Melville Castle, Dalkeith – Review

Adam Lowe

A short drive (or 30 minute bus ride) from Edinburgh, Melville Castle is a traditional wedding venue and restaurant that closed a few years ago for refurbishment and now, re-opened, caters to residents of all stripes, all year round.

Arriving at Melville Gate, the drive to the hotel leads you through a wood and, strangely, beneath a high underpass tagged by local (and daring) graffiti artists which looks as if it’s just popped into view to surprise you. If you opt to walk from Melville Gate to the hotel, as we did, beware that the walk back is at an incline, so you may need to prepare yourself for a brisk bit of exercise.

Passing through the wood, and beneath the underpass (which melts out of mind behind you as you get closer to your destination), you approach the hotel, seeing first the lawns and pavilion, and then the traditional stone façade of the building. The hotel is a Gothic castellated mansion, built on the site of an historic tower house, and although it no longer just caters to wedding parties, from the pavilion outside to the vast lawns, it’s clear that weddings still form a large part of the hotel’s trade.

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Melville Castle has high ceilings and an intricate, maze-like arrangement of rooms, which belies its Edinburgh heritage and the former inhabitants. The smaller rooms must surely, in times past, have been intended for servants, given that servants would use their own entrances and corridors to serve their masters unseen.

In places the décor is a little old-fashioned, as you’d expect from a self-styled castle, but the four-poster beds and original features that dot the place speak of an impressive legacy. The bar is one of the better rooms in the hotel, and has been maintained to a high standard. The rooms are sizeable, and ours had not only a private door leading onto the lawn but also a jacuzzi in the bathroom (which makes for a great romantic evening in).

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There are a number of wooden sculptures of lovers embracing, standing vigil at various points through the grounds. These were intriguing, created by Spanish artist Javier Diaz. They’re also very much in-keeping with the wedding theme throughout.

When we stayed at the hotel, there were a few other guests, but what struck us was the quietness of the location. Besides about five or six cars in the drive, we hardly ever saw any other residents at the hotel – most of whom only seemed to appear in the bar later on. Because the room had a separate bedroom and lounge, with a writing bureau in one corner of the bedroom, Melville Castle seems a perfect retreat if you want to work on your magnum opus or finish that dissertation in peaceful surroundings.

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There’s plenty to do at Melville Castle. You can take afternoon tea in the bar or Arniston Room (priced at just £12.95 to £19.95), or you can dine in either the Ballroom Restaurant or Brasserie. We will run a full review of the Melville Castle Brasserie next week, although, in brief, the food is spectacular. The open fire is a cosy addition, and there are some brand new taps serving up draught, but again the décor is a little dated (such as the mock oil lamp lights on the wall, which retain their original fittings). This shouldn’t put you off, however, as the food was – quite simply – fantastic.

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Walking the stairs of the castle’s ancient tower, taking in the breathtaking architecture, and wandering the grounds, it’s quite clear to see why many of the guests of Melville Castle are repeat customers. The hotel exudes tranquility, quiet Scottish elegance and a sense of the heroic Imperial past of Britain.

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It’s also not difficult to see how the sweeping lawns could make for a beautiful summer wedding. The hotel would serve a medium-sized wedding party well, allowing the lucky couple to book their family in for a private stay, sheltered from the bustle of the nearby city, where they can enjoy the views, enjoy the restaurant’s fine Scottish fare and enjoy intimate drinks in the bar. The hotel is also close enough to the city centre that any restless wedding guests can pop into town for a few bevvies before returning to unwind in the capacious hotel rooms.

For more information, please visit melvillecastle.com.

About Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people.