Staying at Glenapp Castle does not feel like staying in a hotel: rather it feels like staying as a house guest during the castle's Victorian or Edwardian eras. Yet it is also a hotel, and a truly superb one. Magnificent accommodation, both in the public areas and the guest rooms, combines with a unique sense of seclusion and privacy, with outstanding food, and with excellent service to give a truly unique experience. You can read our dining review for Glenapp Castle here.
Glenapp Castle stands in 36 acres of superbly cared for gardens and woodland. You reach it via a minor road south of Ballantrae that leads to the estate gates, then along a drive that extends for some three quarters of a mile through woodland before arriving at the castle itself.
Glenapp was built in 1870 by the noted architect David Bryce for Mr James Hunter, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire, and is a magnificent example of Scottish Baronial architecture. The crowstepped gables, the battlements, the turrets and, (literally) above everything else, the main tower reflect a much earlier age of Scottish architecture. The castle was tastefully extended in the early 1920s, then fell on hard times later in the century. It was heading for dereliction when purchased by the McMillan family in 1994 and over the following six years was restored by their daughter and son-in-law, Fay and Graham Cowan. The result was the return of Glenapp Castle to its former glory and its emergence as what you see today.
The heart of the public areas is formed by a fine drawing room which extends across the whole width of the castle at first floor level, flanked by the two dining rooms. Follow the main corridor west from the drawing room and you arrive in the library. This is a lovely and intimate room lined, as you might expect, with bookshelves, and which offers a real flame fire on cold days.
There are 17 guest rooms at Glenapp Castle. All are highly individually styled, so no two are alike: yet all are utterly in keeping with the feel and character of the magnificent castle and come complete with fine furniture and personally chosen antiques and oil paintings. All the rooms have en-suite bathrooms, some have sea views, and many have living flame fires.
Rooms are grouped in price bands according to size, view and location in the building. They come in a number of different configurations and sizes, and while decor and outlook vary, all are equally highly equipped: individual details and images are available on Glenapp's web site. There is also a range of suites. On the first and second floors of the west wing of the castle are the two master rooms, palatial in scale at 630 square feet, and both with living flame fires and windows on three sides.
The privacy and seclusion of Glenapp Castle combine with the magnificence of the setting and the accommodation to ensure that it is a highly popular venue for exclusive use events. Up to 34 people can be accommodated at the castle, and dinners or receptions of up to 40 people can be catered for. As a result the castle is equally at home hosting business gatherings or conferences, or weddings.
Disabled access is good, and certainly far better than might be expected from the age and traditional design of the castle: with the result that it has been assessed by VisitScotland as "suitable for wheelchair access with assistance". Key to the castle's accessibility was the successful insertion of a lift. This has enabled access to and from the first floor public rooms. Meanwhile, four of the guest rooms are easily accessible from the lift, and one has been adapted for disabled use.
Glenapp Castle is one of the few Scottish outposts of the Relais & Châteaux association of fine hotels, and has been awarded 5 Gold Stars by VisitScotland, 5 Red Stars and 4 Rosettes by the AA, and a Michelin Star. As a result we arrived for our stay with very high expectations, and found them easily surpassed. In an environment in which excellence is the norm, the thing that really makes Glenapp Castle stand out is its success in making you feel like a house guest rather than a hotel resident. The Victorian and Edwardian eras which saw the zenith of the country house lifestyle have long passed: but at Glenapp Castle you can still gain a flavour of what it must have been like to be a part of that world. You can read our dining review for Glenapp Castle here.