Achnagairn Castle opened its doors in May 2008 as a Scottish Castle Hotel and exclusive use venue, winning a 5 star rating from Visit Scotland. Set in the Highlands, the setting for historical Bonnie Prince Charlie, and the magical Outlander series, Achnagairn is steeped in the past. The castle is built on an ancient site. Indeed, the word Achnagairn means “Field of the Cairns”, and there has been a significant house on the site for the past 400 years. A date-stone which is now incorporated into the fireplace in the library proudly reads 1663, and the castle as it now stands was built circa 1812.
There is a crest on the exterior wall outside the reception hall, which bears the proud Latin inscription: ‘Peaceful but Prepared for Battle’, a reminder of Scotland’s turbulent history, of warring clans and fierce swordsmen.
The original part of the castle was built to three storeys with fabulous architectural features such as the conical main entrance tower and the two bell-shaped towers that overlook the garden. Other typically ‘Scottish’ features are the crow-stepped gables. The Ballroom and rear service quarters with inner court were then added in 1912. The Ballroom’s enormous fireplace bears this date as a memento of the 21st birthday of the owner’s daughter, and in fact the Grand Hall was a gift for the occasion.
Throughout its development, the castle has been lucky enough to acquire unique and superb examples of architecture and interior design features. For this reason, Achnagairn is currently a listed heritage building with Grade B classification.
In the Second World War, the castle was used as a hospital. The ballroom was full of beds, and as the soldiers grew stronger, a favourite past-time was to throw each others’ clothes onto the elephant tusk which hung high above on the ballroom walls! This is precisely the era in which the Outlander series’ characters live. They are transported from the 1940s back several centuries, and when you are in Achnagairn’s wood-panelled surrounds, whether you are an Outlander fan or not, you too can hear the past echoing around you.
In the last decade Achnagairn changed hands frequently. Developers tried to break it up and divide it into flats. Happily, they did not succeed! Unfortunately, though, it became increasingly dilapidated. It was placed on the “at risk” register of important houses that had fallen on hard times.
The current owners, Gillian and Michael Lacey-Solymar, spent two years lovingly restoring the castle: maintaining a sense of its grand historical past, but always aiming to breathe new life into the surroundings. The result is a breath-taking mix of old and new: designer furniture and bright colours alongside antiques and wood-panelled rooms!