Today, our ‘My Favourite Hotel’ review is from Scotland.
Due to a continued strong response from readers, we are running another batch of ‘My Favourite Hotel’ reviews over the next few weeks. This time we wanted to hear about your ‘unique’ experiences and we received some great suggestions. Hopefully you will enjoy reading these reviews. As always you can find all of the ‘My Favourite Hotel’ reviews by clicking here.
Today’s hotel is Mingary Castle – a 13th century castle which has undergone three years of meticulously orchestrated restoration work which can now accommodate guests in one of just four suites. Here is reader Julie’s review:
For the ultimate castle-lover’s staycation, how could you resist a fortress overlooking the sea where your once-hidden bathroom has arrow-slits for windows? Come with me then to a place known in Gaelic as the Headland of the Great Seas: the remote and peaceful Ardnamurchan Peninsula of Scotland.
We’ll follow a single-track road, so empty that the sheep are convinced it’s all theirs. Shortly before reaching the westernmost point of mainland Great Britain we’ll turn off to discover a stunning fortification that until recently was slowly falling into the Sound of Mull.
This is Mingary Castle, a hotel with just four rooms on offer to those who have made the long journey, so you can roam the battlements feeling like a medieval queen.
Some of its story of attacks and sieges is lost in the mists of time, but visiting history buffs are welcome to read the 19th century memoir of Margaret McDougall. She remembered great fields of wool drying in the sun and seeing the weavers spread damask to bleach on the beach, but the busy kitchen was off-limits to her because it would mean exposure to the servants’ Gaelic.
When the last residents left in 1838, Mingary was abandoned and slowly started to crumble. Recently the local laird took the decision to restore it, and a meticulous multi-year restoration project got underway: today’s guests discover a luxurious Georgian-style house inside the formidable walls.
As I entered my room, MacDougall, my eye was immediately drawn to the fine craftsmanship of the centrepiece, an inviting four-poster bed with crewel work in the bedspread, curtains, and cushions. More crewel work appeared in the wonderfully textured fabric panels on the walls, patiently created by hand in Bangladesh.
My bathroom was built into the thick walls and as well as a rolltop bath and those wonderful arrow-slit windows, it offered a modern shower: the best of both worlds. Intriguingly, it was once part of a secret passage that was sealed hundreds of years ago to strengthen Mingary’s defences.
If thoughts of archery, sieges, and secrets give you an appetite, you’ll be pleased to know that the castle’s food has drastically improved since the last garrison was hosted here. The artistic breakfast was certainly fit for a queen: four tiny courses served simultaneously, with a personal explanation from the chef, as well as home-made sourdough and even home-made butter. My favourite course was “the last of the smoked Mingary wild salmon with almost-burnt cream”.
I thought the meal was a truly exquisite spread, but it clearly didn’t suit everyone: one morning my neighbouring diner whispered to her companion, “When I get home tomorrow I’m going to have a Full Scottish!”
For castle-lovers, the roaming of the battlements is an essential component of any fortress visit. Following in the footsteps of the one-time Earl of Argyll, I too looked out from here, but instead of fretting about an attacking clan I admired the irregular crenellations, indulged in a little ferry-spotting, and was awe-struck by a perfect sunset over the sea.
The restorers have thoughtfully built in a wooden seat where I happily put my feet up, enjoying the view and listening to the waves breaking on the rocks below. It was the only throne I needed, and it even had wifi access.
But if the Earl of Argyll could manage without wifi, then so could I, and the promise of a sunny day tempted me to explore just a little further. At my request, my hosts provided a packed lunch, and thanks to their constant (much-appreciated) attention to detail it came complete with backpack and picnic blanket. I let myself through a gate or two, and wandered off to see where the path would take me. It led to a lovely photo op, with Mingary framed by a spreading tree.
I spread my blanket nearby and enjoyed a castle-view lunch, rejoicing in the tranquil seascape and the solitude. Al fresco October dining in Scotland (admittedly of the hiking-jacket-and-scarf variety) was an unlooked-for treat.
Later, riding the ferry over to Mull, I looked back at Mingary, feeling grateful to those dedicated workers who stitched, sanded, and lugged stones to bring this remarkable stronghold on the edge of Scotland back to life. I also pondered its multi-faceted appeal: history aficionado, food-loving shutterbug, searcher for quietude, or thalassophile? Mingary is the place for you.
Mingary Castle’s website is here.
Hotel offers update – July 2021:
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