Glenapp Castle, Ballantrae, Ayrshire
The Castle - Yesterday and Today
Glenapp Castle> was built in 1870 by the renowned architect David Bryce. His architectural training was under William Burn, (a rival of the famous Playfair). The design of the Scottish Castle was changing from the traditional classic style. Families wanted more privacy, especially from their servants who had reached a low point in their historical status. Burn looked to old English design and became a key figure in the trend of combining an Elizabethan and Tudor style of country house. More than any other architect it was Bryce who developed the new Scotch Baronial design. These new style "castles" offered a romantic profile, often irregular and asymmetrical for visual effect, as well as following the function, personal needs for space and layout of the family who would be living there.
Bryce began to have a few personal trademarks which identified his truly romantic Baronial style - a flurry of round towers and turrets flanking grand wings leading off, oriel windows and bay windows perched above a flat gable. While not an academic or architectural description, the most apt way to capture its extraordinary and fantastic style is to say that it is the epitome of the Sleeping Beauty's castle in the Walt Disney animation film.
David Bryce made his way south to Ballantrae in 1870 to begin work on his designs for Glenapp - another beautiful, magical Fairytale Castle.
The first owner of Glenapp Castle, James Hunter the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire sold the castle and lands in 1917 to James Lyle Mackay, later the first Earl of Inchcape. The Inchcape family continued, generation after generation to live at Glenapp Castle, developing and extending the property and gardens. While the Inchcape family sold Glenapp Castle in 1982, the present family still take a great personal interest and pride in their former family house and estate, especially since its glorious transformation into a luxury country house hotel.
Glenapp Castle Today
Fay and Graham Cowan have been welcoming guests from around the world for over a year now and the memories of the long renovation process must be slowly fading to the back of their minds as they simply get on with the job in hand - managing the Castle. They are very much hands-on hosts, welcoming guests at the front door and personally showing you to your Stateroom or Suite. The baronial entrance hall, with its striking polished Austrian oak panelling, leads to a grand staircase, along the wide corridor, from which a series of elegant drawing and dining rooms lead off. If the renovation and restoration of the structure of the Castle took an inordinate amount of careful planning and artistry, the creativity involved in the interior design is utterly superb: everywhere the fabrics and furnishings are soft, sumptuous and lavish, with no expense spared.
The quality of materials used for curtains, bed drapes, cushions, sofa and chair coverings is all quite exquisite, all in rich shades of gold, crimson, blues, cream and black in keeping with the sophisticated style of this grand house.
There are seventeen gorgeous bedrooms each with their individual names such as Garleffin, The Dial Room, The Earl of Orkney, The Countess of Inchcape and the Earl of Inchcape, in memory of the Castle's former owners. The Earl of Inchcape is a Master Bedroom and as we walked into this vast and luxurious suite, and saw a beautiful King sized Four Poster bed, with its own chandelier inside, a very comfortable long sofa and armchairs surrounding a "real" fire burning warmly, we knew we were in for a comfortable stay. In the room there was a small well chosen library of books for rainy days - modern classics and best selling novels such as Captain Corelli's Mandolin and very aptly, Stevenson's The Master of Ballantrae.
The scent from a huge vase of fresh garden flowers wafted around the room as we unpacked and hung our smart evening clothes in a huge Victorian mahogany wardrobe. The enormous bathroom next door boasted a perfect old fashioned claw foot bath, as well the convenience of a contemporary power shower - an excellent blend of old and new. All rooms have direct dial telephone, TV, VCR and CD player to ensure a home from home ambiance.
Throughout the Castle there are some original pieces of furniture, such as occasional tables, chandeliers, book cases, as well as a delightful high backed Jacobean style "Coupling Couch" in our suite. The Cowans have been meticulous in the selection of furniture and the complete ornamentation throughout the house. They have taken great care and delight in touring antique shops and auction houses to find exactly the most suitable chairs and clocks, mirrors and light fittings, oil paintings and candlesticks, all in keeping with the period. Carpets and rugs have been specially commissioned to ensure the perfect size, style and colour to match the interior decoration.
While you can certainly lounge about in your lovely room, or relax in the gracious drawing rooms, with log fires burning, you simply have to spend time walking about the beautiful gardens, which have been carefully restored. Sit in the walled garden, amidst rose bushes and neat box hedging and hear the birds chirrup in the pear trees. Stroll through the 150 foot Victorian glass house, filled with sweet smelling garden flowers such as honeysuckle, sweet peas and jasmine. Here too are herbs, nectarines, peaches, tomatoes and vines. Walk around the lake, with its family of ducks and sit and breathe in the fresh country air. The lawns are like green velvet and everywhere the series of paths, and herbaceous borders, with a wonderful range of plants and trees, reminds me of the Botanical gardens in Edinburgh. I am not surprised to hear that the Cowans employ three full time gardeners with extra vacational help from students during the summer. The gardens are a private paradise of exotic scent and verdant colour.
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