The option to skip the regular hotel and stay for a unique experience while living like a local (or even royalty) is appealing to many travellers. Scotland in particular has nearly as many castles, monasteries and other century-old buildings as it has sheep, and thanks to the magic of the internet, you can even arrange to stay the night in one. So imagine yourself living off the land as an intrepid hunter or being the Lord or Lady of an actual castle in one of the following history-rich places (for the night, at least).
Foulis Castle, Evanton
Foulis Castle, a half-hour’s drive north of Inverness, has been home to the well-known Clan Munro since the 12th century, and is still occupied by the family today. Book The Pavilion‘s spacious two-bedroom apartment (the master bedroom features an incredible carved wooden canopy bed) for access to the castle’s garden and grounds, and be sure to check out the tiny alcove off the dining room for a peek into the remnants of the ancient tower room, which dates back to the mid-15th century.
Shieldaig Lodge, Gairloch
If the Victorian era’s your thing, you’ll want to book a stay in the West Highlands at this recently restored traditional hunting lodge. The mansion-turned-inn features roaring fireplaces, a cozy whiskey and gin bar, views of Loch Gairloch and 26,000 acres of land to explore. The area’s also known for its falcons and excellent fishing.
Kilmartin Castle, Kilmartin
The Bishop of the Isles, John Carswell, had Kilmartin constructed in 1550, but the castle stood empty and ruined for two centuries before being restored as a destination for travellers to Scotland’s west coast. If you book a stay at this traditional stone castle, thought to be near the site of an ancient kingdom’s coronation area, the hosts will even provide you with a Scottish whiskey tasting experience. Be sure to check out the uniquely beautiful church in the nearby village of Kilmartin and the local museum and cafe, which are all a five-minute walk from the castle.
The Tractor Shed, Culbokie
Drink your morning coffee in the company of adorable sheep in this 1860’s crofter’s cottage on the Black Isle. The renovated stone structure features a fireplace, spiral staircase and gorgeous pastoral vistas. And did we mention how close it is to multiple century-old whiskey distilleries?
Highland Farm Cottages, Mountgerald
Formerly the stables of a Mountgerald-based mansion, these stone cottages have been updated with all the modern luxuries you could ask for (like plasma televisions, free Wi-Fi, heating and private gardens), but still manage to hold on to that 1800’s-era charm and history. Book between April and November so you can scope out the traditional Highland cattle, which have been bred in Scotland since the sixth century.
Ironmacannie Mill, Balmaclellan
Touted to be an “eco spot,” this 400-year-old grain mill got a makeover in the ’90s and now hosts travellers looking to escape to the Scottish countryside for some rest, relaxation, history and, for an extra charge, yoga and massages. There’s also an incredible and ancient-looking stone sauna. As for the mill itself, it still houses lots of the original machinery and working equipment.
Ayton Castle Gatehouse, Eyemouth
Just one hour from Edinburgh, the Gatehouse to Ayton Castle is basically your own one-bedroom mini-castle with a private garden. Look up the driveway, and you’ll see the full-sized version, too.
St. Benedict’s Abbey, Loch Ness
There’s nothing monastic about the luxurious Highland Club in Loch Ness today, but the former Abbey, built in 1880, does house a ton of history. Now divided into a series of apartments, this particular one was once the ‘scriptorium’ — the monastery’s secret writing room. You can even visit its impressive chapel pool.
Castle Rock Apartment, Edinburgh
You can brave the long lines to tour Edinburgh Castle during the day, or you can have your own private view of the 12th-century fortress from this perfectly modern apartment in Edinburgh’s historic Grassmarket district. It was Edinburgh’s central marketplace from 1477 until 1911 and was also the place where public executions used to be carried out. The market’s located at the foot of the castle, right in front of the surviving bits of the city’s old walls — so you can have a great view and be away from all the annoying tourists.