Scotland has many wonderful whisky regions, but arguably the most esteemed is Speyside. Situated between the Monadhliath and Cairngorm Mountains, Speyside is known for its lush green rolling hills, sprawling pine forests and pristine rivers and lochans (Scottish Gaelic for a small lake). While there are several quaint B&Bs and boutique hotels within this heartland of Scotch whisky country, there’s only one exquisite castle catering to connoisseurs of the golden brown-hued spirit: Rothes Glen.
The majestic Scots baronial-style castle was designed by Charles C. Doig, the iconic architect celebrated for introducing the pagoda roof to over 50 Scottish distilleries, and built by the Dunbar-Dunbar family in 1893. During 2020-21, Rothes Glen went through extensive refurbishment to become the luxe private-use castle it is today. Over the years, the house has welcomed A-listers ranging from Sean Connery to Gordon Jackson, and in the early 20th century, was the holiday home of Prime Minister H.H. Asquith.
Perfectly placed at the head of a glen, the castle is in an idyllic spot, featuring awe-inspiring views of the Scottish hillside toward the Black Isle peninsula. Rothes Glen is the ideal escape from the sweltering summer heat in the States and the perhaps equally brutal bustling work life. You’ll feel at peace on the 11 acres of land surrounded by the serene sound of silence, a blissful blend of scenic sights and cool nights — and exclusive access to a vast array of the best in Scotch whisky.
A Historic Castle With Beauty Inside and Out
From the moment you enter the castle’s grounds, your eyes are greeted with natural beauty. The lengthy driveway is lined with cherry trees before spilling into a beautiful meadow filled with pops of vivid colors, from blossoming rhododendrons and lilies to a secluded lochan fed by the Granty Burn, a minor branch of the River Spey. You’re also met with a variety of private gardens, including a terrace rose garden and mosaic topiary garden. After soaking in the glorious scenery, the house’s staff welcomes you with a dram of the house whisky. This is Rothes Glen.
The castle’s Victorian-era interior and exterior are reminiscent of a beautifully structured symphony in which everything is intentional and harmonious. From the main entryway’s glistening crystal chandelier to the walls bedecked with vintage oil paintings, there’s a seamless rhythm in the castle’s air to which guests are immediately drawn in. No opulent detail falls flat within the inviting entrance, which leads to the reception hall’s fine stone staircase, featuring an ornamental cast and wrought iron railing.
The dining room has an ornately decorated plaster ceiling, while the drawing room and adjacent library have paneled ceilings and white marble fireplaces. Off a side hallway, the snooker room links to the tasting room — formerly Doig’s smoking room that he added in 1911. The center of the tasting room features an eye-catching table made of staves from Speyside-based Barrel Creations, with the room’s walls filled with pictures of Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame inductees and Glencairn glassware. Past the tasting room is one of the crown jewels of Rothes Glen: a walk-in safe and whisky vault filled with rare Scotch whiskies. We enjoyed several nightcaps in the snooker room before retiring to bed in one of the 14 en suites.
Luxury Retreats Where Whiskey Is the FocusSwanky stays where incredible whiskey experiences are the name of the game
Each bedroom is named after a person or place of importance in the castle and its owners’ history. For example, we resided in The Asquith, named after Herbert Asquith, the British Prime Minister from 1908-1916, who frequented Rothes Glen from the turn of the 20th century. Though all spacious, each room’s décor is unique and impeccably furnished to capture the castle’s plush Scottish rustic motif. Every bedroom has a king-size bed and goose-down bedding, which helped us have a refreshing night’s sleep complemented by the gentle breeze from the room’s large open windows. The bathrooms all have underfloor heating, heated towel rails, standalone showers and freestanding baths.
Revisiting the expansive outdoors of Rothes Glen, we enjoyed the large promenade and gardens adorned with strategically placed flowerpots, fire pits, loungers and benches. If you’re keen to tap into your inner treasure hunter while on the castle’s grounds, you might find a Scotch and Glencairn glass hidden to discover and enjoy — we did.
Wonders of Speyside
Since Speyside is the world’s most densely populated whisky region and home to more than 60 whisky distilleries, we had to hit as many as our itinerary (and palate) allowed. Most notably, Speyside is revered for its assortment of single malts from major brands such as The Glenlivet, The Macallan and The Glen Grant, which we were delighted to visit and enjoy whisky from all three distilleries.
Moreover, Rothes Glen resides on stretches of panoramic countryside and the nearby River Spey. So, there are plenty of fun outdoorsy excursions you can experience with the help of the house staff, such as clay pigeon shooting, trout fishing, white water rafting, and more. The charming town of Elgin, which is merely seven miles north of the castle, is rich in history with its 13th-century cathedral and plenty of twee shops. The neighboring Moray Firth has sandy beaches and offers an opportunity to go yachting and dolphin watching.
While we didn’t get a chance to indulge in the great outdoor adventures Rothes Glen offers, one thing is certain: This was an unforgettable experience that beckons us to return for more alfresco time — and, of course, more whisky.
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