, as will those drawn to the ruined abbeys and fortresses that line the coast.
For many, however, the main attraction will be Glenapp Castle itself. With its Gothic turrets and prominent ramparts, the hotel’s imposing silhouette is warmed and softened by the Scottish sandstone used in its construction. Inside, the chateau is divided into just 21 generous rooms, all richly furnished and each with a view of the sea or the gardens.
The top two floors of the castle are dedicated to the Endeavor penthouse suite. Its lucky residents have at their disposal four bedrooms, a games room and library, a media room, a kitchen, a private sauna, a spa treatment room and a dining room and a spacious living room that can accommodate 16 people – all richly. carpeted and richly furnished. They also have the exclusive use of a rooftop terrace with stunning views of Ailsa Craig, Arran and the Mull of Kintyre.
Essentially a hotel within a hotel, the Endeavor is served by a private chef and personal butler, who will whip up cocktails, collect wine from the cellar, or deliver a six-course meal cooked to your specifications. As the indulgent experiences go on, it’s hard to beat a private dinner served amidst such splendor as the late summer sun penetrates through the west window.
What to do
The 36-acre grounds of Glenapp Castle, featuring wild woods and carefully manicured gardens, may be enough to keep you occupied. Put on your boots and set off on the Glen Trail, which takes you through pine forest, along an unflattering (and incorrectly) named tributary of the Stinchar River, and along great banks of rhododendrons – in full glorious bloom. in mid-June. Longer hiking routes stretch along the Ayrshire coast and through local villages (the hotel can provide picnics, jackets and boots).
Walking apart, Glenapp has plenty of other activities to suit all tastes – from croquet and puck to archery, clay pigeon shooting, prancing and mountain biking. Or you can join a professional tracker for a day of deer stalking, then head out into the woods with a falcon for a falconry demonstration.
If Ailsa Craig’s alluring vision tempts you far from the mainland, you can charter Glenapp’s impressive 33-foot boat for the ten-mile journey through the Firth of Clyde. The experienced two-man crew will tailor the trip to your interests, offering insight into the island’s unusual geology – and entertaining commentary on its history and mythology. Once home to smugglers, monks and religious refugees, it is now uninhabited.
From a distance the island may appear barren and rocky, but up close it’s a surprisingly verdant outcrop, one side of which is home to tens of thousands of Northern Gannets. Puffins are also starting to repopulate the cliff, and you’ll see them floating on the water and flying through the air, along with shearwaters, murres and kittiwakes. Once ashore, you can climb a steep path to a small ruined castle and walk among the island’s most recently abandoned lighthouse accommodations. Built in the 1880s by Thomas Stevenson – father of author Robert Louis Stevenson – today it is automated and powered by solar energy.
For anyone who has spent the past year yearning for a distant canvas and campfire adventure, the Glenapp Hebridean Sea Safari offers the perfect domestic alternative. Accompanied by a private chef, you’ll travel from island to island, spending the days searching for birds, marine life, and remote islands – plus the occasional coastal inn or restaurant – and nights in luxury tents , fulfilled after a sumptuous dinner and a dram to fall asleep.
When should we go
Each season brings out a different aspect of the charm of Glenapp Castle. Settle in in winter and enjoy the tasting menus, wine cellars and whiskey collection, or wait for the start of spring when bluebells take over the woods. The rhododendrons take over for the end of spring and the beginning of summer, before passing the baton to the heather on Ailsa Craig. Outdoor activities are easier during the summer, but possible all year round – the far west of Scotland rarely has harsh winters. The darker months also provide an opportunity to stargaze at Glenapp or the nearby Galloway Forest Starry Sky Park – a haven from light pollution.
How to book
Rooms are available on the Glenapp Castle website from £ 251 per night in winter or £ 395 per night in summer including breakfast. The Endeavor Suite starts from £ 2,750 per night in winter and £ 3,950 per night in summer.