Why book Glenapp Castle?
There are over 1,500 castles in Scotland. This one is unique in the southwest and has few peers in the north or east.
Set the scene
At the very least, Glenapp proves that this criminally neglected corner of Ayrshire features grandiose baronial-style architecture, a dingy coastline, rolling moors, picturesque cattle and eccentric aristocrats as good as anywhere elsewhere in the country. The castle is approached by means of a beautiful kilometer-long road that winds through a densely forested gorge so wildly lush, so dense with ferns, firs, rhododendrons and redwoods that it almost seems of a otherworldly, or at least slightly non-Scottish. This pleasantly disorienting feeling is dispelled, however, when you finally emerge on the threshold of the castle itself, a manual affair of towers, turrets and battlements, all reassuring and familiar. properly. On one side, you look at an impeccably tidy walled garden by Gertrude Jekyll; on the other, across the turquoise waters of the Irish Sea to Ailsa Craig, the Mull of Kintyre and the Isle of Arran.
What is the story
Colored. The castle was built in 1870 for a Scottish industrialist, James Hunter, and sold in 1917 to another, James Mackay, later Lord Inchcape and chairman of P&O. Inchcape’s favorite daughter, Elsie, was an actress, who starred under the stage name Poppy Wyndham, and an aviator, who in 1928 became the first woman to attempt to cross the Atlantic by plane. She was more successful in the first pursuit than the second, disappearing shortly after taking off on her first transatlantic flight, never to be seen again. Glenapp remained in the family until 1988 when it was sold to one or more Japanese buyers. It was then part of a strange trial – “a world soap opera” like The Wall Street Journal described it – implicating Hideki Yokoi, an aging real estate mogul who is no stranger to controversy, and one of his illegitimate daughters, whom Yokoi claimed to have “stolen” from many of his properties, including Glenapp, several French chateaux and, surprisingly, the Empire State Building.
In 1994, Glenapp became part of the McMillan hotel portfolio. After six years of restoration, it opened its doors in 2000, quickly forging an excellent reputation, notably for its Michelin-starred restaurant, and a loyal clientele. In 2015 it was again sold to Paul Szkiler, a London-based fund manager, and his wife, coincidentally also named Poppy. Almost immediately, the Szkilers signaled the seriousness of their commitment to the property with an ambitious program of improvements and new initiatives. Its reopening after the lockdown in May 2021 saw the unveiling of a fantastic new penthouse suite, The Endeavor – named after Elsie Mackay’s plane – which takes up the entire attic.
What can we expect from the rooms?
The interior is just as you can imagine from the outside. Lord Inchcape himself, and even more modern-minded Elsie, would likely approve. Victorian beauty, combined with current common sense, prevails everywhere. Since the Szkilers took over, 11 of the 17 existing rooms have been brilliantly renovated. There are no duds among them – the basis of the choice depends on budget or availability. But the big news here is The Endeavor, which, while billed as a suite, actually feels more like a rambling apartment, with four bedrooms, multiple bathrooms (disproportionately large and charming), a kitchen (brilliantly equipped), a dining room (majestic, seats 16), living room, library and TV room. And a treatment room, which we’ll talk about later.
The master bedroom is accessed by two stairs, one spiral, one straight. If you follow the straight line further than you think you will come to another spiral staircase that will lead you to the roof of the castle. The views in all directions are mesmerizingly beautiful – gardens, treetops, coastline, sea, islands. Chances are, even in good weather, it will be too windy here among the stony battlements and slate roofs for you to want to stay very long; but it’s worth the climb and you won’t forget it, even if you are forced to retreat hastily and windswept.
What about food and drink?
This reviewer’s visit coincided with a perfect storm of staff turnover, pandemic-related disruption and behind-the-scenes unrest for which management could not be held accountable. On this basis, he would prefer to reserve his judgment and say only that on his last visit, in 2015, the food and drink side was exceptional, and that he expects it to be so again.
What about the spa?
High in the attic, among its endless nooks and crannies, The Endeavor, or penthouse suite, contains a treatment room with unique charm. Apparently Lord Inchcape enjoyed playing pool and smoking cigars here once upon a time – maybe he kept spare cues and chalk and a stash of stogies in this closet-sized space. Yet, small as it is, it may have finally achieved its true destiny, as it seems as perfectly spa-like and fit for purpose as any temperature-controlled underground wellness chamber in the space age in the major metropolitan capitals of the world. Plans are underway to convert the former Glenapp stables into a full-scale spa. Meanwhile, those who don’t stay at The Endeavor and, for whatever reason, can’t live another minute without treatment will be hastily transported to a facility near Lendalfoot, which, while now unseen. examiner, apparently will. in a pinch.
How is the neighborhood scene?
Nearby Glenapp are Culzean Castle, Dumfries House, Lochnaw Castle, Lochinch, and Robert Burns’ birthplace. More than enough for heritage lovers and poetic souls to feast. The same goes for those who love the outdoors, the Turnberry Golf Course. Although the Inchcapes sold the castle, they retained a substantial estate around it, which remains popular with hunters, shooters and fishermen. Guests of the castle who wish to satisfy their bloodthirsty urges can do so on site. Those with more peaceful nightlife habits can take advantage of the castle’s proximity to Britain’s first Dark Sky Park, which is just half an hour from Glenapp; but in fact, there’s no need to move – you can enjoy first-class stargazing from the comfort of a sun lounger on the castle’s croquet lawn, warmed by a woolen blanket, with a mug of hot chocolate or a glass of good whiskey in one hand and a pair of binoculars in the other.
A word on the service?
Always warm, generous, enthusiastic and in a good mood.
Is it suitable for families?
Simply superb. There are plenty of activities that are diverse and enjoyable and suitable for guests of all ages. A partial list may include beekeeping, tennis, croquet, shuffleboard, pétanque, walking, mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, coasting, archery, ax throwing (oh, yes), yoga, foraging, forest baths, Scottish fiddle, stargazing, painting, photography, pheasant and partridge shooting, deer hunting, curling, cooking lessons and tank driving (honestly). The Endeavor is more or less aimed at families (library with plenty of books and board games for children; multimedia room with 65-inch TV, Xbox Series S and Oculus Quest 2 for “virtual reality fun”, whatever. this is). Elsewhere in the chateau are two Junior Suites with sofa beds in separate living areas and three Master Suites with enough space for two additional beds. A children’s menu is available for all meals; an earlier dinner service for children can be arranged. There is babysitting for toddlers.
How is its ecological effort?
Meat, fish, poultry and game are local (often very locally) and an ever-growing supply of fruits, vegetables and herbs comes from the castle’s own chemical-free gardens. Most of the flowers that guests enjoy throughout the chateau come from these same gardens. Partnerships with local suppliers are partly based on the implementation of compatible policies. There are Tesla and Universal Type 2 chargers for hungry cars. Water consumption and recycling are also closely monitored.
What is the accessibility for people with reduced mobility?
A bit limited, although this is largely due to the nature of the building and the grounds. A ramp can give direct access to the ground floor of the castle; there are several rooms with walk-in showers and others with grab bars in the tubs; and there are toilets for people with reduced mobility. There’s also elevator access to the first and second floors, and even the third, where you’ll find The Endeavor – although once you exit the elevator a maze of steps, stairs, and doors remains. to thwart further progress.
Nothing to report?
Glenapp Hebridean Sea Safari. For guests with an adventurous spirit and curious about the land – and the seascapes visible from the castle – the option to spend several nights visiting the nearby islands with an experienced RNLI skipper and marine biologist, glamping in tents fancy on distant shores (including the one on the Jura where George Orwell wrote 1984) and served by a private chef, is not to be missed. These trips were introduced by the Szkilers, who are rightly proud of the way they draw guests out of the Glenapp cocoon and into the big world around them – a truly enlightened and commendable attitude.
Keep scrolling for more images
Like that? Now read:
Best hotels in Scotland
The most beautiful places in Scotland
The 7 best restaurants in the Scottish Highlands