I puffed for air as we crested the steps to the third floor and looked at my watch as Mhaire recalled the history of yet another room in the Laird’s Apartments. We were on minute number 20 of the tour and there was still a full floor to explore. The sheer size and royal opulence of the place batted giddy smiles and anxious creases across my face. The apartment could easily house 15 people. But not tonight. No, tonight this wing of Brodie Castle in northeast Scotland was mine. All mine. Just mine.
It was my chance to live like a Scottish laird.
It’s not exactly common knowledge that several famous castles around Scotland dedicate a portion of the properties to vacation rentals. After the death of Ninian Brodie, the Brodie of Brodie, in 2003, the National Trust for Scotland transformed the family wing of the castle, the so-called Laird’s Apartments, into a vacation rental. The rest of the castle remains a worthy day out with remarkable daffodil gardens, loads of fine paintings, and an exceptionally well-preserved keep.
Mhaire wrapped up the tour of my “apartments” before leaving me in the landing with Rene, the mastermind of my best holiday in the world week and reason for this amazing opportunity to stay in a castle. We made plans for dinner that night and then he was gone, the door shutting behind him with the finality of an iron portcullis. I drifted through the halls like some specter from a bygone era and planted myself firmly in the one room with wifi. I looked out the window at the empty grounds and sat silently for a few minutes.
I was the only person in the enormous apartment, maybe the entire castle. Brodie Castle hadn’t even opened for the season yet.
It was also, I must admit, more than a little spooky. Thankfully, it was time for dinner.
Later, as darkness fell, I perused my abode’s rooms: three floors, seven bedrooms, four bathrooms, two massive living rooms, two kitchens, a dining room, an office, and some doors with god knows what behind them. Every castle seems to have a ghost story or two, but I hadn’t heard any about Brodie and I wanted to keep it that way. I returned to the office where a case of restless leg syndrome assaulted me as I did some work. I plodded on, a guilt growing inside me for not using all of the space afforded to me.
Then, something thumped several floors below me. Was it the laundry? The “house” settling? Something pressing against the door that separated the apartments from the main castle? Goosebumps rippled over my arms. I grabbed the car keys and dashed down the central stairs and through the hall as portraits of Brodies stared at me. Gravel grumbled beneath my tires as I left behind the imposing visage of Brodie Castle in the near dark.
I sped to Forres and stopped at a petrol station. Inside the convenience store I gathered provisions for breakfast and a flask of Famous Grouse whisky. A few good self-inflicted slaps later and I was on my way back to Brodie Castle. Its battlements were floodlit like a devilish child holding a flashlight beneath his chin on Halloween.
I ventured inside to the prep room where I poured myself a dram of the Grouse. Then I poured myself another dram. I would not be cowed by this vast, gorgeous, and largely unpeopled castle! For much of the time, I gleefully drafted emails to recent acquaintances asking if they’d like to party at my personal castle and devised defensible positions in the event of a siege. I then shot a rough episode of Cribs that you can view below before steepling my fingers and issuing decrees to my invisible subjects from the top of the third floor stairs. These tactics kept me from Googling “Brodie Castle ghosts” and thinking too hard about what lay behind the door next to my bed in the laird’s room.
Waking up the next morning was wonderful. I was on a tight schedule and needed to leave quickly, but not before I had a chance to appreciate what an amazing experience it had been staying the night in Brodie Castle. It wouldn’t be a proper castle stay without a little spookiness, right? All I needed were a few more people to enjoy the place with me. If you’re looking for a memorable and opulent castle stay in a romantic setting – and have a large group of people – look no further than Brodie Castle.
Have you been to Brodie Castle or stayed in a Scottish castle?