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Glenapp Castle ~ Press Reviews

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The Belfast Newsletter (27th August 2005)


The other day I found myself driving onto the fast ferry to Stranraer in a brand new TVR Tuscan. Our destination for the night was Glenapp Castle, which we knew only by reputation, since it’s the current Scottish luxury hotel of the year, and everyone we had mentioned it to had said: “Glenapp eh? Lovely,” then whistled softly.

Built in 1870, it was for many years the home of the Inchcape shipping magnates, before being sold in 1987 to a Japanese buyer who let it fall into decay.

Thank heavens, then for the magnificent obsession of country vet Graham Cowan and his hotel manageress wife Fay, who in 1993 were looking for a small hotel to buy and run when they chanced upon Glenapp.

“It was completely outside our price range and was virtually derelict. But to us, it was completely breathtaking.” said Graham.

They moved into a master bedroom with four electric fires and a geriatric springer spaniel, and spent the next six years working day and night to create a miracle.

We pottered for an hour through the painstakingly restored grounds, listed greenhouse and walled garden, then decamped to our vast room, curled up in front of the fire and read until dinner, which promised to be a deeply satisfying six courses from the hands of three AA rosette chef Matt Weedon, aided and abetted by a wine list which boasted such stratospheric delights as a 1992 Krug at £591, a 1976 Chateau d’Yquem for about the same, and a 1997 Chateau Petrus at £765.

Toying briefly with the thought of ordering all three and leaving at dawn, we settled instead for a Pouilly Fuisse at £29.50 and a Merlot at £25.00. And dinner? Well, I have had many exquisite meals in my life, but few, if any, more exquisite than this.

“It really is tragic, dear,” I muttered to Cate as we left the next morning, “that one is only offered glimpses of the life to which one feels one ought to have been born.” “I know,” she laughed as we climbed into the TVR and set off, “especially when we’ve finally learned how to work this thing.”

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