I never thought I’d see peaches growing in Scotland. Yet there they were, jostling juicily on their branches, totally at home in their splendid 150-foot Victorian glasshouse. Surprises are everywhere at Glenapp Castle.
The Ayrshire baronial seat is breathtakingly beautiful with views out over the sea towards the dramatic volcanic outcrop of Ailsa Craig. In the hands of new owners Poppy and Paul Szkiler, it’s a historic place that’s full of fresh energy.
Staying at the castle feels like being a welcome friend at a country home rather than a guest at a luxury hotel. Upon arrival there is no reception desk, you simply wander into the hall amongst wellington boots of all sizes, tennis racquets piled high behind the door. Up the stairs there’s a splendid sitting room and library stocked full of board games and family DVDs. Rooms are luxurious and impossibly comfortable each with their own cosy fire, and the family rooms have interconnecting bedrooms.
Exploring the castle’s extensive 36-acre grounds could easily fill a day. Borrow bicycles and helmets and discover the numerous pathways that weave around the estate. Stop and enjoy the glasshouse, kitchen gardens and Gertrude Jekyll Italian garden. Have a game of croquet on the lawn or enjoy a knock about on what has to be one of Scotland's most spectacularly situated tennis courts.
There are masses of activities on offer: golfers are spoilt for choice, then there’s clay pigeon shooting, deer stalking, salmon fishing, whale watching, quad biking, tank driving and more. Those less fond of country pursuits should head to nearby Culzean Castle (below). Take a tour of the Scottish National Trust property and then borrow a dog to walk on the beach. Kids will love the brand new adventure playground. A second playground for teens with Go-Ape style high ropes is planned for next year.
But it would be easy to never leave the hotel. Food is exceptional. Using local Ayrshire produce and the offerings of the extensive herb and kitchen gardens the food is fresh, seasonal and absolutely delicious. And there's impeccable attention to detail. Visiting in July, we foolish Londoners had left behind our coats. Luckily Glenapp provide smart North Face jackets to borrow; we became so attached that we were loath to give them back! The staff are old-school in their kind and courteous manner, we couldn’t have been better looked after.
Better still, exciting things are happening. We had a sneak peak at the top floor of the castle that is currently under renovation. As well as more affordable guest rooms there are plans for a cookery school and an exclusive penthouse suite for stargazing. Watch this space!
Glenapp Castle is 2 hours drive from Glasgow. The castle is offering up to five complimentary activities when you stay for seven nights this half term. Try star-gazing with an astrophysicist, falconry, sea fishing, off-road quad biking, tank driving and more. £395–£675 per night inclusive, dinner, bed and breakfast.