LYNN O’Rourke visits Dalhouse Castle in Midlothian for a short break steeped in history
I WANT to treat my mum to something a little special. (Let’s face it, there has to be some compensation for all that “quality” grandma and grandchildren time I normally lavish upon her.) So, for once, it’s just the two of us and we’re heading to the historic setting of Dalhousie Castle for dinner, bed and breakfast, and a dip into the castle’s Aqueous Spa.
The castle is eight miles south of Edinburgh and dates from the 13th century, with the distinctive red stone main part built around 1450. It’s an impressive sight as we drive in through the lavish grounds. (It may have been a slightly more impressive arrival had I not pulled into the neighbouring farm first, despite the fact the castle is clearly signposted - Mother remains unconvinced that it was the scenic route.)
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
We’re firmly on boutique ground, although cost-wise there are deals to be had. This is old-school style, imbued with a sense of history and character.
We stayed in a Castle Bedroom and the first thing that struck us was the heavy wooden door to our twin room that we needed a hefty key to open (none of your modern-day card swiping malarkey here). Our en-suite room was decorated in a traditional style with carved wooden headboards and dressing table, an ornate chandelier and embossed wallpaper, while the bathroom is spacious and spotless. There are also themed rooms, castle suites, four-poster rooms and six newly designed modern rooms in Castle Rocks located in the estate.
WINING AND DINING
We enjoy a pre-dinner G&T in the Dalhousie Library room, which is a glorious space with tartan floor covering, sumptuous leather seats and a book-covered “secret” door that opens to a bar area. There does only appear to be one waiter, who serves drinks, takes your food order and escorts you down to the dining room when your table and food are ready, so he clearly has his work cut out.
We have dinner in the Dungeon restaurant, which is described on the website as being a “completely unique dining experience” and I couldn’t argue with that. The setting is stunning in ancient, barrel-vaulted dungeons which are split into three dining sections. Think deep stone walls, suits of armour and ancient weaponry. Atmospheric lighting enhances the mood of the space, and, despite the stone floor and walls, it is gloriously warm – most important when dungeon dining.
The menu changes regularly with the emphasis on fresh Scottish produce cooked in a classic style. We enjoy wild turbot with cockle broth, carrot and mascarpone soup, loin of Perthshire lamb and caponata of John Dory. Our breakfast was taken in The Orangery (where you can also enjoy bistro dining and afternoon tea with champagne), which is lovely and light-filled with panoramic views over the castle estate.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
There are gorgeous grounds to walk around, but we opted for a trip to the spa, enjoying a Darphin facial each and a dip in the Hydro Pool, with its multi-massage water jets, the Laconium, a Roman-style dry sauna, the Kneipp foot baths, where you massage your feet on stones and pebbles immersed in water, then relax on a lounge bed in the warm tepidarium that overlooks the grounds. After all that we didn’t have the energy to try our hand at archery or falconry, which are both available.
Slippers, towels and robes are provided for use in the spa.
GUEST BOOK COMMENTS
This is a great experience, with a lovely little spa attached. A bit like stepping back in time – with mod cons – enough to satisfy even the most deep-seated Downton cravings. We loved the elegant interior, the sense of history and the peace and quiet. Dungeon dining is the icing on the castle cake. n
Double bedrooms from £120 per night, see www.dalhousiecastle.co.uk for packages, including Aqueous Spa Package, £300 a night per room, Castle Double inc breakfast (two sharing), three-course dinner in the Dungeon, two x 30-minute spa treatments, plus a bottle of champagne and chocolates on arrival; Romantic Break, £375 a night per room, themed four poster, two x 55-minute spa treatments, champagne on arrival, three-course dinner in the Dungeon Restaurant; two-course dinner in the Dungeon Restaurant, £42.50; three courses, £49.50.
Dalhousie Castle, Bonnyrigg, Midlothian EH19 3JB (01875 820 153)