Glenapp Castle Hotel in Scotland
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Glenapp Castle ~ Press Reviews

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Best Scottish Weddings (Spring & Summer 2002)

by Fiona Armstrong, Features Editor

Set high on a hillside above Ballantrae in Ayrshire, Glenapp Castle's splendid position is redolent of its magnificent character. Like any remarkable personality, Glenapp has some interesting stories to tell. So if you are looking for an exclusive castle for your wedding day - Read on.

But we must warn you - on hearing these tales, and sensing the merest hint of the experience that awaits you, it may prove difficult to resist Glenapp and all of it's charms.

Glenapp Castle opened as a luxury hotel in April 2000 after the application of more than a little elbow grease by its genial owners, Graham and Fay Cowan.

This vast Baronial mansion overlooking the swell of the magical Irish Sea has been the home of the Cowan family since 1994, when the couple moved in to the derelict but beautiful structure. 'We spent the first year 'camping' in the master bedroom with four electric fires, a four poster bed with its own chandelier and a senile Springer Spaniel!' says Graham.

Glenapp has existed as a haven of peace from the world since it was built in 1870 by architect David Bryce, for James Hunter, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire. From 1917, the castle rested in the hands of the Inchcape family, who had made their fortune in shipping, and was to change hands twice again before full scale rescue by the Cowans commenced.

The couple were originally attracted to the castle on the strength of an advert in a property magazine, but had dismissed romantic notions of overhauling this 'sleeping beauty', with its rich oak panelling and fine cornice work. That was until Fay's parents, already successful hoteliers, encouraged the opportunity that lay before them. In the years since the restoration began, Graham and Fay have gathered enough information to write a book of useful hints for castle restorers, and it would undoubtedly be a fascinating one. Thirty acres of neglected garden and woodland would be challenge enough for most adventurous new buyers, never mind the transformation of a beautiful but dilapidated structure - 'with windows black and peeling and many rotted away like missing teeth' - into a first class venue boasting gracious lounges and elegant dining rooms.

Six years of arduous work and tender loving care have reached a spectacular conclusion and any visit here is immersed in a sense of deeply felt charm. You have a sense that everything, from the enchanting walled garden, to each pillowcase in the gloriously sumptuous bedrooms has been lavished with attentive care. Quite simply, to experience Glenapp is to absorb all the personal warmth of the Cowans and their family home.

Since opening its doors to guests from all over the world, the castle has established itself as one of Scotland's most enchanting wedding venues. Glenapp's opening year saw several weddings, described by Graham as 'great fun, both for the wedding guests and for us and our staff'. This should convey the essence of Glenapp, a castle home where life finds a magical capsule for pure enjoyment. Many more weddings were held in 2001, and word of this well kept secret is now spreading fast. Weddings here are only held on an exclusive use basis, allowing parties to take over the whole castle for a truly splendid affair.

Approaching the castle, imposing towers and battlements create an impressive stance as views open out towards Ailsa Craig, the mountains of Arran, and the Kintyre Peninsula in the distance. There is however, no sense of intimidation, and if you are looking for a venue which combines an out of this world ambience with a down to earth approach, then you've found it.

Your ceremony can be held amidst the warm splendour of the castle or in Glenapp Church, a pretty little Victorian structure on the estate. These are intimate weddings for a maximum of thirty-four guests, submerged in an environment of elegant proportions and exquisite furnishings.

Indeed, every piece of antique furniture you touch and every oil painting on which your gaze rests has been selected with thought to its placement against the fine Austrian Oak hallway and carefully selected shades of elegant spaces.

Rich reds, golds and yellows lend an immense warmth to the spacious public rooms, while an intensely pleasurable rests in the hands of Laurent Gueguen, a young French perfectionist who presents guests with the delicious tastes of classic French cuisine.

Your wedding party will enjoy a banquet and reception in the drawing room, where the entertainment will commence. 'So far, we have had a ceilidh, a string quartet, a twelve piece fiddle orchestra and a folk singer who kept magically producing yet more musical instruments and playing them all expertly, well into the wee small hours,' says Graham. 'Some of the more exhausted guests slumped by the log fire with a sustaining glass of port.'

Time for bed in one of the seventeen luxuriously presented bedrooms, each with its own spectacular view of the gardens or the restless waters of the Irish Sea. Individually created spaces are filled with tactile surfaces and pleasing palettes of colour, and the Master Rooms are decadently furnished with four posters, dining tables and separate sitting areas with plush sofas and fireplaces. En suite bathrooms with marble surfaces and huge baths are simply gorgeous!

To complement the carefree world they have created here, Graham and Fay have established rates which include all meals and wines at dinner. 'It makes it easier for us and our staff to break down barriers and establish a more personal relationship with our guests, where they don't have to sign for every glass of wine or snack.'

Now, having accomplished a remarkable feat, Graham and Fay live in a flat at the top of the castle with their two sons, Kerr and Ruadhan, both born at Glenapp, as well as a somewhat younger Springer Spaniel. You will come to Glenapp on your wedding day to be welcomed into their family home, which, nevertheless, seems to exist in another world. It is a home born of love, perfect as an intimate wedding venue, and as a celebration of your love for one another.

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