travelgirl magazine September 2006

Editorial Written by Stephanie Abrams

For travelgirls ready to step into a fairytale, slide into your glass slippers and immerse yourself in Castle Hopping!

Enjoy royal living while sticking to your travel budget.

Plan visits to castles by day and overnight stays in historic castles and manor houses.

If your purse doesn't allow for luxury castle experiences every night, choose from a variety of "enchanted cottages," B&B's that provide modern amenities without breaking the mood of the historic castle trail.

By averaging nightly costs, you'll be able to splurge for one or more castle nights along the way. Minimally, plan for big splurges on your arrival night to set the tone for your travels and your departure night for the big farewell bash! For the travelgirl with a big budget, make every night of your journey sensational with incredible stays at any or all of the following:

After Ireland, the closest gateways for your castle-hopping experience are in the UK. If you fly into or return from London, you can keep the spirit of being in the countryside in a sequestered hideaway right in the heart of London at Dukes Hotel This 5-Star luxury property exudes elegance, charm, and the ambiance of a country house in the midst of bustling London. A five-minute walk takes you to Haymarket shops and theatres. When you return to Dukes, the staff's warmth and attentiveness, coupled with their exquisitely prepared and presented cuisine, put this oasis of elegance at the top of my Must Re-Visit list. Dukes Hotel is the perfect place from which to launch your castle-hopping itinerary.

Aside from the obvious visits to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, be sure to visit HamptonCourt Palace where Henry VIII chased Anne Bolyn down a corridor to snatch her off to the Tower of London! The gardens alone are worth the trip and you will need a guide to help you find your way out of the maze there where the hedges are so tall you cannot see over them to find your way out!

Head northwest to Chester, England, where history abounds! There you'll find the rooftop of the King Charles Tower, named for Charles I, the spot from which he watched the battle of Rowton Moor in 1645 during the English Civil War. Enjoy free admission to the Roman Amphitheatre, built about 86 AD to hold 7,000 spectators, and a trip to the Rows, whose original storybook façade dating back to the 13th century is built in Tudor-style, covered with half-timbers, and hides a modern mall for the travel girl's much needed shopping break.

Extend your trip into the past at Nunsmere Hall in Oakmere, only 12 miles from Chester. At the end of a long, tree-lined driveway, this elegant country manor house comes into view. Located on a peninsula on a lake, enhanced by a romantic sunken garden, Nunsmere Hall was built in 1898 by the designer of Cunard's Queen Mary. His son designed the QEII. The feeling of being on an elegant ocean liner pervades Nunsmere Hall. The current owners imbue Nunsmere with charm and grace.

Continue your fairytale trip into Scotland stopping at Sterling Castle and the Wallace Monument, the gateway to the Scottish Highlands. The presence of the ghosts of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce can be felt everywhere and you'll enjoy the way in which the history of Stirling Castle unfolds as you tour this incredible slice of the past.

For a real treat before you leave Stirling, have lunch or dinner at Alexander the Great, where you'll find sensational Greek cuisine and the charming Mediterranean hospitality of its owner. Continue the sense of stepping back in time with an overnight outside the bustling city of Stirling, 5 miles away in the town of Bridge of Allan. In this haven, you'll find two good choices for accommodations: the Royal Hotel, a Victorian member of the Best Western group offering 5-star bedroom accommodations with breakfast that boasts such celebrity past guests as the Beatles, Chopin, and Charles Dickens ; and the Queens Hotel, just across the road, offering 4-star trendy-chic boutique accommodations and a bar that is the happening place in town.

Drive northwest to the coastline of Scotland where you must visit Culzean Castle. The name, originally spelled Cullean, is still pronounced accordingly! Too many sloppily written letters resulted in the “double L” being read as a “Z” but oral language has made the Z silent! The gardens, grounds, red deer on the estate and waterfront location of this amazing architectural work, complete with an oval open staircase reminiscent of something Alfred Hitchcock would have included in a tense dramatic scene, all join together with the castle's American history connection to make this a place not to be missed. The top floor castle apartment was given by the castle's owners to General Dwight David Eisenhower for his lifetime use in appreciation for the US war effort and Eisenhower's WWII contribution. Winston Churchill, friend of the Laird of Culzean, met with Ike nearby to strategize .

For security reasons, the two world leaders were not housed in the same place. Eisenhower stayed at Culzean and Churchill stayed at close-by Glenapp Castle. For your visit to Culzean, consider living like a world leader! The Eisenhower apartment sleeps up to 12 people and can be rented one bedroom at a time or take over the whole place! You'll also have access to the dining room and drawing room. Imagine sleeping in the Eisenhower bedroom, overlooking the castle grounds and the sea! It's magical!

If you love animals, adopt a red deer on the property. My deer's name is Lucy!

Take off on the Churchill trail and stay at the 5-star luxury historic Glenapp Castle. You'll need the password code to enter at the gates which open electronically to give guests-only access to the winding, tree-lined mile-long driveway that leads you to this spectacular castle where grace, charm, elegance, sea views, tennis courts, a walled garden, six-course gourmet dinners and full Scottish breakfasts are all included in your fairytale experience. ( You'll find 17 luxury bedrooms and suites and a perfect location for a wedding, reunion, special event or that splurge you've been promising yourself.

If you enjoyed the experience of seeing the deer at Culzean Castle, stop on your way to Edinburgh in the Cairngorm Mountains where you can walk with and feed the reindeer that live on the mountainside. They'll loan you a pair of Wellington boots, “Wellies,” so you don't ruin your glass slippers in the “boggie parts,” and, 30 minutes later, over rocky surfaces and across a wooden bridge, you'll be welcomed by the reindeer as a member of the herd. They're accustomed to lining up and mingling with the visitors and their caretakers who carry sacks of food from which you can hand-feed the reindeer. It is an awe-inspiring experience which I highly recommend. If you didn't adopt a deer at Culzean, you'll have another chance here to participate in the future of the herd at Cairngorm Reindeer Centre (,

Head for Edinburgh and a respite at Dalhousie Castle, 15 minutes from Edinburgh Airport, 3 miles from historic Rosslyn Chapel, recently receiving attention from its inclusion in the Da Vinci Code, and a short trip into Edinburgh where you'll find the historic Royal Mile connecting Edinburgh Castle to Hollyrood Castle. You'll also find the new home of the National Archives of Scotland where those with Scottish ancestors will find assistance in tracing your Scottish family tree. Visit Register House at 2 Princes Street and get a head start on your family research at!

When the day is done, drive back to Dalhousie Castle ( and surround yourself in luxury on their gorgeous grounds, their full-service spa, a romp at their falconry, a delicious meal in their Dungeon Restaurant ( yes, it was a dungeon), or their Orangerie, where your spa attire is welcomed, and dream peacefully in one of their tower rooms or in lodge accommodations on the grounds.

Take a 45 minute drive from Edinburgh to St. Andrews, even if you're not a golfer! For golfers, this is a trip to Mecca. For everyone else, St. Andrews is a Do Not Miss destination filled with charm and history going back to the 1400's. This University of St. Andrews town attracts celebrities and royalty and not long ago saw the graduation of Prince William attended by his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. The charm of this school, founded in 1413, woven into this historic town that exudes all of the spunk of modern living combined with the salty air of this seaside community and the allure of the 6, soon to be 7, golf courses that make up the world-famous St. Andrews Links, creates a magnetism that is hard to pull away from. Contrary to popular opinion, the Old Course and other golf courses at St. Andrews are open to the public and you don't need to belong to a private golf club in order to play there. The Old Links Clubhouse is modern, has a great gift shop, casual restaurant, and locker rooms for men and women, just waiting for you! The rooftop deck of the clubhouse is a great place to relax with a drink, provides a fabulous vantage point for photos of the Old Course, the beach and the sea that parallel the links, which were featured in the opening beach-run shots in the film, “Chariots of Fire,” produced by Dodi Al Fayed, Princess Di's last love . When there, be sure to take a photo on the famous Swilcan Bridge and stop at the only official logo shop for Old Course items. Every travelgirl will find a reason to linger in St. Andrews! (

Stretch your travel schedule so that you have time to visit Glamis Castle, (pronounced Glams) home of Duncan and the inspiration for Shakespeare's, “Macbeth.” This beautifully furnished castle is the family home of the Earls of Strathmore and a royal residence since 1372! It was the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and is know as one of the most haunted castles in Britain. For a sense of gracious country living, try the Edwardian-style Balgonie Country House ( whose property is adjacent to Balmoral >Castle, one of the homes of Queen Elizabeth, which you can visit when the royal family is not in residence. Travelgirls will find the house and gardens as charming and welcoming as the owners, John and Priscilla Finnie.

Before you leave Scotland, plan to visit the Scottish Borders region and stop at the largest inhabited home in Scotland, Floors Castle, (, where Prince Albert proposed to Fergie and where Hugh Grant is a frequent guest at this 174 roomhome of the 10th Duke of Roxburghe. Plan to overnight on this 50,000 acre estate at the Roxburghe Hotel and Golf Course in Kelso, Scotland( Take your camera with you to catch a fabulous photo from the 14th hole where Floors Castle is the centerpiece!!

While in the Scottish Borders region, stop for tea, dinner or overnight at Cringletie House in Peebles, where you'll enjoy the homey elegance of a country manor house where the ambiance, views, gourmet dining, comfortable but elegant furnishings, and a teddy bear on your bed, make this another MUST VISIT on your castle-hopping trip through Scotland. (

Now that you've seen the largest inhabited house in Scotland visit the oldest inhabited house, Traquair House, dating back to 1107, just a short ride from Cringletie House.

For an overview of attractions and maps visit and haste ye back to Scotland

Next issue, we're off to Saxony!

• Be sure to visit my award-winning website, and for travel tips, travel news and information and scheduled guests on my radio shows! • September 2006<

Gotta Fly Now! sm
Stephanie Abrams

Other travelgirl Editorials by Stephanie Abrams:

March 2006, Spring Time Travel

May 2006, (coming soon)

September 2006, Castle Hopping

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Stephanie Abrams, recognized as a leading radio Travel Expert and as one of the "100 Most Powerful Women in /travel," is host of the weekly Travel WITH Stephanie Abrams, heard coast-to-coast on the Business Talk Radio Network and appears weekly on radio's nationally syndicated, "Traveling Feet!" Visit Abrams' award-winning website and Stephanie welcomes travelgirls' travel questions at