When we left Inverlochy Castle Hotel, I wondered what Husband had planned next. Nothing, I thought, as spectacular as Inverlochy. He didn’t speak much as we drove, and I could see he was slightly tense. I wondered what was coming.
We left the main roads, and followed single-carriage lanes through the hills, passing rivers, and farms, and cattle. There were a lot of rabbits, and families of partridges, and then, perched on a hilltop, there was a ruined castle.
“Is that our next Airbnb?” I joked.
“Yep!” said Husband.
The entrance gates were a complete ruin, with a tree growing out the top of the lodgehouse. We had been told to use the back entrance, as it was less rugged, but even so I was glad of the 4-wheel drive. Rabbits (so many rabbits) leaped out of the way (and often back into our way, so we drove very slowly) until we arrived at the entrance to the castle. Round turrets stood stark against the sky, tumbled down stone littered the garden, empty windows hid the dark rooms. Husband checked the instructions, collected the key, and we entered.
We were staying in the kitchen wing. A series of rooms, that had once been the kitchen, dairy, scullery, and meat room, had been renovated, a modern kitchen fitted, furniture installed. There were stuffed animal heads on the wall, and coat-hooks made from deer feet. The floor was stone, and cold, and the ceilings were very high. We spoke in whispers as we looked around. There was something slightly spooky about it all, though I’m not sure why. We chose the least scary room for our bedroom and unloaded our cases. Then we left for dinner, and warmth, and something familiar.
We ate at Armstrongs, a restaurant next to a caravan site (quite a different atmosphere). The food was excellent. We then returned to the castle and settled in for the night. It was actually very comfy. Well, less uncomfortable than I had feared.
The following day, we were given a tour of the whole castle by the owner—Dr David (I can’t remember his last name). Balintore Castle has been bought (14 years ago) by an IT doctor who has until recently been living in Oxford while he renovates the castle. When he bought it, the roof was missing and some of the walls. The previous owner (a Lady) had lived there until she died, at which point the castle (in a state of disrepair) reverted to the adjoining estate. The lady who inherited it had hated the old lady, and she wanted to blow up the castle (and had even set the explosives) when the authorities stopped her because the castle was built along a fault line and they worried an explosion might trigger an earthquake! Instead the castle was left to go to ruin, plundered for building materials, at the mercy of the weather.
The Scottish authorities realised a cultural treasure was going to waste, and placed a compulsory purchase order on the castle, which is how the present owner managed to buy it. It is undoubtedly a labour of love, and many years and millions of pounds, have been spent restoring the castle to its former glory (there is a way to go yet). As I listened to Dr David, I found his enthusiasm contagious.
It was also really interesting to see the derelict rooms and imagine how they would have been in the past. The great hall, with the huge bay window (now boarded up) and the vaulted ceiling (currently lying in a heap on the floor). Some of the turrets had been restored to their original purpose—ensuite toilets for the bedrooms! They had rounded wooden toilet seats that fitted the rounded walls of the turret, and all the waste would have fallen easily away from the castle. Not the fairytale image I had imagined.
The castle was not terribly old, built in 1860 in the ‘Scottish Baronial’ style (like Balmoral, the Queen’s Scottish castle). The architect was William Burn, who was quite brilliant and designed things like a water tower on a nearby mountain that was higher than even the highest turret, so the water pressure was excellent throughout. The kitchen wing was built where it would remain cool (this was particularly effective—our rooms were freezing!)
It was such an amazing experience to stay in the castle. I never managed to shake off the slightly spooky feeling (a great disincentive to pop to the loo in the night, I never fancied those cold corridors in the dark). The scariest thing in reality was probably a mouse, but it was the sort of place where you imagined things. I am so glad we did it. What fun!
We left after a couple of days, and I wondered where we were staying for the last few days of our amazing tour of Scotland. I felt that wherever it was, it couldn’t possibly be as amazing as the places we had already visited. Yet again, I was wrong…
Thank you for reading and sharing our adventure.
Love, Anne x
If you fancy staying in a real castle, the website is here: