A VICAR-turned entrepreneur has snapped up a 13th century Scottish castle hotel. Robert Parker, who owns luxury hotels in Northumberland, is thought to have paid half what the previous owner shelled out for Dalhousie Castle, near Edinburgh, almost ten years ago.
The castle was visited by England’s King Edward I, also known as Longshanks, the Hammer of the Scots, and Oliver Cromwell.
Popular for upmarket weddings, it boasts 29 bedrooms, falconry and archery facilities, and Scotland’s first “hydro spa.” The castle, which sits by the banks of the River Esk near Bonnyrigg, in Midlothian, is also reputed to be haunted by a 16th century ghost.
It was on the market for £7.5 million after the collapse of Von Essen Hotels last year with debts of almost £300m, but Mr Parker, who made his fortune in the nursing home business after spending 20 years as a vicar, is believed to have snapped it up for around £5m.
Dalhousie Castle had become Von Essen’s first hotel acquisition in Scotland after it was bought over from Nexus Hotels in 2003 for a reported £10m.
Agents handling the company’s portfolio of 26 hotels across the UK after it went into administration originally put Dalhousie Castle on sale last June. Mr Parker, who learnt his business skills as a member of the clergy while he was rector of Yate, in Bristol, is thought to have spent more than £1m overhauling three country house hotels in Northumberland – Guyzance Hall, Eshott Hall and Doxford Hall.
He had initially bought the 14-room property and estate at Guyzance as a second home in 2008. Dalhousie, the historic seat of the Ramsays, was converted into a hotel in 1972.
Longshanks visited Dalhousie before the Ramsay of the time changed his allegiance to King Robert the Bruce, at whose side he fought in the Battle of Bannockburn.
William Ramsay later allowed Oliver Cromwell to use it as his Scottish base, probably to stop him knocking it down.
Queen Victoria popped in during her Scottish tour of 1842, and another visitor was Sir Walter Scott, who was an old schoolfriend of the ninth earl.
Guests at the castle are said to have been tapped on their shoulders by the resident ghost, thought to belong to Lady Catherine, mistress to a former owner of the house, one of the Ramsay family, in the 16th century.
When the affair became apparent to Ramsay’s wife, she imprisoned Catherine in an upstairs chamber where she was starved to death.
A woman dressed in grey is also said to make regular appearances at the hotel in the guise of Lady Catherine – with her presence reported on the stairs, in the dungeons and in the castle’s main corridor.