Treated like royalty: A review of Crossbasket Castle, Hyatt’s Small Luxury Hotels, Scotland
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I watched all of the last season of “The Crown” in two days.
It was perfect lockdown winter viewing — the story of the British Royal Family with lavish costumes and dramatic storylines set in spectacular castles across the United Kingdom. As I gazed around the cramped confines of my inner-city apartment, I began to daydream about what it would be like to live out a fairytale in a castle of my own.
That dream is easier to achieve than you might think.
Scattered across the United Kingdom are a large number of real castles. Some are home to working royals like Windsor Castle, the Queen’s residence or Balmoral Castle in Scotland (where the Queen likes to spend her summers), and some are preserved as tourist attractions and museums.
And some are five-star hotels you can book with points and miles.
On a recent trip to Scotland, I attempted to live out my royal fantasy, and it was every bit as magical as I had dreamed.
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Royal luxury does come at a cost and as I hunted for my dream castle, there were some eye-watering rates quoted of up to four figures per night.
Fortunately, Hyatt’s partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World allows World of Hyatt members to earn and redeem World of Hyatt points at 520 independent and bespoke properties in more than 90 countries.
I settled on Crossbasket Castle in Scotland for a few reasons. For starters, it was located just outside of the city of Glasgow, meaning it was easy to reach by plane from my home in London. Also, the images on Hyatt’s website did look like something straight out of a lavish Netflix drama.
Rates for rooms at Crossbasket Castle start from $270 (£195) per night for a small double room of 160 square feet, or you can redeem 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night. Hyatt points are amongst the most valuable hotel points you can collect, so redeeming them for just over 1 cent each was not an optimal use.
Getting out my tape measure, I realized a 160 square foot room would be quite small — this base room was clearly marked as by far the smallest room in the hotel. I decided to spend slightly more to upgrade to a large double room, priced at $360 (£260) per night and I was very glad I did, as you will soon see.
At more than 300 years old, Crossbasket Castle pre-dates most of the buildings around it and its location is both a blessing and curse. It’s located in suburban Glasgow and you will pass residential apartment buildings mere minutes from the hotel — it’s not the sort of place you would expect to find a luxury bespoke five-star castle hotel.
It’s also just off the busy East Kilbride Expressway, which does mean there is a constant faint, but noticeable hum of traffic when you are outdoors on the grounds of the castle.
On the plus side, it’s an easy and quick drive from central Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, as well as Glasgow International Airport (GLA).
Once you enter the beautifully manicured grounds, you soon forget that you are in suburban Glasgow and are transported into your royal fantasy.
As soon as you round the corner from the long gravel driveway, you get your first glimpse of the spectacular 300-year-old castle, which looks just as breathtaking as the brochure promised.
The castle has seen various owners over the centuries of its existence. Its current owners purchased the property in a rather dilapidated state a decade ago.
They then spent almost $14 million (more than £10 million) on a multiyear top to bottom restoration and the castle opened as a five-star luxury hotel in 2016.
Check-in and lobby
Despite the grand and imposing building, Crossbasket Castle truly is a “small hotel of the world” with just nine rooms. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of the check-in experience both because of the unusual layout of the building and the small number of rooms.
Would there even be a lobby?
I walked through the main entrance and found a small desk with a welcoming check-in agent who was expecting me.
The grandeur and attention to detail of the multiyear restoration were immediately apparent. No expense had been spared.
I was escorted to my room on the second floor, through another grand corridor.
The castle had adopted a one-way traffic system to assist with social distancing during the pandemic though I never saw another guest on my floor, or on the stairs.
There were also hand sanitizing stations dotted throughout the castle, a reminder that while I was staying in a centuries-old building, I was living through a very modern pandemic.
Each room at Crossbasket Castle is named a “historical custodian of the Castle.” I was given Room 2, the Macintosh room, a large double. I do not have any elite status in the World of Hyatt program, as I instead tend to focus on my Hilton status.
The hotel’s website sold this as 270 square feet though it felt significantly larger than this when you factor in the enormous bathroom.
There was a very comfortable king-size bed with luggage racks at its base. I loved the Rapunzel-style decoration over the bed.
Next to the bed was a mix of old and new items — an antique phone on one side, with an alarm clock on the other side.
The room was so large there was ample room for two oversized armchairs.
These were very plush and comfortable though they reminded me a lot of my late grandmothers’ nursing home furniture and, with a few lumps and the odd stain here and there, didn’t seem to quite fit with the royal luxury on display in the rest of the room.
I would have loved to see a chaise lounge or ornate daybed in this space instead.
The bedroom featured three large windows rising up to the high ceilings that looked over the well-kept front grounds of the property.
I loved the amount of natural light the huge windows brought in and equally liked the shutters that could be folded over the windows to create a nice dark environment for sleeping.
The beautiful shutters, along with the fringed curtains, made me feel like I could be in a French palace just as much as an episode of “The Crown.”
I liked the way the hotel managed to mix modern and traditional elements — behind the doors of the antique armoire by the windows was a large flat-screen television.
Inside the wardrobe was a safe and an iron.
Though I didn’t do any hiking during my stay (it was unseasonably hot), there was also a basket for dirty shoe cleaning.
I would not dream of traipsing muddy shoes into this beautiful room.
There were also plush, fluffy white bathrobes embroidered with the name of the hotel, which I love seeing in five-star hotels.
If I was pleased with the room, my jaw dropped when I walked into one of the largest bathrooms I had ever set foot in.
Honestly — a fireplace, a chandelier, a freestanding claw-foot bathtub and a giant ottoman in a bathroom?
I have died and gone to royal heaven.
There was also a huge walk-in shower, toilet and vanity.
High-end toiletries were provided in individual bottles by Penhaligon’s of London.
I’ve stayed in many hotel rooms, smaller than just this enormous bathroom.
And those rooms didn’t have a fireplace or a chandelier.
While there were no tea and coffee-making facilities in the room, there was a note saying we were welcome to call for a “hospitality tray” and they would bring it straight up. Sure enough, a quick phone call and this was delivered.
Crossbasket Castle is a very different experience from a normal, cookie-cutter 300-room business hotel, so don’t arrive looking for what you might find at a Holiday Inn. Much like in “The Crown” there is no fitness centre, swimming pool or spa.
Remember, this hotel contains just nine rooms.
However, there are plans for a major expansion of the castle to add a state-of-the-art spa.
The hotel does have a number of beautiful public spaces on the ground floor for guests to enjoy. Though Scotland still retains some social distancing restrictions, so unnecessary mingling amongst guests was not encouraged during my stay.
The attention to detail and amount of money that has been poured into the refurbishment was again evident everywhere I looked in the hotel — this was proper English luxury and fit for royalty.
Food and Beverage
Along with the stunning building and my enormous room, the other highlight was the food and beverage offerings.
To start the day, breakfast was either available in the main restaurant on the ground floor, or it could be enjoyed in your room as room service.
Naturally, I tried both.
Breakfast served in either setting comes from the same menu — you can choose from a range of items, including pastries, fresh fruit, juices, smoothies and cooked-to-order options. You could have as much as you wanted; for $32 (£23), the quality, amount of food and setting felt quite reasonable.
For the first morning, I chose the omelette as my main course, which was delicious.
For the second morning, I dutifully filled out my breakfast card and hung it on the doorknob outside the room. This time I chose the full Scottish-cooked breakfast and my partner chose the locally smoked salmon.
Right on time the following morning, this was wheeled into the room.
As my partner and I enjoyed this spectacular room service breakfast in our opulent room of a five-star hotel gazing out over the grounds of a 300-year-old Scottish castle dressed in a fluffy white robe, I truly felt like royalty.
There was no extra charge to have breakfast delivered by room service, so I strongly recommend indulging in this treat. This room service breakfast was even more impressive than my previous effort in Paris before the pandemic, which I still remember fondly.
It was going to be difficult to top the spectacular room service breakfast but I was going to try. I was working hard throughout my stay (I promise you, working at TPG is a lot more than just luxurious hotel reviews!), so wanted to grab a quick bite to eat in between meetings and deadlines.
The hotel offers a casual bar and lounge menu for both lunch and dinner.
With very warm weather during my stay, we decided to order some sandwiches and enjoy them out in front of the castle in the sunshine. These were served with very British crisps and a side salad.
They were delicious, though certainly on the small side for the price charged ($15, or £11 each).
After work, the outdoor area was also a very pleasant spot to watch the sunset.
I tried the local beer, West St. Mungo, which was very welcome after a long day’s work in the hot weather. You’re unlikely to experience weather as warm as I did for most of the year in the often-chilly Scotland, though note the building does not have air conditioning — that certainly wasn’t invented when the castle was first built!
I’m not sure if it’s a royal protocol to eat popcorn, though this was offered with the sunset drinks and was nice to nibble on after the relatively light lunch.
For dinner on the first evening, we opted for the bar and lounge menu and wandered down to the bar area to find somewhere to sit.
The hotel has a large ballroom the staff told me is popular for weddings. With such a magical setting, I would be very happy to tie the knot at Crossbasket Castle.
To the side of the ballroom was a lovely deck overlooking a gently flowing river below, and the staff invited us to sit out there to enjoy a drink and dinner in the fading sun.
We started off with a cocktail — I chose a rusty nail and my partner a margarita. Both were well-made and tasty.
The bar and lounge food menu was fairly basic and definitely focused on comfort food.
To start, we shared the “When in Rome” Scottish smoked salmon, which was served with buttered bread and creme fraiche. The lemon half wrapped in a muslin cloth to catch rogue pips was a classy touch.
(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
For the main course, we ordered sausages and mash and beef sliders. Though simple dishes, both were nicely presented and tasty.
I would be happy with these dishes at an upmarket gastropub or bistro.
For the final night’s meal, we booked a table at the hotel’s signature Michel Roux Jr restaurant. This restaurant was originally run by the late chef Albert Roux OBE who operated the first U.K. restaurant to earn three Michelin stars.
The restaurant offers a five-course tasting menu for £75 ($104) per person. I had high hopes for the meal and was not disappointed.
The meal was outstanding from start to finish with a (very) fine dining combination of French and Scottish flavours that was as well presented as it was tasty.
My Gressingham duck breast main course was one of the best duck dishes I have had in my life.
Even if I were not staying at the hotel, I would return to Crossbasket Castle just to dine at Michel Roux Jr restaurant again.
There are little touches in a five-star hotel, or a fine dining restaurant, that can make the experience truly excellent. I’m not just talking about a turndown service with a mint on your pillow or using cloth napkins rather than paper. I mean something that truly impresses you even after you’ve had more hotel stays and restaurants meals in your life than you can remember.
At Michel Roux Jr restaurant at Crossbasket Castle, this came in the form of the restaurant manager Scott.
There were different choices for most of the tasting menu courses and to cover as many items in this review, we made sure we ordered different items where possible, as you can see from the images above. Scott paired a different wine for each dish and his knowledge of both the wines and the dishes he was served was incredible.
My own ability to match wine with food could be explained about as deeply as ‘pinot noir goes well with duck,’ but Scott was able to delve so much deeper than that in an approachable, educational but personable way that made an already spectacular meal even more memorable.
After dinner, we asked if we could retire to the library for a “wee dram” of whiskey, as they call it in Scotland.
If I thought Scott knew his wine, he was a walking encyclopedia of whiskey.
He proudly showed us his very impressive whiskey collection that he had curated himself.
This wasn’t some bulk order sent from head office — Scott proudly explained how he was given the task of finding individual bottles both he and his guests would enjoy, and could explain why he has carefully selected each one.
As with the wine, he was able to educate as well as entertain, finding the perfect whiskey based on our palettes and sharing plenty of interesting stories about the distilleries they came from which made a wonderful end to the evening.
This incredible service capped off a flawless meal at an unforgettable hotel.
Crossbasket Castle is one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in and exceeded my very high expectations.
The property itself is stunning — it truly is a fairytale Scottish castle and the refurbishment has been done meticulously. Spending $14 million (more than £10 million) to restore a nine-room hotel is an awful lot of money, but I could see the investment everywhere I looked. My room was wonderful; much larger than expected, very comfortable and with one of the most opulent bathrooms I’ve seen anywhere in my life.
Food and beverage from breakfast through to dinner was elegant and satisfying. The service was truly five-star and the hotel’s restaurant manager Scott is an asset to this wonderful establishment.
As I finish this review, sitting back in my small London flat, I no longer daydream of “The Crown,” I instead remember being treated like royalty at the spectacular Crossbasket Castle.
Featured image by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy
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