Melville Castle Review – luxury within minutes of Edinburgh
Within minutes of the chock-a-block Edinburgh motorway system lies one of the most relaxing spots in the heavily populated central belt of Scotland. Melville Castle is a glamorous and rewarding castle hotel in Midlothian, the only one of its kind in the area. Surrounded by luscious grounds and a head scratching level of serenity, it is a fantastic spot for a special occasion and a great base for exploring attractions around the capital or for sneaking down into the Scottish Borders.
On my arrival this week, the hotel is impressive from the off. Having just wrestled with rush hour traffic on the city bypass, I initially begin storming up Melville’s long and winding driveway at a shameful 40+mph, still fuming and flustered at the dubious driving capability of a halfwit in a campervan. Within seconds that nonsense is forgotten. My blood pressure and the car speedometer drop in tandem as the bluster of city living and lunatic drivers drifts away.
The exterior of Melville Castle is grand in every sense of the word. Proud and proportionate, the view from both front and rear make for some easy photography. An inquisitive wander leads me to getting somewhat mislaid as I search out the best walking route around the grounds. A 30 minute peaceful stroll is the perfect way to start your stay, there is not another soul to be seen throughout. You can pick up a map from reception – something which struck me as a grand idea, mid-way into my journey. Predictably I’m standing like a disorientated dafty in the mud having decided to rely on my instincts. I’m a man you know, I don’t do “lost”. Additional outdoor activities include clay pigeon shooting, archery, golf and, eh, axe throwing. As time is tight I have to give these a miss but that one is worth a ponder. Axe throwing. What on earth? Unleash the Braveheart within!
A castle would not be a castle without a story, and Melville’s can be traced back as far as the 12th Century. It was not until the 1600s though that the castle got really interesting. Melville was visited by Mary Queen of Scots – she really got around that woman – and had significance in respect of her controversial relationship with David Rizzio, her friend and secretary. Both Mary and Rizzio planted trees on the grounds that are still there to this day. Her ghost still haunts the castle if some rumours are to be believed. Fast forward to the 18th Century when ownership (through marriage) of Melville fell to Henry Dundas who served as Home Secretary and Lord Advocate during the French Revolution. It was at his behest that the Melville Castle that we look upon today was created. Despite his political success, Lord Melville was a bit liberal with the old chequebook and bankrupted his wife to the extent that they were to divorce. Such were the laws at the time that the property passed solely to Dundas (good luck to his poor wife) and was to remain in his family for generations. Queen Victoria and Sir Walter Scott were also distinguished visitors to Melville Castle in the 1800s.
The late 20th Century brought many challenges to the Castle and it almost literally collapsed into extinction. Neglected and abandoned it was not until 1993 that restoration work was rolled out by the Hay family to return the building to its former glory and its eventual transformation into a hotel in 2003. Today the interior is impressively classical without being overpowering. Boasting 32 en-suite bedrooms, Melville can host large numbers of weekend visitors and is a popular spot for weddings. If blissful serenity is what you are after, I can vouch for a mid-week visit.
A Melville Castle review would not be complete without a word about its restaurant. Entirely optional for visitors, two or three course evening meals can be provided at very reasonable prices. Everything that we tuck into is of a high standard and this is a great option after a long day of exploring near or far. A special mention to the wonderful staff at the hotel too. Hailing from all corners of the globe, the level of service is first class.
If using the hotel as a base to explore, magnificent Rosslyn Chapel is less than 15 minutes away. One of my favourite buildings in Scotland, the unique chapel lurched into the spotlight in recent years thanks to its role in the Da Vinci Code. Other fantastic and easy to reach highlights include Linlithgow and Queensferry (where Inchcolm Abbey and Hopetoun House are must visits), the road east to East Lothian and, of course, the road south to the Scottish Borders.
All blissful things must end and it’s back to the urban pandemonium I go. On pulling out of that driveway the very first vehicle that I pass is a campervan. Oh dear.
Keep an eye on my Scotland travel blog for more reviews and itinerary ideas from around Scotland or subscribe to my posts below.