A true Castle experience isn’t just for the Lairds and Ladies anymore! Scotland’s Culcreuch Castle warmly welcomes commoners these days, as yours truly found out during a fantastic stay last October. The Castle Dungeons are revamped into a Pub and Restaurant, and the only “draggin’s” you’ll be facing are your own when heaving your luggage up the stairs, as this is a true old Scots Castle indeed and there ain’t no elevator!
The Barons of Clan Galbraith
Culcreuch Castle’s origins stretch back to 1296. It was built by Maurice Galbraith and became the clan seat for Clan Galbraith for hundreds of years. In the early 1600s, Culcreuch went to Robert Galbraith’s brother-in-law Alexander Seton of Gargunnock to settle a debt. Later, ownership transferred to the Napier family, which held on for a handful of generations, and subsequently to a variety of owner with names such as Menzies and Spiers. Today, a holding company owns and runs Culcreuch Castle as a hotel, under General Manager Robert Reynolds.
Fun fact: Robert, 17th Chief of Clan Galbraith, the last Galbraith owner of the Castle, managed to go bankrupt and fled to Ireland to escape his debts! Note the open door in this night shot…
Your Culcreuch adventure starts when you walk up to the front and into Reception, off to the side of an inviting Lobby with chairs, sofas and a cozy fireplace. We were in late October when the temps drop and it gets dark earlier, and this arrangement literally provided a warm welcome.
The Castle itself boasts 10 rooms, all individually decorated and the names reflect its history. There’s the Baron and Napier Deluxe Suites, the Menzies and Spiers rooms (the latter is the only Twin room in the Castle), the awesomely named Seton of Gargunnock room. The intriguing Chinese Bird Room. And, there’s also a lovely Honeymoon Suite! Next to the Castle are the old Stables, where they offer an additional 4 “Courtyard” rooms, including a Family Room.
Facing the famous Culcreuch draggin’s
Our room, number 8, was high up – and we were on a 3-week trip, with quite some baggage. Schlepping all bags up the stairs would be heavy work! It’s often helpful to prepare the night before, and pack just a 1-2 night small bag and leave the big case in the car. Safe enough here.
The room itself was spacious, with a cool Four Poster bed and a seating area with sofa. Plenty of storage and a hanging closet, and a large bathroom with bathtub and towel heater, most pleasant in the crispy autumn air. Or, close the window….
Fading into Fall
Looking out the window, we had a pretty view overlooking the front with the lawns and trees, autumn colors fading in late October yet still present, the lake not far away. Lovely spot for a stroll through the rustling leaves to greet the new day at sunrise. In the distance, sometimes layered with wispy fog banks, there’s the Campsie Fells and Endrick Valley.
Snug as a medieval bug
Up the stairs and to your right, you’ll find the “Family Snug”. I often book this for families with young children. It’s a Double room, ensuite as are all rooms, and off to the left of the Double is a second bedroom with bunk beds. This “snug” is the perfect spot for young princes, princesses or fierce warriors of either gender to have a stay like nowhere else!
I persuaded Housekeeping to let me sneak into the Snug, have a peek and take some quick pictures, but not many, as they were working to clean up, make the beds and get the room ready for the next guests. Still, it gives you a bit of an idea.
Dungeon drinking and dining
Hungry? Thirsty? Follow the signs to the Castle Bar in the Dungeons. Now this gives you a true Castle feeling, with the nooks and old stone crannies to the side of the narrow hallway. The pub is small but pleasant: hang at the bar or avail of the provided seating. Off to the left, there’s a spacious dining room.
Heads-up, or rather a heads-down for tall people: do duck down going through the entrance, as people were a lot shorter back in the day! That stone is rather unforgiving, and they don’t put up warning signs: they expect people to not be texting while walking in….
The meal was good. Both of us had my long-time favorite soup: Cullen Skink, a creamy haddock soup typical of Scotland and Northern England. I then had a nice fish & chips, and my wife enjoyed a free range chicken dish.
We hung out at the bar afterwards, with Bailey’s and coffee, and for me a neat dram of Jura, only mildly peaty. I’m planning to visit the Isle of Jura next year on an island hopping and hiking trip and visit the Jura Distillery!
From cereal to sausage
Breakfast was served in a beautiful high-ceiling function room a short flight of stairs up. Long drapes, cozy warm décor, and excellent food. A nice selection of cold items on the buffet, and a menu for cooked-to-order hot items. As usual, I attacked the breakfast with gusto, one of the nicer ones on the trip, and that’s saying something! There was something special about the Castle’s haggis…..
Find it in Fintry
Culcreuch Castle is located on a country estate at Fintry, about half an hour west of Stirling with all its Scots history: William Wallace, Stirling Castle, Robert the Bruce, Bannockburn. More on that in a future blog. Also nearby: Doune Castle, which in “Outlander” became “Castle Leoch”. Ahh, no sign of Jamie and Claire, alas!
Culcreuch is a great base for several days exploring, from the Loch Lomond area to the Glengoyne Distillery: try their “Wee Tasting Tour” and, you can even add a Chocolate tasting, as one of my clients ecstatically reported!
More Dungeons and Draggin’s
We made the most of our time at Culcreuch but there is so much more to see and do in the area, we’re already thinking about a return trip and stay at the Castle again. Study the history, tour around, do some hiking, and in the evening hang out in the Dungeons, planning out the next day while enjoying a wee dram or three from their wide selection. But remembering those stairs, I will pack much lighter indeed: those Draggin’s can breathe fire down the old injured back!
My travel blog “Con’s Corner” takes a sometimes irreverent look at 4+ decades of travel in the British Isles. My trips are real: no months of staging the perfect photo, no waiting for the perfect weather, no Photoshopping, no promo story in exchange for a freebie: I pay full fare. It’s true travel. Note that the company does not necessarily share my opinions and views. In fact, they may be shaking their heads. The photography is mine (except where credited as noted), as are all typos, grammatical errors, and odd expressions. It’s a blog, people, not literature! I also accept full responsibility for any puns, varying on a scale from hilarious to ouch… Be all that as it may, I intend to keep at it until I get it right. Con Jager, Santa Rosa, USA.
(R) Photography by Robin Gabbert
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