I don’t know about you, but since I was a child I have maintained a dream of being Queen. This may not come as as surprise to my family and friends, but usually reality wins out, and my aristocratic aspirations live on only in my fantasy world. That being said, when my husband and I were invited for a long weekend at Skibo Castle in Scotland we were thrilled to accept.
Skibo Castle is currently known as the Carnegie Club, a members only club which affords a lucky few to live the Scottish dream. It is probably best known as having been the home of American Industrialist Andrew Carnegie, but the history of the castle itself dates back to 1211. The natural beauty of the surroundings, the splendor of the facilities, as well as the outstanding service we encountered from each and every staff member made the experience unforgettable.
While the Carnegie Club is not open to the public, you can pay a visit if you are invited by another member, or are a prospective member yourself. We were invited by a member, but we were quickly trying to decide if membership would make sense (alas, it doesn’t), it’s that magical!
There is no easy way to get to Skibo from the states. We ended up flying to London, taking our son out to brunch (more on that in a later post) and then taking a flight later in the day up to Inverness, which is just an hours drive. You can also fly directly from NY to Edinburgh and then drive 3 1/2 hours. In either case, once you are finally approaching Skibo, it is with much anticipation, and delight. There is no way to adequately describe the landscape and lighting, so I am hoping the photographs speak for themselves.
Once we were picked up at Inverness (not in a horse and carriage, but a Range Rover), we enjoyed a spectacular sunset.
Throughout the drive our attention was pulled in every direction in an attempt to take it all in.
As we neared the entry and drove up to the porte -cochere, the stately wooden doors welcomed us.
Upon entering, Andrew Carnegie is represented front and center not only by the prominent bust, but also in the stained glass windows. The history of Skibo as well as prominent moments in Carnegie’s life are represented in vibrant color.
It is not hard to imagine yourself making a grand entrance down these stairs, and in fact Skibo gained some notoriety in 2000 when Madonna married Guy Ritchie here. Lest you think that its all glamour, there is a room just to the right of the front doors where you can outfit yourself in Wellies and Barbour coats if you didn’t bring your own.
There are no shortage of trophies surrounding the entry, reminding guests that hunting is a big lure here, in addition to a long list of other outdoor pursuits.
Within the castle there are 21 rooms and suites, along with several cottages that are best suited for families. Climbing up to the third floor we were shown to the St. Gilbert Suite.
The room was decorated in a traditional fashion, but everything was absolutely pristine and well preserved. A particular pet peeve of mine can be a musty smell in a historical setting, but in this case there was none. Phew!
One benefit of being in Scotland is a decanter of Scotch that is magically refilled day after day.
If your intention is to curl up with a good book, there are endless spots to do so.
A truly unique aspect to the room were these side by side tubs.
The tubs were complemented by side by side basins.
Having settled in, we headed down to dinner, which at Skibo is generally a formal affair. Very civilized!
The call to meals is signaled by a bagpiper, who appears at drinks, and then leads the way to the dining room. He will not stop playing until all the women in the party have been seated.
The sound of the bagpipes also signals the start of the day, with the bagpiper playing outside the castle each morning at 8:10 am. Mr. Carnegie’s dining room itself is ornate and in the classic style, but the table scape and foliage really make it outstanding.
Following free flowing wine, animated conversation, and delicious food we retired to our suite to find the best surprise: a hot water bottle to ease a very full tummy. My husband was thrilled!
We had loads of adventures lined up for our stay at Skibo. My husband was out bright and early for some bird hunting which he said was epic.
My day was filled with long walks, spa treatments, and living out my Scottish fantasies of being Queen of the Castle, or at least Lady of the Manor. Teatime? Check! A wee bit of sloe gin? Check! Reading by the fire? Check!
I didn’t fancy a dip in the pool, but it sure looked inviting.
There is literally beauty at every turn, and the light is simply a photographer’s dream.
There are numerous walks around the grounds, you simply point yourself off in one direction and happen upon the most picturesque tableaux you might imagine. I must have taken 300 photos.
All roads do seem to lead back to the Castle, and luckily for me teatime was beckoning.
If you need a bit extra to warm your insides, you can avail yourself of a small spirit.
There are heaps of sweets piled up and ready to be sampled while sipping tea in front of an ever present fire.
I must have consumed 4 pots of heavenly lemon ginger tea each day.
There was no cozier place I would rather be. The wind was blowing outside, and I was curled up inside the Drawing Room with my tea, pastries, and a stack of British magazines.
After a full day outside hunting (my husband) and hiking (myself), as well as a couple of beauty treatments in the small but fabulous spa, we enjoyed another dinner amongst friends and then slept like babies. Our new friendly hot water bottle Mr. Fox made sure of it.
Breakfast is served in Mrs. Carnegie’s Library, with the menu consisting of just about anything your heart desires.
Oatmeal with butter and house-made marmalade was healthy yet decadent.
Where else to enjoy Scottish Smoked Salmon?
We were well-fortified and ready to tackle another busy day of activities. My husband would golf at the stunning, and challenging windswept golf course, and I would continue exploring the property.
Have you read the Outlander series? I could easily imagine Claire and Jamie suddenly appearing in the distance.
Once we had built up an appetite we met in the very beautiful Golf Clubhouse. In contrast to the Castle it is a modern and bright space.
The wine is poured freely at lunch, which complemented the fish and chips perfectly.
Walking back from the Golf Clubhouse to the castle invigorated us, and helped stave off the lure of an afternoon nap. We decided to get a ride into nearby Dornoch, which is the closest town to Skibo. If you were to look up quaint in the dictionary, a photo of Dornoch could easily serve as the illustration.
The tiny historic seaside town famous for its golf course is absolutely adorable. There are pubs, and shops, and a terrific small book store. Because it was off-season the streets were quiet, but you could easily imagine it bustling in the summertime.
The verdict was in, we adored Skibo, and were so sad at the prospect of packing up and leaving in the morning. Fortunately we had one more dinner to enjoy in Mr. Carnegie’s dining room. You can choose to dine each night at a Hosted Dinner where you sit with other members; and as our friends had all left, we did just that. We had such a fun time meeting new people from all over the world. The membership is a very international bunch. The common thread that ran through everyone in the group is their passion for Skibo. It is truly a special place.
In the morning we were driven back to Inverness airport in order to catch our flight back to London. It was at this point that my fantasy of being Queen dissolved. While we arrived on our friend’s private plane coming to Skibo, leaving was another story altogether. We checked ourselves and our luggage in to out Easy Jet flight. Our flight was slightly delayed so we spent some time in the tiny Priority Lounge which was staffed by the friendliest Scotsman you could ever hope to meet. He was so enthusiastic and helpful that our re-entry in to real life was manageable.
We were comforted by the fact that we would hopefully one day return. If ever you have the opportunity to visit Skibo, you should jump at it.