Modern stays may be luxurious, but some of Scotland’s oldest accommodation stays have aged like fine wine! This year marks Scotland’s Year of Stories and there are plenty of extraordinary tales to be shared – some you might know, some less so. You’ll find towering castles, luxurious B&Bs, and grand hotels which have all been given a lavish makeover while still retaining their historic features. Read on to find out which famous authors have laid their heads to rest, Robert Burns’ favourite writing retreat and the inspiration behind Sir Walter Scott’s classic novel, Rob Roy.
1. The Kings Arms Hotel, Lockerbie
Built in the early 17th century by Bonnie Prince Charlie, The Kings Arms Hotel once catered for weary travellers passing by in horse drawn carriages, including a few notable Scottish literary figures from Robert Burns to Sir Walter Scott. Fast forward a few centuries later and the hotel still proves to be a popular accommodation spot. Located in Lockerbie in Dumfries & Galloway, the hotel offers a range of comfortable rooms with double, twin and family rooms available and are kitted out with the things you love – from flat screen TV’s and tea and coffee making facilities, to free toiletries. The hotel may have been given a makeover in recent years, but you can still expect to see some of its original features, including a roaring log fire in the bar area. Fancy a bite to eat? Head on down to the restaurant where you will be spoilt for choice with mouth-watering homemade dishes, as well as weekly themed dinner nights. Spice things up with Friday curry night or end the week with a delicious Sunday roast.
2. The Witchery by the Castle, Edinburgh
Whisk yourself off to the Scottish capital for a luxurious stay at The Witchery by the Castle. Its name derives from nearby Castlehill, where hundreds of women were burned at stake during the 16th and 17th centuries for using witchcraft. Thankfully, times have changed drastically, and you won’t see any gruesome sights during your trip. With 9 suites to choose from, get ready to live like a king or queen. Each room is elaborately decorated with red and gold Gothic décor, silk-upholstered rooms and a second-floor suite hidden up a stone turret stair. If you prefer a room with a view, be sure to book The Guardroom, you’ll be treated to Old Town rooftop views, a tapestry hung bed, a marble-floored, oak-panelled bathroom; and a black and gold dining room, perfect for banquet feasts.
Speaking of food, did you know that The Witchery is famed for its fine dining experience? Set the mood right and enjoy a romantic candle-lit dinner in its award-winning restaurant. Browse through the a la carte menu and find everything from seafood delights including langoustines and Scottish lobster, to succulent cuts of lamb and beef.
3. Friars Carse Country House Hotel, Dumfries
Sometimes it’s just nice to get away from it all and that’s exactly what Robert Burns did when staying here. Originally called the ‘Glenriddell’, home to Captain Robert Riddell, Burns was such a regular guest that he was given the keys to his own folly called the ‘Hermitage’. This writing retreat would soon spark Burns creative flow in which the hotel would play a pivotal role in some of his famous works. In fact, the hotel’s Whistle Restaurant is named after Burns ballad ‘The Whistle’, which retells the story of a famous drinking competition that took place in the room.
Today, this magnificent hotel offers 21 bedrooms with lots of home comforts including a TV, Wi-Fi and an en suite bathroom or shower room supplied with complimentary toiletries. You won’t be disappointed with the room views either as you wake up to the picturesque River Nith.
4. The Golden Lion Hotel, Stirling
Another gem which fuelled the imagination of Robert Burns was The Golden Lion Hotel. Formerly called The Gibb’s Inn, it was renowned as the main resting place in Stirling for coaches heading towards Perth. The famous poet checked into the hotel in 1787 where he wrote the poem Stirling Lines on a window pane. The poem expressed how upset he was to see the ruinous state of Stirling Castle’s Royal Palace but soon had to smash the pane of glass with the butt of his riding crop as the poem was highly critical of the Hanoverian Kings and George III. Luckily, he didn’t face imprisonment and the hotel prides itself on its Burns heritage. Guests can enjoy a comfortable stay with the room layouts reflecting the many different eras from the 18th century onwards.
5. Dalhousie Castle and Spa, Midlothian
When it comes to old accommodation, castle stays are always top of the list! Head to the central belt for a medieval stay at Dalhousie Castle and Spa. Dating back to the 13th century, the castle has witnessed its fair share of events which we think makes for great storytelling. Criminals were once banished to the castle dungeon with no lucky escape through its 11 ft thick walls. The Ramsay Clan held Dalhousie longer than any other family and played a fascinating role as part of the castle’s history. During their reign, the 10th Earl James Ramsay was the Governor of India and brought the most famous diamond in the world, Koh-I-Nor, to Britain in 1847. This dazzling gemstone was later added as the centrepiece of the Queen Mother’s state crown. Of course, a castle wouldn’t be a castle without a few ghost stories. Lady Catherine, a mistress of one of the Ramsay lairds, was locked away and eventually perished to death in the castle turrets. Her ghost nicknamed the ‘Grey Lady’ is often seen by guests lurking around the castle in the dead of night.
Don’t worry though, nowadays you’ll feel like a pampered pooch with its elegant rooms and suites offering luxe fabrics and furnishings, flat screen TV’s, Wi-Fi, tea and coffee making facilities and much more. You might be lucky enough to bag one of its upgraded rooms complete with whirlpool tubs or period inspired décor. In the evening, dine on delicious Scottish fare at the dungeon’s upscale restaurant.
6. The Kilmarnock Arms Hotel, Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire
Don’t let the name fool you, this lovely hotel retreat in Aberdeenshire is a stark contrast to the relentless daily routine. In 1894, author Bram Stoker checked into the hotel conceiving the idea of Dracula, a blood-sucking vampire, and the rest, as they say is history. After completion of his masterpiece, Stoker was a regular visitor to Cruden Bay and penned the novel, The Mystery of the Sea, a story of an Englishman who falls in love with an American heiress involved with the Spanish-American War, with drama unfolding in every page you turn from secret codes to kidnapping.
If you fancy following in the footsteps of Bram Stoker then this is the place for you. Choose from a wide selection of rooms including twin, double and family, or you might even consider a room with your own private patio – perfect for those hazy summer days. When it comes to food, you can never go wrong on quality at the hotel’s 1888 restaurant. Before bed, end the evening with a few nightcaps at the aptly named Bram’s Bar.
7. Kilmartin Castle, Argyll
Once upon a time, this 16th century stone castle was held by the Campbell Clan for 200 years. After being abandoned and falling into disrepair, Kilmartin Castle was given a new lease of life and transformed into a luxurious B&B. Take a trip to the west coast and get ready to check in for the royal treatment. Its rustic-chic rooms are filled with a mixture of antique and modern furnishings with en suite bathrooms and Wi-Fi access. Enjoy a late night or early morning soak in the copper bath, keep warm and cosy by the wood burning stove or gaze at the glorious views through the arrow-slit windows. If one room is simply not enough, upgrade to a suite instead!
Did you know, Kilmartin Glen is a valley, carved by glaciers of the last Ice Age?! There are about 350 ancient monuments which hint to its Stone and Bronze Age roots. You’ll find everything from standing stones and burial cairns, to medieval stone carvings which mark the first human inhabitants of Scotland.
8. Dornoch Castle Hotel, Sutherland
These castle walls have many stories to tell. Built around 1500, it was originally home to the Bishops of Caithness before Bishop Robert Stewart later gifted the castle to John Gordon, 11th Earl of Sutherland in 1557. After a feud between the MacKay’s and Murray’s, the castle was set on fire and followed extensive reconstruction work to save the building. It also served as a school, jail and hunting lodge for visiting sportsmen before turning into a 3-star hotel for the ultimate Highland escape.
Taste the best of Scotland’s larder at the newly refurbished castle restaurant. Head chef Grant MacNicol will be sure to tantalise your tastebuds, dishing up extraordinary dinner recipes from Black Isle langoustines to venison ragu. Dornoch Castle Hotel is also just one of the few hotel’s which has a distillery on site. Be sure to pop in for a wee dram of whisky or a classic gin and tonic.
Retire for the evening in one of the 24 country-chic rooms, many of which have views overlooking its walled gardens. We don’t want to scare you too much before bedtime, but we just love sharing ghost stories. It is believed that the castle was haunted by the ghost of Andrew McCornish. He met his terrible fate after being hung for sheep stealing.
9. Inversnaid Hotel, Loch Lomond
Originally a hunting lodge, this peaceful retreat proved to be a popular holiday destination for visitors far and wide after the introduction of steam trains and paddle steamers in the 19th century. It’s no surprise though, with its teeming wildlife, stunning natural landscape and of course its bonnie banks, there’s plenty to keep you occupied during your travels. A home-away-from-home you’ll receive impeccable service with a warm and friendly welcome. The rooms are spacious with en suite bathrooms, TV’s, hairdryers and tea making facilities. The fun doesn’t stop when the sun sets though, kick back at the lounge bar with your favourite tipple, chatting away to friends and family into the wee small hours.
A few well-known authors even gained writing inspiration while staying here including William Wordsworth for his poem, To A Highland Girl and Sir Walter Scott’s literary classic, Rob Roy.
We hope that we’ve entertained you with our many colourful stories on Scotland’s oldest accommodation. Still undecided on where to stay? Head to the bright city lights with our fantastic city stays in Edinburgh and Glasgow, splurge on a 5-star luxury hotel stay or do your bit for the planet by booking an eco-friendly hotel. The choice is simply endless!