Editor Natasha Radmehr gets an exclusive first glimpse at Barnbougle Castle, one of Scotland’s newest and most stunning wedding venues.
I feel like I’m in a film. The doors have just opened into the Banqueting Hall at Barnbougle Castle to reveal a magnificent barrel-vaulted room, flooded by natural light from its arched windows.
A long, elegant table, festooned with tall, blousy floral arrangements and flickering candles, stretches the length of the hall. Lining the walls are gilt-framed ancestral portraits of the Primrose family (Earls of Rosebery), who have owned Barnbougle for almost 400 years.
The castle has been a labour of love for this family. The building spent much of the past century being used as storage (albeit the most decadent storehouse imaginable), until the opportunity arose to breathe new life into it.
Considerable attention has been lavished on its respectful modernisation, with no expense spared, and now Barnbougle can be hired as an exclusive-use wedding venue – and it’s one of the most beautiful I’ve ever visited.
The location alone is enough to win me over. The castle stands resplendent within the Dalmeny Estate in South Queensferry, surrounded by lush woodland. I spot Highland cows and lambs roaming the expansive grounds, and can’t believe I’m only 15 minutes outside of Edinburgh.
Its private beaches and proximity to water, right on the edge of the Firth of Forth, make the city feel even more of a distant memory. This coastal setting is incredibly romantic; perfect for windswept wedding photos, and there to be enjoyed even from within the castle, as many of the rooms directly overlook the water.
There’s a special feeling when you’re in Barnbougle that’s difficult to distil into words. Though it’s undeniably grand, decorated with original furnishings, textiles and antiques, it’s also cosy.
This is in part because of its six libraries filled with literally thousands of books. So historical are these tomes that they can’t be touched, but guests would have a field day perusing the spines (I certainly did). Even the doors in the loos are cleverly disguised as bookcases – a thoughtful touch masterminded by Lady Jane Kaplan – which proves a fun talking point.
Though you can’t stay over, there’s a bedroom to get changed in. And as the venue is all yours for the day, you can marry wherever you like, be it surrounded by literature in the Scottish Library or outdoors in an alfresco ceremony.
Guests can spill out onto the waterside terrace for the drinks reception to soak up both the dramatic views and the delicious Great British Vermouth that’s made on Dalmeny Estate.
You’ll feel like royalty ascending the spiral stone staircase to the breathtaking Banqueting Hall, where you’ll sit down to a feast created by Honeycomb Catering, the venue’s exclusive caterer.
I cannot overstate how delicious my meal was. From the mangalitsa pork belly with spiced tamarind jus to the cucumber, fennel and seaweed water ice with gorse flowers, every plate was an innovative delight and a far cry from Chicken Supreme.
Hire a string quartet to provide ambiance while you dine (the Cairn String Quartet did just that).
Then, as the night draws in and the moon shimmers on the water outside, the furniture will be moved and the rug rolled up so you can dance into the wee hours on the sprung wooden floor. Heaven.