Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Night in a Castle

Interesting story that started 10 plus years ago...

Long ago in Kansas, when I was still single but engaged to Brian, we were planning our wedding and honeymoon. Brian was in control of the budget for the wedding and honeymoon- wisely so. As we worked together planning our vacation in Ireland (me the fun stuff; Brian the financial stuff), Brian informed me that if we stayed in a cheap hotel on our wedding night we could spend one night in a castle in Ireland.

One night in a cheap hotel in exchange for one night in a castle- YES!

So we spent our wedding night in a low rated hotel in Kansas, but that's ok, because we were going to stay in a castle in Ireland. Well bed and breakfasts came and went and we never spent the night in a castle in Ireland.

So 10 years later, Brian plans and budgets our trip to Europe. He doesn't promise me a castle, which even if he did, I'm not sure I would have believed him. I did help some with selecting some of the hotels along the trip, but none of them were castles.

So when we arrived in England, Brian surprised me with a night in a castle. And not just 1 castle, but 2 castles. Brian told me he was trying to make up for Ireland.

So without further ado- our hotel castle experience.

Our first stop was Dalhousie Castle, which is near the border of England and Scotland. Fun history fact, King Edward I (Longshanks) stayed the night in Ramsey's castle (Dalhousie) before going to the Battle of Falkirk, where he met defeated William Wallace. Later William Ramsey changed sides and sided with Robert the Bruce and helped him to win the Battle of Bannokburn. The inside was pretty neat and it was fun to poke around the castle.

Our next castle was Hazlewood Castle. This castle can be found in the Doomsday book belonging to William de Percy. Only parts of the original castle still exist as many parts were burned down (either by accident or by war). During World War 2, it became a maternity hospital and inside is a large book of all the babies born at Hazlewood Castle.

I think between the 2 castles, this one was our favorite. Writing this months later I can't exactly remember why.

I can tell you that between all the places we stayed on our trip- the best hotel we stayed at was the Swan Inn Streately on the Thames. Just peaceful countryside and the Thames rushing quietly by. Plus if I remember correctly, the internet was great. I know that sounds kind of absurd that a strong internet connection would be so desirable- but when you've left your little children many time zones away, internet becomes an important link back to them.

Chauffeur’s Corner
The one clarification on the history…yes I was hoping to stay at a castle, but with the self-drive and B&B package that we purchased for our honeymoon did not really include a castle option and for some reason at that point the only castles I could find were $300-$400/night…which was a significant amount of our budget. So now that we have higher paying jobs and the advent of more booking websites to increase availability, it made sense to try for a couple castles.
It was nice to end our trip with stays in castles.

I had chosen Dalhousie Castle almost purely due to its historical importance. We arrived in the evening after coming from St. Andrews (and a significant amount of driving that day)…it was a welcome relief to arrive and it was pretty at night with its landscaping lighting. The castle was pretty neat however the room we were given was rather disappointing as it was “garden level” such that we were looking out directly at grass level (aka no scenic view). We explored the several nooks and crannies of the castle and it was clear that this is a 5-star property as it had a spa, high-class restaurant and our presence definitely was below the average clientele.
We trekked out to the nearby town (suburbs of Edinburgh) to an Italian restaurant, which was nice.
We slept ok and got up at dawn to explore the grounds, including the falconry (we did not pay the $200ish to spend 30 minutes with a bird) and some of the trails. After breakfast we headed off to Edinburgh Castle.

Then we drove to Hazelwood Castle which was about halfway to London from Edinburgh. We arrived in the evening again and we had already enjoyed a fine meal from McDonald’s so we were able to spend time exploring this castle as well. The grounds were probably nicer than Dalhousie and the castle was more spread out and unfortunately with it being dark we weren’t able to see a lot of the countryside. The bed wasn’t as good as Dalhousie, but the shower was better and overall the castle just felt more comfortable (maybe not so pretentious).

We will try to go into more detail about each of our accommodations in a later post…now that Stacey has oodles of time on her hands ;)

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