One word comes to mind when I think of my stay at Glenapp: flawless.
I’m fortunate to travel within the UK many times a year and I enjoy staying at 4 or 5 star country house hotels while visiting. Glenapp is billed as a 5 star, in my opinion it’s a 10 (and I am picky!).
Fay and Graham Cowan have impeccable taste; they are most obviously well suited to own a luxury house hotel since there is nothing, and I mean no little detail, that they haven’t considered and tailored to make their guest’s stay as decadent and luxurious as possible.
When you arrive at the gated entrance, each guest must ring the intercom and ask for the gate to be opened. Of course, the attendant immediately informs you that they have been expecting you (a nice welcome). Your drive up toward the castle is perhaps a half-mile all of which is through part of Gleanapp’s perfectly manicured garden. Upon arrival, several members of the staff, including Mr. Cowan, are waiting to help with the bags and greet you. I made small talk with Graham Cowan, who is nothing short of very welcoming.
We stayed in the Earl of Orkney master bedroom ($900 USD/night and worth every penny), which is beautifully designed and spacious. Mr. Cowan explained everything about the room when we entered and showed us how to turn on the fireplace. Immediately, we were asked if we would like a drink as we settled in and our drinks arrived within minutes. The room is extremely spacious, with a large walk-in closet, sitting area, desk, windows overlooking the garden and sea, and perhaps the most comfortable bed in the entire United Kingdom. The sheets are of high thread count. An armoired television has all the usual channels. The bathroom (and rest of the room) is immaculate. The shower is powerful and not the usual trickle that is often found in hotels; there was plenty of hot water. The white towels are fluffy, large and soft, arranged (of course) perfectly on the hot towel rack. The castle does have internet access; a t-mobile account is necessary for access. Water, sparkling and still, is provided in the room as well as robes and slippers. The maid service was incredible, possibly psychic, everytime we left the room we came back to find it straightend and made up.
Dinner, breakfast and, in fact, all meals are included in the rate. Some hotels that do this will skimp on their meals but Glenapp does just the opposite by providing an excellent dinner. Dinner starts in the sitting room, with canapés (very good!) and a drink from the extensive menu. Graham Cowan, who is exceptionally charming, spoke with all of the guests that evening. I was impressed at how exceedingly natural and sincere he is. He and Mrs. Cowan are well traveled and I could have guessed this by the way they run their business. When the time comes, you are lead into the dining room where the food is incredible, but unpretentious, and the service is perfect and attentive (if you are lucky the brunette with a ponytail will be your attendant, the Cowan’s are very lucky to have her). I had called a few hours earlier to tell them that I had a shellfish allergy and mindfully they served substitute dishes for me. On the first night we had duck, one of my favorites, and Glenapp’s chef is a genius. The cheese course is of note and the wine list is well done (though perhaps including a few more Californian wines would be appreciated).
One thing I noticed that others might have not is that whenever a guest gets up from the couch or an armchair, an attendant will plump the pillow. In most hotels this would be done in front of the guests as a means to impress but at Glenapp they did it after the guest had left the room and not in the view of the other guests (I could see into the empty sitting room from the dining room). I was, by this and other gestures, impressed by the staff’s efforts to provide effortless, seamless and unobtrusive service. This service extended into the dining room, where every need is immediately taken care of.
Breakfast is excellent and my custom order was gladly accommodated. Fay Cowan was at breakfast, greeting and speaking with each table, and she is as charming as her husband. Glenapp allows a full breakfast to be served in your room until (I think) 10 AM and a continental breakfast to be served until 11 AM. I remembered this because it is such a nice touch; I didn’t take advantage of it but appreciate it none the less since I usually sleep in.
On our second afternoon we toured the garden. I highly recommend this; the gardeners have done an excellent job and there are great photo opportunities from the lower gardens.
All in all, this is the best country house hotel I have stayed at in the UK. I’m not sure what to be impressed with most: the beautiful bedrooms and public rooms, the superb meals or the utter lack of unpretentiousness by which this is all presented.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Beautiful Scots Baronial castle set in 36 acres of stunning gardens and woodland overlooking the Ayrshire coastline and out to Ailsa Craig, the Isle of Arran and Mull of Kintyre. The castle is Scotland's highest rated Country House Hotel with 5 AA Red Stars and 4 AA Rosettes, 5 VisitScotland Gold Stars, EatScotland Gold Award and a Michelin Star. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Glenapp Castle Ballantrae, Scotland
- Glenapp Castle Hotel Ballantrae