REVIEW: DALHOUSIE CASTLE
THE rousing sound of bagpipes and cheering greeted us as we checked in at the four-star Dalhousie Castle Hotel on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
Our arrival had coincided with the gathering of a sizeable wedding party on the landing above the main staircase and the guests were clearly enjoying the celebration. It was easy to see why the bride and groom had chosen the 13th century fortress for their special day, its bare stone walls and medieval decor providing an atmospheric backdrop.
The real test, however, would be how it measured up for my discerning young family who were excited about spending the night in a real Scottish castle.
The children (aged three and six) were thrilled with our accommodation which featured a four-poster bed and spacious bathroom.
Twenty of 29 rooms are historically themed and ours – The Mary Queen of Scots Suite – was adorned with suitably regal pictures and period furniture. We even had our own turret from where we could look down on the River Esk which flowed through the vast grounds.
Dinner had been booked for 6.30pm, so we made our way downstairs to The Orangery, the less formal of the hotel’s two restaurants.
Now, it should be noted that there was a lot of stair climbing involved in our stay, which may be off-putting to less mobile visitors but it is a castle after all and efforts have been made to accommodate disabled customers wherever possible. For the hotel employees, the endless to-ing and fro-ing with dinner trays and equipment must amount to a daily workout.
Perhaps the long walks, together with the demands of the wedding, would explain the long wait for our order to be taken but once the food did arrive it was both tasty and well presented.
There was no obvious children’s menu but the staff were quite willing to come up with suggestions for our hungry little ones. My son gave the delicious homemade creamy mushroom soup the thumbs-up which is quite something coming from a usually fastidious customer.
I sampled the tempting crab and prawn cocktail with cayenne scone followed by the cornfed chicken with chorizo in a thyme jus. My wife said she couldn’t manage a pudding after her generously portioned steak and chips so I bravely took on the toffee cheesecake alone, however my daughter soon pinched the fresh berries which adorned the dish.
The restaurant’s conservatory location provided a bright and airy setting despite the gloomy weather outside and we were able to enjoy views of the riverbank as we finished off the wine and headed back upstairs with full tummies.
The Orangery was also the venue for our hearty Scottish breakfast the following morning which we greedily demolished, taking advantage of the wide spread on offer.
Dalhousie also boasts a hydro spa complete with massage jet pool and tropical showers which guests can use for free (adults only). Treatments and the rasul mud chamber are extra and the facilities are open to non-residents.
The barrel-vaulted Dungeon Restaurant offers a more formal dining experience with Scottish beef, grouse, salmon and venison on the menu.