MIND YOUR MANORS

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - WHAT’S YOUR BUDGET | SCOTLAND - CE­LESTE MITCHELL

Con­jur­ing up im­ages of times past, when kings, queens, lairds and ladies reigned supreme, a stay in one of Scot­land’s cas­tle ho­tels is a must for his­tory buffs, ro­man­tics and

Out­lander fans alike. “Cas­tles are an iconic and in­te­gral part of Scot­land’s his­tory and cul­ture. Each one has its own unique story to tell,” says Laura Mitchell from VisitS­cot­land.

Scot­land is thought to have about 3000 stand­ing cas­tles, ru­ins and doc­u­mented sites, with 145 cas­tles-cum-ho­tels pro­vid­ing the op­por­tu­nity to sleep like roy­alty. To find the largest con­cen­tra­tion of cas­tles and stately homes, head to Aberdeen­shire, known as Scot­land’s Cas­tle Coun­try. “There are more cas­tles per acre here than any­where else in the UK,” she says.

The tourism board has cre­ated a Cas­tle Trail, along which you can dis­cover 19 of Aberdeen­shire’s most dra­matic cas­tles.

Con­sid­er­ing that re­search shows al­most half (49 per cent) of Brits have never vis­ited a Scot­tish Cas­tle – VisitS­cot­land is en­cour­ag­ing vis­i­tors to get “cas­tle-bag­ging”. Book your fairy­tale stay in one of these Scot­tish cas­tle ho­tels.

AF­FORD­ABLE DAL­HOUSIE CAS­TLE, MID­LOTH­IAN OVERNIGHT RATE FROM £135 (ABOUT $246) (CAS­TLE DOU­BLE)

Scot­land’s old­est in­hab­ited cas­tle was once the seat of the Ram­say Clan and has up­held an il­lus­tri­ous guest list since the 13th cen­tury. King Ed­ward I spent a night here be­fore go­ing on to de­feat Wil­liam “Brave­heart” Wal­lace. Queen Vic­to­ria popped in “to take tea” in 1840. And when the Ram­says moved out in 1972 it was trans­formed into a lux­ury ho­tel. The moat may have since been filled in but you’ll still spy the holes in the stone from the old draw­bridge and feel the sto­ries of cen­turies past seep­ing from the thick stone walls. Get hands on in the fal­conry, test your aim with archery, sink into the hy­dro pool within the spa, and cap it off with an aper­i­tif served from a se­cret bar, be­fore de­scend­ing to the dun­geon for a can­dlelit din­ner. Rate in­cludes break­fast. DALHOUSIECASTLE.CO.UK

MID-RANGE FONAB CAS­TLE HO­TEL & SPA, PERTHSHIRE OVERNIGHT RATE FROM £215 (ABOUT $392) (CAS­TLE ROOM)

Orig­i­nally built as a fam­ily home for the San­de­man sherry and port dy­nasty in 1892 and used as a Red Cross hos­pi­tal dur­ing WWI, Fonab Cas­tle is one of the younger cas­tle ho­tels, open­ing in 2013. Sit­ting pretty on the banks of Loch Faskally in the heart of Tum­mel Val­ley, its tur­rets are bal­anced by a modern ex­ten­sion and lux­u­ri­ous touches are felt through­out. This is a ho­tel with heated dog ken­nels, af­ter all, should you be tak­ing your pooch on a long-dis­tance hol­i­day.

Ex­plore the nearby town of Pit­lochry – one of the gate­ways to the High­lands, en­joy a caviar fa­cial or hot stone mas­sage in the on-site spa, or take af­ter­noon tea, gin cock­tail in hand, with views across to Ben Vrackie. Rate in­cludes a full Scot­tish break­fast. FONABCASTLEHOTEL.COM

TOP END INVERLOCHY CAS­TLE, FORT WIL­LIAM, HIGH­LANDS OVERNIGHT RATE £490 (ABOUT $907) (BED­ROOM)

Trump­ing any Tripad­vi­sor re­view, in 1873, Queen Vic­to­ria spent a week at Inverlochy and wrote in her diaries, “I never saw a love­lier or more ro­man­tic spot”. Built as a pri­vate res­i­dence in 1863, the cas­tle was con­verted to a ho­tel in 1969. With Ben Ne­vis loom­ing above and Glen Ne­vis falls and the moun­tains of Glen­coe close by, you’re in an out­door lover’s play­ground. Play 18 holes at Fort Wil­liam Golf Club, go white­wa­ter raft­ing, ski­ing or fish­ing, or try clay pi­geon shoot­ing and archery within the grounds. Later, play chess in front of the fire or book for af­ter­noon tea. Don your din­ner jacket for meals served in one of three din­ing rooms and end with a wee dram. Each of the 17 bed­rooms has been in­di­vid­u­ally de­signed and rates in­clude a full Scot­tish break­fast. INVERLOCHYCASTLEHOTEL.COM

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