Glenapp Castle, Ballantrae, Ayrshire
Staying at Glenapp Castle
Dining at Glenapp
Glenapp Castle is not a hotel - as such. It is a country house and residents are treated as personal guests as if visiting an aristocratic family for the weekend. All meals and drinks throughout your stay are included in the room rate, so that unlike a conventional hotel, there are no "extras" for your pre-dinner gin and tonic or for afternoon tea. This is an innovative idea and bodes well for a very relaxing atmosphere. Non residents cannot visit the Castle without a prior reservation so there is absolute exclusivity and privacy at all times.
Guests are invited to gather in the drawing room or the Library for cocktails and canapés before dinner. It is not formal although men are expected to wear jacket and tie, and women enjoy dressing up. Chatting to other guests we sipped our champagne and nibbled some delicious savouries such as a tiny light smoked trout tart and baby bruschetta.
Each night there is a five course set menu for dinner - in keeping with traditional Country house routine. All diets and special requests are of course taken into account. As with everything else the Cowan's have planned for Glenapp, they personally sought out a talented young chef to run the kitchen. While in France on holiday they met Laurent Gueguen, were very impressed with his style of cuisine and invited him to come to Scotland as Head Chef at the Castle. What a marvelous opportunity!
The menus are written in French so that you know immediately you are in good hands; the cuisine is a "fusion" of classic French cooking with of course the very best of fresh Scottish produce using local seafood, game, beef, cheese, vegetables and fruit. Selected white and red wines are poured each evening from the Castle cellar, to complement each course which included Roulade de Saumon Fume et Poireaux, Sauce aux deux poivrons, with Sabayon Glace au The et Quenelle de Chocolat, Sauce au The Earl Grey to follow.
From the tasty appetiser of a tiny warmed piece of eel cooked in saffron sauce, a creamy smooth mushroom soup, through the many courses, finishing with a huge plate of Scottish cheese and oatcakes, this was a feast indeed. Selecting the vegetarian main course we were slightly disappointed with the rather bland vol au vent pastry case filled with green peas, and a few potatoes. Non-meat dishes can be so imaginative, wholesome, spicy and delicious. However it is quite understandable as vegetarians are a very rare breed in France!
Our fellow guests thoroughly enjoyed their dinner with warm congratulations to Laurent the chef, who must have had a very busy time in the kitchen preparing such a superb menu. We all slowly sauntered back to the drawing room for coffee and yet more to eat - home made chocolates!
Their are two dining rooms, one more suited for the evening with a dark burgundy silk wall-covering, crystal chandelier and overall elegance; fine table settings, crisp white linen, traditional dinner service and glass ware. The other room, featuring long windows overlooking the gardens, is lighter in design and the soft yellow colour is perfect in the morning for a leisurely and very traditional Scottish breakfast, with Porridge, fruits, eggs of every description, Finnan Haddock, smoked salmon, and of course the famous Ayrshire bacon.
Activities and Excursions
All kinds of sports are available nearby with of course the championship golf courses a short drive away at Turnberry and Troon, as well as local courses at Creachmore in Stranraer and Dunskey at Port Patrick. You can visit the wonderful island of Ailsa Craig, a bird sanctuary, ten miles off the coast at Girvan. This is an amazing 1, 114 foot high lump of granite and home to thousands of gannets. It earned the nickname, "paddy's milestone" as it is half way between Belfast and Glasgow.
You may also go loch and river fishing, or take a trip north to visit Culzean Castle, one of the most popular and spectacular of the properties owned by the National Trust of Scotland. It enjoys a magnificent setting, perched high on the clifftop, above a rocky shoreline and surrounded by 563 acres of country park.
A Fairytale Ending"People have been coming to stay at Glenapp for more than a century to escape from the pressures of the world. Our aim is to continue that tradition into the new millennium. We invite you to join us as our house-guest at the beginning of this new era for Glenapp Castle."
Graham and Fay Cowan
Like all great classic fairytales, the story of Glenapp has a very happy ending. The secret of this fabulous romantic castle is now slowly being revealed around the world as more and more guests have made their way to Ballantrae and come to visit and have been charmed by its special magic.
The supreme achievement by Graham and Cowan should be warmly congratulated. We can now all share in the creation of their Castle of Dreams. If I may borrow the phrase from the novelist, Henry James when describing The Master of Ballantrae: "it is a work of ineffable and exquisite art".
For more information or to make a reservation, see the Glenapp Castle Web site.
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