“Mary Queen of Scots reminds me a bit of myself”.
Whenever I resume my position as a tour guide, I always start my story about Mary in the same way. I comically compare the apparent likeness between myself and Scotland’s only Queen, starting with our shared December birthdays and classic Sagittarian traits (I like to place extra emphasis on our ‘charming’ qualities!). My pale complexion and once (chemically enhanced) red hair matched Mary aesthetically, while her infamous inability to choose appropriate male suiters pretty much sums up the story of my life!
You’re wondering where I’m going with this.
What does Mary Queen of Scots have to do with Melville Castle?!
Following the tragic death of her young husband, a broken hearted Mary left France to return to Scotland in 1561. Back on home turf, the 19 year old widow had no shortage of male admirers. I suppose being a Queen probably helped!
Despite an impressive selection of potential male suitors, Mary disastrously chose her first cousin – Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley – to be her second husband. He was an erratic, adulterous wee weasel who was insanely jealous of Mary’s close friendship with her Italian secretary David Rizzio.
Mary and Rizzio would escape the city of Edinburgh on horseback to the grounds of Melville Castle where they regularly hunted and planted trees for one another as a token of affection. This kick-started a series of royal rumours about a suspected affair which enraged Mary’s now-estranged husband. Lord Darnley punished Mary in the most brutal and cowardly way – he and his men burst in on Mary and Rizzio as they ate dinner in Holyrood Palace, and proceeded to stab him multiple times. He died in front of an inconsolable Mary.
This was the catalyst for a violent chain of events which would see Darnley killed in suspicious circumstances, and Mary imprisoned before being sentenced to a gruesome execution 19 years later.
And they all lived unhappily ever after! THE END.
Aye, I agree it’s not a particularly cheery story. You see, the real happy ending didn’t occur until over 440 years later when I went to follow in the footsteps of Mary and her beloved Rizzio, during an overnight stay in…
Located just a 20 minute drive from Edinburgh’s city centre, Melville Castle is located in an estate which dates back to 1155. The castle sits in scenic surroundings, showcasing an impressive, imperial design which has remained unchanged since it was rebuilt in 1786.
Now it’s a 4* hotel for everyone to enjoy… HURRAY!
So, what’s it like to stay overnight in a Scottish Castle?
My Gran and I were booked in to a Twin Room which consisted of a queen-sized bed and a single. This clearly has the potential to trigger an argument over beds, but since I’m such a lovely Granddaughter I gave the biggest one to my Gran 🙂
Buried under the quilt and duvet, I felt like I was wrapped inside a toasted marshmallow, except it wasn’t sticky. Obviously. The mattresses were a perfect combination of soft and firm; it was definitely one of the comfiest hotel beds I’ve had the pleasure of sleeping in.
The room was airy, spacious and had all the necessary features you’d expect – a flatscreen TV, dressing table, mini fridge, hairdryer and tea & coffee making facilities. Our room was on the ground floor and had little French doors which opened out to the castle’s front courtyard.
The bathroom was bright and sparklingly clean, with a pile of fresh towels, complimentary mini toiletries and a great big, perfect-for-getting-ready-to-go-out mirror. Oh, and lets not forget about the shower! There’s always the fear of questionable plumbing and pathetic water pressure in the showers in old converted properties like this, but I’m delighted to report that this was the power shower of all power showers! *Please allocate sufficient time to thoroughly enjoy the shower experience*
The Castle Interior & Exterior
There are certain characteristics which you’d expect from a Scottish castle, otherwise it simply wouldn’t pass my ‘Essential Features of a Curious Castle’ audit. Let’s see how Melville Castle did…
Lounge areas with comfy sofas and an open fireplace > TICK
A bar serving a variety of beverages to enjoy in said lounge areas > TICK
Tartan carpets throughout > TICK
Decorative features which include animal heads, interesting art work and clashing rugs and carpets > TICK
Fancy mirrors for creepy selfies, complete with even creepier stuffed birds in the background > CREEPY TICK
Rapunzel-style turret, complete with an essential Saltire flag > TICK
Baroque style fountain, lit against a dark sky with orange glow available on request > TICK 😉
Castle-sized night light to illuminate the gothic exterior loveliness after sun down > TICK
I think it’s safe to say that the castle met my working-class-princess standards 😀
The Travel Zoo deal that I stayed on included a 3 course a la carte dinner and a full Scottish breakfast the next morning.
I would describe the evening menu as ‘modern Scottish’ and the food was gastro pub standard. I had chicken liver parfait with ciabatta for my starter (the ‘ciabatta’ was on the small, skinny side though), a delicious Scottish salmon dish for my main , and an indulgent warm sticky toffee pudding to finish.
The dining room was a nice setting with stone archways in the castle’s lower ground floor. I had expected it to be more formal than what it was, so was pleased to have a more relaxed dinner setting. The well-oiled-restaurant-machine was perhaps a wee bit rusty in parts on the service front, but was not detrimental to the overall experience.
Breakfast was a help-yourself continental breakfast – yoghurt, cereal, fruit and juice – and/or a made-to-order, Scottish breakfast. Naturally I chose to start my day the unhealthy Scottish way, by ordering one of everything on the hot menu 😀
The deal I stayed on was for 1 night, based on 2 people sharing, and included dinner and breakfast for £99. Staying in a castle is a lovely treat, and at that price it’s great value for money. It’s within easy reach of Edinburgh’s city centre, but gives you the feel of being in the countryside.
It’s commonplace in the tourism industry to embellish the history of the building/location, or to rely on a good old ghost story to make the place seem older or more interesting than it is. Melville Castle does have a legitimate claim and connection to Mary Queen of Scots, who was such a signifiant figure in Scotland’s colourful history, and whose extraordinary life was tinged with sadness and conflict. The trees which she and Rizzio planted for one another all those years ago, live on today and can be seen in the castle grounds
The castle would suit anyone looking for a unique overnight escape, or for a romantic night away. There is no entertainment in the castle, other than the bar and the TV in your room, so it’s perfect for a relaxing stay. I took full advantage of this and sunk into a big armchair after dinner to enjoy a couple of drams of whisky before retiring to bed to read (yes this is still me talking, not my Gran!). The bed was so comfy and cosy, there was no way I wasn’t going to get a good night’s sleep. I loved lying wrapped up in my duvet listening to the wind whistle around the estate, nudging the caste’s windows – it was exactly how I imagined a sleepover in a castle to be.
How would you like to stay in Scottish Castle?
I stayed in Melville Castle whilst reviewing Travel Zoo Local Deals in Scotland. All of my opinions and random ramblings, as always, are completely my own.