Glenapp Castle

A multi award winning Castle hotel with Michelin Star restaurant, Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire is set next to the spectacular Galloway forest park. With views out to the Irish Sea it is easy to see why the Victorians considered this place amongst the country's most romantic spots.

Located within Scotland's only biosphere reserve, Glenapp offers a mixture of nature, culture and history combined with a Scottish larder which simply cannot be beaten.

History of Glenapp Castle

The estate was ancient even before the Scottish Baronial Castle of 1870 was built. The romantic setting inspired the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire, James Hunter to employ the services of the well-regarded Victorian architect David Bryce and construct a statement to his self-made wealth. 

In 1917 Glenapp Castle was sold to the 1st Earl of Inchcape, James Mackay, a highly successful businessman and an administrator in India. James was an institution man whose accomplishments were extensive and he lived up to the image of the classic entrepreneurs of Victorian times. Although James lived much of his professional life in Asia he was a proud Scot, purchasing Glenapp to ensure his family had strong connections to his ancestral homeland. 

James and his wife had 5 children, the fourth of whom was Elsie Mackay. Elsie was an independent and driven woman with a strong sense of adventure. In 1917 she ran off with South African actor Dennis Wyndham, an act that caused her to be disinherited by her Father. After a brief career in acting, her marriage was annulled and she was welcomed back to the family fold. She briefly designed the interiors of her father’s passenger ships but despite Elsie's best intentions, it couldn’t satisfy her lust for adventure. 

Elsie became fascinated with aviation and learnt to fly in 1922. She became adept as a pilot and her fame grew as she developed a reputation for being a daredevil with a repertoire of stunts. Elsie became a common sight over the skies of South Ayrshire throughout the 1920’s. This was the time of the great aviation pioneers of Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart et al and Elsie thought it entirely appropriate that she should be the first woman to fly non-stop across the Atlantic. When James got wind of her intentions he put his foot down and made her promise not to do anything so fool-hardy. Elsie acquiesced but it was merely lip service. She had already chosen a First World War fighter ace, Captain Walter G R Hinchcliffe as her pilot. Many a rumour surrounded the relationship between Elsie and her dashing pilot but none were ever substantiated. 

It was said afterward that Elsie took communion the night of her flight but if she had any regrets at this stage it was too late. Surrounded in secrecy and mindful of the sensation it would cause if discovered, Elsie and Captain Hinchcliffe took off from an airfield in Lincolnshire. News broke soon after and there was huge anticipation for their landing. Tragically, Elsie was never to return to Glenapp. 8 months later part of the plane’s wreckage washed ashore in Ireland. 

Glenapp Castle would stay with the Mackays until the 1980’s. In 1994 Graham and Fay Cowan began 6 years of meticulous restoration that has bought Glenapp back to its former glory.  The result has given the Castle the feel of a home rather than a hotel with guests fully encouraged to treat it as such. 

Interesting Facts about Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire

1. Architect David Bryce would become renowned as one of the leading exponents of the Scottish Gothic revival style, also known as Baronial. The style can be witnessed across much of Scotland including the New Town of Edinburgh, UNESCO world heritage listed.

2. James Mackay's entrepreneurial activities led him to shipping where he would eventually form the P&O bank that managed the finances of the famous Peninsula and Oriental shipping and logistics company.

3. Amongst Elsie's stunts repertoire included a manoeuvre called the outside loop. During the attempt, her safety straps reportedly gave way so she clung to the supporting wires, becoming a human pendulum until she could clamber back into her cockpit! 

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