The enjoyment quotient when attending a wedding can be a hit or miss affair depending on the preferences of those organising the event. The tedium of waiting for the wedding photographs to be taken can, for example, be alleviated somewhat by champagne-laden trays and ridiculously frivolous canapies. With fruit punch and a soggy sandwich on offer, the effect is diminished. Likewise, the choice of venue can really set the style and tone of a wedding.
Hotel function suites and gardens, while perfectly nice (despite possible flock wallpaper and tartan carpets), are rarely going to inspire either the wedding party or their guests. Frankly, there is no excuse to choose a mediocre setting for a wedding. Scotland offers a phenomenal choice of inspirational venues – with most costing no more than the hotel function rooms – with many boasting a rich history, stunning scenery and often a combination of both.
When the next wedding invitation comes through the letterbox, here’s hoping that the champagne flows and the couple have picked a location that is as unique and special as the following suggestions:
1. Traquair House, Scottish Borders
Dating back to 1107, Traquair House is the oldest inhabited house in Scotland, with Scottish royalty using the house as a hunting lodge throughout the Middle Ages. The surrounding Ettrick forest provided abundant game and bear. For this reason the stone pillared gates at the avenue entrance have two carved bears flanking the family coat of arms.
These gates have remained closed since 1745 when the Fifth Earl of Traquair, a loyal Jacobite, said farewell to his guest Prince Charles Edward Stuart and promised to keep them closed until the Stuarts were returned to the throne.
As a wedding venue the house has a beautiful walled garden, a maze and grounds to accommodate a marquee, with the option of a personal wedding ceremony in the rather perfect and intimate family chapel. Within the woods an ancient yew trees form a perfect circle which will suit the more earthy sorts who want a wedding immersed in the natural environment. Underneath the ancient yew the happy couple can whisper their promises of everlasting love to a small gathering.
For the wedding guest wanting a little more, there is always the brewery on site that produces its own Traquair Ale. This functions much as it would have done in the 18th century to wet the whistle of the many domestic and estate workers.
2. The Italian Chapel, Orkney
An atmospheric and ornate Italian Chapel on the island of Orkney is a little unexpected, but this little gem is all that remains of a Second World War Prisoner of War Camp. Camp 60 on Orkney housed 600 POW’s captured during the 1942 North Africa Campaign. Aside from the hard graft of building the Churchill Barriers, a series of concrete causeways blocking the eastern approaches to Scapa Flow, these guys landscaped the area around their camp and created the chapel from two Nissan huts in 1943 using material from sunken blockships in Scapa Flow.
It was the artistic skills of Domenico Chiocchetti and his fellow prisoners that created such an enchanting space, with beautiful painted murals and glass windows, candelabra fashioned with brass and iron, as well as an intricate alter and chancel design.
If that’s not poignant enough, then Orkney can also offer the Viking St Magnus Cathedral or the Standing Stones as wedding venue.
3. Doune Castle, Perthshire
Built for the Regent Albany, this 14th century courtyard castle sits with its battlements overlooking the beautiful River Teith. In 1570, ownership of the castle came to Sir James Stewart, the first Lord Doune. Later, the title Earl of Moray came to the occupants of the castle through marriage. Doune Castle has belonged to the Earls of Moray ever since. Restoration was undertaken in 1833 and further repairs were made in 1970. In 1984, the 20th Earl of Moray placed the castle in the care of the nation. With a 100 ft gatehouse, wonderful stone archways and staircases and a suitably magnificent Great Hall and Lord’s Hall (with musician’s gallery), this is certainly a historic setting with a sense of grandeur. This venue would be fantastic for a medieval-themed wedding, and the finishing touch is the giant iron firebasket in the centre of the room that glows and crackles with burning logs as the happy couple say “I do” and the guests simply lord it about.
A striking keep-gatehouse contains the splendid Lord’s Hall, while towering battlements look out over the River Teith to Ben Lomond.
With a capacity for up to 120 guests, the timing of cermonies is limited
- 2.30pm from April to September
- 1pm from October to March
4. Glengoyne Distillery, Stirlingshire
One for the boys! This distillery has been producing fine single malt whisky for over 200 years and sits nestled at the foot of Dumgoyne hill in a wooded valley in the southern Highlands. The name is derived from Glen Guin, or Glen of the Wild Geese. It would originally have been one of around eighteen illicit stills producing whisky in the lowland area of Scotland until the distillery was licensed in 1833. It is said that the infamous cattle-thief, Rob Roy, avoided detection from the law by hiding in a large oak tree next to the distillery. While the photos are being taken at this wedding venue, guests can listen to the skirl of the resident piper and take a distillery tour, sampling the delights of this great dram. The reception room is glass-fronted, with a balcony that overlooks the waterfall and glen.
5. Camusdarach Beach, near Arisaig
Camusdarroch beach was used for the filming of Local Hero and, although it isn’t steeped in history, it is rather beautiful. While some pay for a production-line beach wedding in Bali that nobody can afford to attend (or am I missing the point there?), the more tasteful and frugal might instead take the Road to the Isles. Sipping Pimms on this most exquisite expanse of beach, hugged by sand dunes, with (admittedly cold) clear blue sea lapping at the shoreline would make this the wedding to which I would most like to be invited. The weather, unfortunately, is the non-negotiable element of this particular venue.
6. Eilean Donan, Kyle of Lochalsh
A 13th century castle in the Highlands of Scotland might rock your boat if you fancy playing Laird for the day. It’s definitely the tartan & shortbread wedding option, and popular with American couples tapping into their Scottish heritage, but it’s not difficult to see why it’s a popular venue. Situated at the point where three great sea lochs converge, and surrounded by stunning mountain scenery, it does make for a stunning wedding backdrop. Unfortunately the castle cannot offer any catering facilities, so you’d have to bus your guests eleswhere for the hoolie afterwards.
During the main tourist season when the castle is open, weddings will take place after 6.00pm when we close to the public, with the ceremony starting at 6.30pm. During the closed season, it is possible to get married at any time of day by arrangement. Most wedding ceremonies take place in the Banqueting Hall which can accommodate approximately 90 people. If the weather permits, it is also possible to get married outside in the courtyard, over the water, looking out on the mountains of Skye. Following the ceremony, most of our weddings will then use the Billeting Room for a champagne reception, but again if the sun is shining, many people take their glasses out to the courtyard to enjoy the views, while the Bride and Groom have their photographs taken.