Whisky and castles: A long weekend in Scotland

Fairytale living at Glenapp Castle

Hollie-Rae Brader gets a taste for luxury living in Scotland – and for its whiskies – at the fairytale-like Glenapp Castle

“Take a sip and swirl it around your mouth for 15 seconds,” says Raphael, a whisky connoisseur who is hoping to convert me into a super-fan.

It sounds like a threat, mainly because I’m nervous I’ll spit it straight back out.

My entire body shudders as I do what I’ve been told – and I’m sure Raphael quickly realises he’s got his work cut out with me.

My taste buds are on fire and my eyes begin watering. “And swallow,” he says, after what feels like a lifetime, before quickly recommending we take another sip.

I take a deep breath and knock back the remainder of my wee dram of the 25-year-old single malt. I survive, and actually quite enjoy it. And the swishing of spirits around my mouth is the reason why, according to Raphael, the lingering flavours in my mouth mean I’ve become desensitised to the 49.5% proof alcohol.

If you haven’t come to Scotland for the stunning scenery or the golf, then you’vemost likely ventured here to sample someof the world’s best whiskies. Scotland is the land of distilleries; no one knows whisky like kilt-wearing (OK, they don’t have to be wearing kilts) Scots.

I embarked on a tasting of five rare andold limited-edition whiskies at The Whisky Experience in Kirkoswald on the western coast.

By the end of the tasting I was more than a little lightheaded: full of whisky knowledge – and of actual whisky. The experience can be booked at adrattray.com and costs £45.

The Whisky Experience is just 45 minutes from my home for the weekend, Glenapp Castle, a place so grand I feel like the Queen of Scots.

This beautiful 147-year-old castle, located in Ballantrae, Ayrshire, makes an impression straight away. I’d arrived the evening before in the dark and the long tree-lined driveway, surrounded by a forest, made for an enchanting and fairytale-like arrival.

The impression of a fantasy land is reinforced further by the towering turrets and trees climbing up the building’s facade.

There’s no reception area as such; instead, there’s a homely entrance with lines of wellies and warm jackets for guests to use on hikes and walks of the nearby glens and forests (the largest forest in British is less than an hour away in Galloway).I sign the guestbook, spotting that everyone else staying in the 17-suite castle is from the US on a golfing tour.

Not only is this place like somethingout of a Disney movie, it’s also steeped in history. In 1944 Winston Churchill stayed at Glenapp and held discussions about plans for the D-Day landings.

The suites are all huge, with bucketsof character and charm. Think antique furniture and oil-painted portraits and you’re on the right track. Mine was oneof the most romantic I’ve ever stayed in, with a giant four-poster bed with deep red curtains draped across the wooden beams surrounding it.

The lounge area, complete with the original fireplace, proved the perfect place to enjoy a mid-afternoon glass of champagne.

The highlight of Glenapp is the grounds the castle sits within – with 36 acres to explore. From the stunning azalea pondto the walled garden featuring a Victoria glasshouse and tea room (serving up delicious homemade cakes), this place is simply beautiful.

Make use of the wellies on offer and head to the nearby glen for a walk along the stream, or head a little farther to the coast for views of the Mull of Kintyre and of nearby Ailsa Craig, a tiny island which can also be visited on a boat trip organised by Glenapp.

As a member of the Relais & Chateaux association, the castle’s food is just as good as you’d expect. Breakfast was a particular highlight and it would be remiss not to order the Scottish smoked salmon.

How to get to Glenapp Castle: The nearest airport is Prestwick but flights from English airports aren’t great. Instead, fly into Glasgow and enjoy the extremely scenic hour-and-a-half’s drive.

Book it: Rooms start from £295 per night on a bed-and-breakfast basis.