Heading to the countryside just outside of Edinburgh, Toby Cruse is given the royal treatment as he walks in the footsteps of Mary Queen of Scots and Oliver Cromwell
Borthwick Castle has a very commanding presence among the rolling landscape. Built 600 years ago, the Castle has seen its fair share of history and wears its age on its sleeve. Once the home of Mary Queen of Scots, the castle still has most of its original brickwork; and that includes a rather large chunk smashed out by the cannons of Oliver Cromwell.
As we made our approach toward the large structure, I was terrified that we’d be spending the night curling up next to fires, covered in winter furs like something out of Game of Thrones, as there was no way that 600-year-old castle can be historically-maintained and warm and cosy. I was wrong.
Walking up the stone spiral staircase and into the great State Room, I was met by a great warmth; not just from the building, but from the staff who greeted us. The staff, many of whom are local to the area, were quick to seat us in the elegant lounge area, and provide us with a delicate, freshly baked cream tea. We had hardly been their half an hour when I was already assured that during our stay, no teapot, plate or champagne flute would be left empty for long. This is a venue where luxury is a priority.
Borthwick Castle’s head chef, Derek Johnstone, a man familiar with Michelin stars, having made his name winning the first ever Masterchef: The Professionals ten years ago, was preoccupied when we arrived on Saturday afternoon, as he was busy hunting the evening’s dinner himself. Coming under new management last year, the new team is ready to make some big moves in the hotel world.
“The stories that fill the walls of Borthwick are the stuff of books, not reviews; there’s simply too much to tell and part of its charm is discovering it yourself.”
The food was, as you’d expect, phenomenal. A five-course meal beginning with freshly caught pike and making its way through the most delicate and flavoursome local dishes. The only room on the ground floor, the Great Hall’s huge centrepiece is a grand fireplace that was so eye-catching that you could hear the gasps of every single guest to walk through the doors into the hall. Sitting on the Minstrel’s Gallery, an elegant string quartet played throughout our entire three-hour meal.
Strictly speaking, Borthwick Castle isn’t in fact a hotel, as you cannot book a single room. Made up of two tall towers, the castle consists of the ten original rooms available 600 years ago, each with their own charm and stories – including the chamber of Mary Queen of Scots – and when booking a stay at Borthwick, you’re booking out the entire castle. Bookings are currently predominantly weddings, but the team are eager to embrace the corporate world, and the location is certainly not your everyday venue.
The biggest drawback for many will be the lack of signal. It’s unsurprising that being so far away from the rest of civilisation will lead to a poorer mobile reception, it’s just part of the overall package. The stories that fill the walls of Borthwick are the stuff of books, not reviews; there’s simply too much to tell and part of its charm is discovering it yourself as you examine the walls and read its books.
Taking a trip to Borthwick Castle is the closest way to make yourself feel like true royalty.
Connections to Edinburgh
Contact: 01875 820514, borthwickcastle.com