Dalhousie Castle Hotel and Aqueous Spa, to give it its full title, is a fine hotel set in a magnificent Scottish castle standing on the west side of the valley of the River South Esk. The castle stands in 11 acres of grounds in rural Midlothian, which to the south climbs gently towards the Moorfoot Hills. It is also, however, less than 3 miles from the Edinburgh City Bypass and less than 8 miles south-east of the very centre of Edinburgh. You can read our dining review for Dalhousie Castle here.
With its complex arrangement of turrets, towers and crenellations, Dalhousie Castle is very much the real thing. Parts of the lower levels of the castle date back to the late 1200s, and it was steadily developed over the centuries by the many generations of the Ramsay family who lived here from 1280 to the early 1900s. The result is a complex and intriguing building, an ancient castle which was developed into a baronial mansion in the early 1800s. Dalhousie was visited by many Scottish monarchs over the centuries, and among less welcome visitors were King Edward I of England and Oliver Cromwell.
The public rooms of the hotel are superb. Key features in the main part of the hotel include the magnificent landing and hallway on the main floor and the Library Bar. In the depths of the castle you find the magnificently vaulted Dungeon Restaurant. Also on the lower floor of the hotel are the Aqueous Spa and the Chapel and Gunroom. Built as a conservatory-styled annex on the south side of the hotel is the Orangery.
There are 36 en suite guest bedrooms at Dalhousie Castle Hotel. Of these, seven (two suites and five double/twin rooms) are located in The Lodge, in the castle grounds. Of the 29 rooms in the castle itself, two are historically themed suites; nine are themed four-poster or king size rooms; four are themed double or twin rooms; and fourteen are "standard" rooms in a range of sizes including twin, double, triple and quad. What counts as a "standard" room at Dalhousie is still pretty special by most standards.
With a location close to Edinburgh, a rural setting, and plenty of car parking, Dalhousie Castle is ideally located for business meetings and events. Five function rooms are available, in a range of sizes. The setting and the availability of a room that serves as a Chapel makes Dalhousie a popular venue for weddings, and the hotel has dedicated wedding planners.
Its leisure facilities are a particular strength of Dalhousie's. The Aqueous Spa was the first hydro spa of its kind in Scotland, in which relaxing and therapeutic spa treatments can be combined with invigorating hydro facilities. These include a hydro pool, a Roman style sauna, a Turkish style steam bath and a tropical rain and cold fog shower. Also available are a wide range of therapeutic and beauty treatments. An unusual leisure option is the Falconry. This allows casual visitors from the castle to view a range of hawks and owls close-up, and offers a range of packages allowing small groups to experience the thrill of actually flying owls and hawks from the hand in the castle grounds.
Scottish castles were originally built by people more interested in making them inaccessible than accessible, and this inevitably reflects on disabled access in a building like Dalhousie Castle Hotel. Additionally, the historic importance of the building means the insertion of lifts or chair lifts into the structure is not an option. As a result, though parts of the building can be accessed by wheelchairs, this is not straightforward. Access to the main function areas on the first floor of the hotel is possible with assistance (up steps) but not straightforward. There is a disabled toilet, but this is five steps up from the main function areas. Guest rooms are in a number of different parts of the castle (as well as in the lodge), with many on the upper two floors of the castle. None would be especially easily accessible to someone with a mobility impairment or disability.
Every aspect of the service you receive at Dalhousie is outstanding. From the helpful staff in reception to the waiter who explains to you what is on your plate in the Dungeon Restaurant, from the porter who must see more steps in a day than most of us see in a year to the people making sure you have enough bottled water in your room, everyone you meet is professional, friendly and welcoming. You can read our dining review for Dalhousie Castle here.