A few weeks ago we took advantage of an Itison deal and booked a night at the Culcreuch Castle Hotel in rural Stirlingshire.
Even passing by at speed they’re hugely impressive, we’ll have to come back here another day to see them properly. But we had other things to see on the way today so continued on our way, turning off the M9 onto the M876 then through Denny and into the countryside.
Now on the B818, we followed the edge of the Carron Valley Reservoir but stopped just before its west end and walked up a forestry track into woodland.
A short walk up the track there’s a path which leads off onto the summit of a small knoll within a clearing. Just on the crest of the hill we could see some large chunks of masonry – these are the remains of Sir John de Graham’s Castle.
Built in the 13th century, it was the home of Sir John de Graham who fought alongside William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298 and died on the battlefield. Not much is left of the castle itself except for these substantial sections of wall.
However beyond the remains of the walls there is more to see, namely an unusual almost square motte surrounded by a deep ditch.
A wooden walkway leads down through the moat and across to the top of the motte.
Down in the moat you get a real sense of how deep it is.
Unfortunately due to the forestry plantation there isn’t much of a view from the motte out over the reservoir. Apparently before the forest was planted it was possible to see all the way to our destination, Culcreuch Castle.
We walked back down to the car and continued on our way. From the end of the reservoir the road follows the Endrick Water as it passes through what is in places a steep-sided valley sheltered by the Fintry Hills to the north. A few miles further, on the lower slopes of those hills, are the remains of Fintry Castle, another Graham property, this time 15th century in date.
We had hoped to visit Fintry motte a bit further along the road but we had an appointment with some afternoon tea so instead we continued on to the Culcreuch Castle Hotel.
Unbeknownst to us today was the day of the Strathendrick Rotary Classic Car Tour, so we got stuck in a classic car traffic jam on the way into the castle.
We checked in and were shown to our room, then made our way down to the lounge where we were served with afternoon tea. What a treat.
After eating far too much we went for an explore of the castle, starting with the dining room which is housed within the old tower.
Within the thickness of the west wall is a large ogee-arched aumbry.
Culcreuch Castle consists of a 15th century tower house which was extended in the 18th century. We made our way down to the ground floor where the original doorway into the tower is now within the entrance hall of the 18th century wing.
Either side of it are a pair of niches, one of which contains an intramural chamber which is thought to have once housed a bottle dungeon.
On the opposite side is the lower portion of a spiral staircase which once led up to the first floor but now terminates at the ceiling of the ground floor.
The basement consisted of two barrel vaulted cellars, both originally lit by slit windows although some of them have since been blocked while others have been opened out. They now house seating for the bar and restaurant.
The two vaulted chambers are linked by a passageway which shows the massive thickness of the walls.
We headed outside to have a look at the cars which were parked on the castle’s front lawn. The cars had been on a 130 mile tour around Stirlingshire before arriving at the castle for refreshments.
Some of the cars were just starting to leave, although several of them found negotiating the damp grass rather tricky.
There was quite a good mix of cars some of which could rightly be called classics such as this Jaguar E-Type.
Others were more modern although I suppose being based on the Lotus 7 means this Caterham has a classic pedigree.
I spotted one of my all-time favourites, the mighty AC Cobra.
I found myself questioning whether an Audi Quattro was a classic car, then reminded myself that this is a car that was first launched 34 years ago!
In contrast the classic credentials of this Lotus Elan Sprint weren’t under any scrutiny.
Once the majority of the cars had left we had a wander around the castle.
Above the new (18th century) entrance is a heraldic panel commemorating the marriage of John Napier and Margaret Lennox. Above it is a second, perhaps older, panel above it which is so badly worn to be indecipherable but may contain a 17th century date, a pair of figures and some arms.
To the rear of the castle is a wing that was probably added in the 19th century.
At the bottom of the round tower is a faux gun loop.
After waiting for a respectable time after our afternoon tea we headed off to Kippen where we had a table booked at The Inn at Kippen.
We stopped in the village to have a look at the site of Kippen Castle. Unfortunately there’s nothing of it left, and its former grounds are now occupied by a residential street.
Our dinner was very tasty – good vegetarian options that weren’t just an afterthought. It was a shame that I was driving as they had a decent selection of local ales that I would have enjoyed sampling. With the sun setting we drove back around the end of the Fintry Hills to the Culcreuch Castle Hotel and turned in for the night.
After checking out the next morning we asked if we could have a look at a room on the second floor now known as the Chinese Bird Room. Luckily the occupants had already checked out so we were kindly allowed up to view it. The room features hand-painted Chinese wallpaper said to date back to 1723.
The weather was much better this morning with blue skies so we retook some photos of the castle.
After setting off we didn’t get very far, stopping halfway down the drive to take a photo of the castle across the small loch in front of it.
With work calling we headed for home, save for one more stop to help a cyclist who’d come off his bike after trying to negotiate a corner slightly too fast.