posted 06-29-2000 02:10 AM
We've stayed at Dalhousie and have thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere. Of course, Dalhousie is not the only Scottish Castle with ‘themed’ rooms – I get the impression that most castles offering accommodation have done this to some extent.
Something to consider before booking up a room in a castle with ‘themed’ rooms (not specifically referring to Dalhousie here) is which era of the castle’s life do you want the room to reflect? My own feeling is that the majority (not all) reflect a romantically softened impression of Victorian or Georgian elegance that could be experienced in any country house rather than specifically a mediaeval castle (although most maintain a ‘mediaeval’ bar/restaurant in the dungeon!). Some castles have recreated a mediaeval feel in the décor and combined it with a few modern conveniences such as plumbing, heating and lighting (heaven forbid – even a television). You'd be amazed at the number of people who want 'authentic mediaeval' AND every conceivable modern convenience (although I have been to several castles where modern lavatories have been incorporated into the original garderobes). I'm afraid sacrifices have to made one way or another. But then, I guess, where would you draw the line? A truly authentic experience might be pretty squalid!
Many of the more recently restored tower-houses have attempted to retain (or indeed revert to) a mediaeval sense of décor. In these examples, some might say that the castles have been saved from dubious modernisations over the centuries (particularly Victorian) by neglect! In many cases, these towers were abandoned once their owners preferred the idea of gentle living and built themselves elegant Georgian Manor houses in the adjacent grounds.
To some extent, nearly all Scottish castles have suffered one way or another from the desire of former occupants for more comfortable living (and who can blame them). The alternative to building a new house and neglecting the old tower was to ‘upgrade’ the castle by adding new wings and extensions, piercing large windows through walls, many ‘Adam style’ interior treatments to interior walls and ceilings; unfortunately, this was rarely done in an architecturally sympathetic manner. It’s castles in this category that form the majority of castle hotels, principally because without the extensions, most Scottish castles wouldn’t have enough rooms to offer accommodation.
If one sets aside the idea of a ‘mediaeval castle experience’ one of the primary joys of staying in a castle that has metamorphosed from one architectural style to another is that the ‘joins’ between the styles are often rather abrupt making them ideal for those wanting to explore the properties as an architectural detective. I think it’s a great way of learning about both architectural and sociological evolution.
Finally, there are a few castles that have retained authentic ancient features in some of their rooms. It can be a joy to be surrounded by a room full of the ‘real thing’ albeit rarely mediaeval. Two examples that spring to mind include Traquair House in the Borders, and Culcreuch Castle, Stirlingshire. The latter has a ‘Chinese Bird Room’ that includes Scotland’s only remaining example of genuine hand painted wallpaper from the early 1700’s and antique French satinwood furniture.
[This message has been edited by Levan (edited 06-29-2000).]