The holidays are usually spent with family, sharing presents and meals, not to mention mulled wine or eggnog over a warm fire. While some of us prefer to stay at home, others seek a winter sojourn. While many avid travelers tend to escape to warmer climes come December, some prefer somewhere dark and magical. And there is no place that weaves more of a spell come Christmas than Scotland.
The land of lairds and lochs is bonny during the holidays. The Danes have hygge, the Scots cosagach (the Gaelic word for feeling cozy). Pubs become the perfect place to snuggle with a pint next to a roaring fire, Christmas markets abound throughout the land and the Highlands display their snow-covered hills to dramatic effect. The entire country takes two days off after Christmas to celebrate Hogmanay, the Scottish new year. While all of these festivities are tempting, it’s Scottish castles that make us think of Christmas and coziness.
Thanks to movies such as Netflix’s “A Castle for Christmas,” more visitors to Scotland are realizing their castle-dwelling dreams. While most of us can’t afford to buy a castle, staying in one come Christmas is a realization of a lifelong dream. Here are our picks of castles in Scotland to celebrate Christmas.
Sherbrooke Castle Hotel, Pollokshields
Just minutes from the heart of Glasgow but located at the southern end of the city, the area of Pollokshields is peaceful and tranquil with Sherbrooke Castle as its shining star. The Baronial castle, built in red sandstone, dates back to 1896, when architects Robert Sandilands and John Thomson designed it as the private residence of John Morrison, one of the builders of Victorian Glasgow.
During World War II, the castle was used as a training center by the British Navy, and today, has been restored into a luxury hotel. The 18 rooms and communal spaces at Sherbrooke Castle Hotel are packed with history—from artwork displaying some of the buildings Morrison worked on to original woodwork and stained glass paneling. The interior boasts furnishings in soft, muted shades, giving it a modern touch without losing its Victorian character.
Luxurious rooms abound—think velvet seating, white linens and pops of color throughout. Guests are treated to views over Glasgow as well as full Scottish breakfast—the beans, tattie scones and square sausage kind—and clawfoot tubs in suites. Relax in the magical library after dinner or grab a pint in the onsite pub. Christmas at the castle means the staircase is bedecked in wreaths with nutcrackers standing at attention and a fireplace offering a cozy respite from the cold outside. Enjoy minced pies and pavlova on Christmas Party night, December 16!
Inverlochy Castle, Fort William
In the West Highlands lies Inverlochy Castle, a 19th-century stronghold and award-winning hotel whose most famous guest was Queen Victoria, making it one of the most well-known castles in Scotland to stay in. Indeed, the monarch spent a week painting and relaxing at the castle in 1873, giving it a rave review in her diaries: “I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot”. If only Tripadvisor had been a thing back then!
At nearly four-and-a-half miles from Fort William, in Lochaber, the hotel lies on the banks of a small lake with Ben Nevis (Britain’s highest peak) looming in the background. On top of mountainside views and a lush garden, the Inverlochy Castle Hotel boasts spacious rooms with beds covered in thick quilts, as well as copper bathtubs, carpeted floors, vintage curtains and colorful furnishings. The sweet and attentive international staff are ready to show you the range of activities available if all the peace and quiet becomes too much.
Enjoy modern British cuisine, including veggie and gluten-free options, by resident chefs Albert and Michel Roux Jr. at Seasgair restaurant. Savor a dram of whiskey as you relax by the fireplace in the Great Hall. During Christmas, Inverlochy Castle Hotel serves an afternoon tea on Christmas eve, followed by a three-course dinner. Wake up on Christmas Day to Santa knocking on your door with a gift, so make sure to be nice not naughty. Christmas in Scotland has never been so fun!
Dollarbeg Castle, Dollar
The hilly town of Dollar sits not far from Stirling, Perth and Edinburgh. Here you’ll find Gothic Baronial Dollarbeg Castle, built in 1890 by architect Ebenezer Simpson for Major William Henry Dobie and his wife Mamie Eva Louise Wilson. The castle, influenced by the royal seat of Balmoral, was erected on land previously owned by the monks of Dunfermline Abbey. The castle changed hands over the years, from dukes to barons until it reached the Dobies. The family then sold this castle in Scotland in the 1930s to the Workers Travel Association, a nonprofit that turned it into an affordable guesthouse for workers and their families.
As has happened with many castles in Scotland, Dollarbeg Castle was used during World War II to house soldiers (the 72nd Wing of the RAF was stationed there for its duration). Later, the building decayed until it was beautifully restored in 2007 and turned into 10 luxury suites. You can book them separately, but to truly experience Christmas in Scotland book the Tower.
Although more than a century old, the Tower boasts all the modern amenities you can expect at a luxury hotel. Each of the three bedrooms—the William Wallace, the Balmoral suite and the Mary Queen of Scots—features four-poster beds, hardwood floors, Persian rugs and turreted corners. The apartment also includes a kitchen, dining area, patio, garden, cinema room and a rooftop terrace! Enjoy a heady view of the Ochil Hills and beyond!
On Christmas, Dollarbeg Castle Hotel is decorated in wreaths and garlands and guests are treated like family making their Christmas in Scotland dreams a relaxed reality.