Isolation and Relaxation in Challenging Climes: Stonefield Castle
Our travel reviews often transport us to hospitality havens of tranquillity where guests can recharge and relax in safe surroundings. They include a visit to Stonefield Castle where it’s not unusual to see otters meandering up the driveway, dolphins and seals splashing by the loch and deers roaming the woodland.
Stonefield Castle is a stunning Scottish baronial manor house set in 60 acres of woodland gardens which overlooks Loch Fyne. Switching off is guaranteed as the castle’s top team do everything possible to ensure guests relax and recharge their batteries.
On arriving at the historic castle in Argyll and Bute which dates back to 1837, guests were enjoying views of Scotland’s longest sea loch which is renowned for its oyster and herring-fishing industry.
A 45-minute walk around the island on the loch which is owned by the castle is a perfect panacea for putting today’s extraordinary and ever-changing world into perspective.
Although we didn’t see any wildlife during our stay, we relished reading the wildlife spotting journal where guests logged and shared their experiences.
We felt a sense of calmness on entering the castle with its beautiful décor and architecture. External original features include cornices and mouldings while internally original features span wood panelling, ornate ceilings and marble fireplaces.
The castle is the former seat of the highly esteemed Campbell family who resided there from 1837 to the early 1960s. It is believed the Campbell name quirkily originated from the Gaelic for ‘crooked mouth’.
Hailed as the most successful clan in Scottish history, the family became prominent at the end of the 13th century when Cailean Mór Caimbeul - a famous relative of Robert the Bruce - battled for the coveted Scottish throne and established a power base here for the next seven centuries.
Stonefield’s highly experienced and award-winning General Manger, Anne Macdonald - affectionately known as ‘Queen Anne’ by her dedicated team - explained how Mrs Mackie Campbell - the last surviving family member who died in her nineties in 2017, would often visit the castle and share her experiences as staff served her afternoon tea.
The walls of every castle hold colourful secrets and stories and Stonefield is no exception. Dominating the stairway is a family painting of Lady Campbell, who was considered to be one of the most elegant women of her day, and her children.
On discovering her husband’s indiscretions, she had him erased from the picture, sued him for divorce, stripped him of his wealth - and took over the castle.
It transpires that the Clan Campbell ladies were extremely formidable. Anne shared how another Duke’s wife was so jealous of the time her husband spent immersed in the library that she loaded all his books onto a wheelbarrow and tipped them in the loch. The Duke retrieved them and watermarks on many books are testimony to their soaking.
Boasting the 2nd biggest Rhododendron garden in Britain, the flowers are spectacular and best enjoyed between May and June. The national Rhododendron Society also hosts its annual conference here.
Extensive woodlands feature an enviable collection of trees, shrubs, ferns, camellias and other plants from the Himalayas, China, Japan and New Zealand.
Dining as the day transforms to dusk over the loch is a key ingredient of the overall experience the castle offers its visitors who hail from Great Britain, the US, China and Japan.
The light and airy dining room, a modern but complementary extension, affords gorgeous views of the loch which the estate owns.
The seafood is exquisitely fresh - my scallop starters were mouth-watering as were our photographer’s mussels from Tarbert - a picture-postcard fishing village down the road and the start of the Kintyre Peninsula.
Produce from the land includes Loch Fyne ale braised shortrib with a rosemary crumb which was succulent and beautifully presented. I opted for the pan fried stonebass which was complemented by sundried tomato and roast garlic gnocci. Stonefield’s herb garden further enhances the freshly cooked and sourced cuisine.
The deserts didn’t disappoint. We opted for raspberry Cranachan cheesecake - a traditional Scottish dessert. Originally a celebration of harvest, it has rightly earned its name made as 'the uncontested King of Scottish dessert'. Integrating Scottish oats and whisky, it was accompanied by honeycomb ice cream - astounding!
Vegetarian options include truffle goats cheese mousse for starters and caramelised onion and endive tart for mains.
Guests can enjoy pre and/or post dinner drinks in the wood panelled bar, the lounge or the drawing room and social distancing protocols operate effectively throughout the castle.
Room with a View
Our room afforded stunning views across the loch and was among the 38 en suite bedrooms which have been individually decorated and are conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Famous visitors include Lord Margardal, one of the UK’s richest men and Laird of the island of Islay, Gordon Jackson of Upstairs Downstairs fame and Sir Ian Botham. Every guest is made to feel special and afforded the same genuine hospitality. The team’s commitment to customer care includes a hand written welcome card.
Every touch is geared to delivering a ‘home from home’ experience from stepping into the entrance to checking out. Our stay was truly self-contained and we felt no need to leave the extensive grounds with its wealth of walks. Well behaved dogs are also welcome for an additional small charge.
Open all year round, Stonefield’s elegant setting provides a perfect backdrop for weddings civil ceremonies and partnerships. It also caters for business meetings and conferences.
We reluctantly dragged ourselves away from a magical experience of which we had savoured every second.
Never has the sound of silence been more evocative as we gazed across the loch’s heart-stopping splendour for a final time.
Stonefield Castle Hotel https://www.stonefieldcastlehotel.co.uk/
Tel: 01880 820 836
Fax: 01880 820 929
Central Reservations: 0844 815 9833
For special offers visit https://www.stonefieldcastlehotel.co.uk/offers
Between November-March offers include £99 bed and breakfast or £139 with a £50 voucher for food and drink (except Christmas and New Year). Check the website for details.
Argyll and Bute
Glasgow Airport: 38 miles
Glasgow Prestwick Airport 41 miles
Oban Airport 39 miles
This review was commissioned by Bespoke Hotels for the Yorkshire Times and the Lancashire Times.