Last week was one of the best weeks of the school holidays so far. The family and I have not long returned from a gifted stay at the lovely Castle of Park with The Landmark Trust in Dumfries and Galloway. When I looked at the weather forecast for the week (before our trip) it said cloudy and rainy but to our surprise the whole week was bathed in sunshine, blue skies and beautiful warm heat. It was like being abroad, you'd never have guessed it was Scotland!
Monday morning came around quickly, we packed up the car with our suitcase, some food and the dogs and we set off for the 3-hour journey to Castle of Park near Glenluce. For some background, Castle of Park is a Scottish tower house built in 1590. Whilst the exterior looks deceptively modest, the inside is surprisingly spacious and gives a glimpse into life as a Jacobean laird. We've stayed at a few Landmark Trust properties before and all have been of very high quality, Castle of Park was no different.
Check in time is normally 4pm but since we arrived a little early we decided to visit the Historic Scotland site of Glenluce Abbey which is only 5 minutes away. You can easily walk to it from Castle of Park but we took the car since it was less hassle with the kids and dogs. It's a beautiful ruin with lots of history and allowed everyone to stretch their legs and pass the time until we could explore our very own castle for the week. There was even a field of cows and sheep next to it which Harlow loved as they came running up to her.
Castle of Park is very easy to find, the SatNav took us straight to it and has ample parking right outside for several cars if need be. It sleeps up to 7 people and allows dogs as many of the Landmark Trust properties do. My dogs love a holiday and adventure as much as us humans. You can hire out this lovely castle for as little as £414 for 4 nights, which I think is a bargain. Simply search the website and check out the property calendar. It's easy and user-friendly to navigate.
The massive castle door gives a sense of grandeur and excitement of what's to come. The kids were absolutely buzzing to get inside and check out where they would be living for the week as were us adults! When you enter the ground floor (we called it ground zero) and turn right it leads to a sort of basement with some small rooms which hold bins and cleaning equipment and there's also a toilet which is handy if you're outside enjoying the garden.
Travelling up to the first floor you're met with a very grand kitchen/ dining space when you unlatch the wooden door. This had to be my favourite room. The ceiling height is incredible and the attention to detail is understated yet so professionally done. From the furnishings, paintings on the walls and the exposed beams up above to the grand usable fire place and gorgeous fresh flowers sitting waiting for you on the dining table, it was breath taking. We spent a lot of time in here as a family, it was perfect for the kids to run around plus the fully equipped kitchen was right there so easy to access snacks and cups of tea at our leisure. I loved reading the logbook which had past guests adventures in them as well as the historical information books provided on the property. We also discovered that there are two sets of stairs in this castle, a big stone set coming from the main door and a wooden set which go down the back.
The second floor has a twin bedroom, a lovely bathroom with walk in shower and a living room with comfy sofas and chairs and another lovely fire place. There's also a tiny room in the corner of the living room which makes for great hide and seek, the kitchen/ dining room had this as well. We all really liked the living room as it had such a beautiful ceiling and very interesting book case filled with Scottish books and poetry. The hubby even recited a Burn's Poem or two, he just couldn't help himself being the laird of his own castle for the week.
On the third floor is where we all slept. This floor had a twin bedroom, a double bedroom and a huge bathroom with a lovely deep bath for the kids. They enjoyed splashing around in the bath every night. Yet again there was another small room off the bedroom, more hiding places! We slept on this level so it kept all four of us together and made it easiest for getting ready in the mornings and going to bed at night. There were some gorgeous views from the windows and most nights I left the window shutters open to watch the sunset and sunrise. It was such a peaceful experience.
I wouldn't call it the fourth floor but there was one more set of stairs leading up to a single bedroom which is just as beautifully furnished as the rest of the house. We never used it but it's always handy for more hide and seek! There's more than enough room in this place for 7 guests to stay. It's welcoming, comfortable and basically feels like a home from home. Some people asked us if we would feel scared living in a big old castle and honestly we didn't. Everyone was settled, the dogs were happy and never barked and it all felt rather warm and fuzzy.
Castle of Park makes for a great Scottish staycation with tons of things to see and do locally. I did a quick bit of internet searching before our trip and lots of different sites and attractions popped up. After visiting Glenluce Abbey and getting settled into the castle on our first day we couldn't wait to explore the next day. We decided to head along to the Historic Scotland Cardoness Castle which is basically like Castle of Park but now a ruin. They were very similar and it was great to get a comparison and learn some more history. After this we headed onto Cream o' Galloway, a working dairy farm that has been turned into an adventure play ground for kids. We spent hours here enjoying all that was on offer including ice cream, cakes and a tasty lunch.
Each evening after our days of adventure we would always return to Castle of Park for our dinner and to retire for the night. It was lovely 'coming home' and relaxing in ample space with a lovely quiet atmosphere. We would take the dogs out for a nice stroll once the heat of the day had passed. It was a pleasant way to spend each evening enjoying the fresh air, the sounds of the birds and watching the cows.
Day 3 we visited the really cool Port Logan Fish Pond. Logan Fish Pond is created from a natural feature of the rocky coastline and was originally used as a sea fish larder for the laird of Logan. The Fish Pond is now a unique setting in which to see a wide variety of local sea life. I highly recommend going to see it for your own eyes. The lovely John showed us around and was very knowledgeable, the kids asked so many questions and he was great with them. Next up was a little beach in Ardwell, we passed a picnic spot sign when heading to Port Logan so decided to stop here on the way back. I'm glad we did as we did lots of rock pooling with the kids and had so much fun. Lots of fish and crabs to be caught and such a beautiful spot.
We nipped in to see the Kirkmadrine Stones on our way back to the castle. It was interesting to see and read about them plus it was a free Historic Scotland site to look around, well worth a little visit. Before we headed back to the castle we popped into the Glenwhan Gardens Tea Room to get some cake and a bite to eat. Everything was freshly made and so tasty. Harlow loved that they had hens running around so she was making friends with them whilst snacking on her tasty chocolate cake. It was a roasting hot day so when we finally got back to the castle we found some deckchairs on the ground level and sat outside on the grass watching the cows whilst the kids blew bubbles and played. It's what dreams are made of, even the dogs were loving life.
Day 4 came around so quickly and it was a trip into Stranraer (which is only a 15 minute drive away) to visit the museum. They had a lovely dinosaur exhibit on with lots to see and do for the kids. We spent an hour here then walked 5 minutes to Agnew Park since it was another scorching hot day. I didn't realise how much Agnew Park had to offer but it was brilliant! There was a massive play park for the kids, a lovely cafe selling tasty lunches, cakes, drinks and ice lollies, a little ride on train that you could pay to go on, peddle boats you could hire, you could feed the swans and in the middle of the water was a man made island which had yet another kids play area in. It was covered in sand and had a wooden pirate ship on it. The kids were in their element and we never left till around 4pm that day. Highly recommend visiting here with the kids or even just popping into the cafe for lunch, it was really nice.
Our last night in Castle of Park came around super fast! They do say time goes quickly when you're having fun and that's exactly what happened to us. We loved our castle and only wished the grandparents could have come with us as well as they would have loved it too. We'll be sure to have them along the next time we stay as there definitely has to be a next time!
Laura Nelson blogs over at The Breastest News. Laura lives in Fife, Scotland with her husband Kevin, their two children and two dogs.