Marry Here – ScotlandWords by Courtney Kellar
Scotland’s Castle Country & Beyond
“You know nothing, Jon Snow.” These are the infamous words of the wilding character Ygritte from the popular fantasy series, “Game of Thrones.” In a romantic twist, Rose Leslie and Kit Harington, who play Ygritte and Jon Snow respectively, got married in Scotland in 2018. As it turns out, Jon Snow actually knows quite a lot and the actors’ real-life wedding is what led to my own epic Scottish elopement in the United Kingdom.
My now-husband and I explored Scotland over the course of a week and exchanged sentimental vows along the way. Below, you’ll discover our actual itinerary and a route I would heartily recommend to any couple considering a destination wedding in Scotland.
In my opinion, Edinburgh shines like a beacon amongst the capitals of Europe. Volcanic and glacial activity gave the city its iconic hills and craggy center, so pack practical shoes, as Edinburgh is beautifully picturesque and pedestrian-friendly in size. Edinburgh Castle, a medieval fortress, sits atop Castle Rock at the city’s center and is where we began our own grand adventure.
The Royal Mile begins at Edinburgh Castle and runs the length of the city’s Old Town, which dates back to medieval times. Meander the narrow alleys and explore the myriad shops. If you’re including a traditional Scottish quaich (pronounced: quake) in your wedding ceremony, this is where you’ll want to buy it. Just off the Mile, you’ll discover Victoria Street, a double-decker delight that served as J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley in “Harry Potter.”
Begin your trip with a stay at Scotland’s oldest inhabited castle – Dalhousie Castle (pronounced: dal-HOWZ-y), located 20 minutes outside the city center. Offering 35 rooms, we booked a Themed Four Poster in one of the castle’s turrets – complete with a circular center. The castle hotel overlooks misty parklands and includes an on-site spa.
For a romantic culinary start, dine at Dalhousie Castle’s Dungeon Restaurant. You’ll enjoy fine dining and white-glove service in the castle’s barrel-vaulted dungeon. For city-center eats, BrewDog is a must for any craft beer lover.
Eighty minutes northeast of Edinburgh, you’ll find the seaside town of St Andrews.
This charming coastal city is most famous for St Andrews Links, a.k.a. “The Home of Golf” and the iconic Old Course, where the game was first played 600 years ago. Be sure to book a tee time at least a year in advance or enter into the ballot, which is drawn 48 hours in advance of play. Non-golf fans will enjoy strolling the charming stone streets and University of St Andrews, founded in the 15th century.
The 144-room Old Course Hotel is located just off the 17th fairway, so be sure to book one of 35 suites with floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the iconic course and West Sands Beach. Also, the on-site Kohler Waters Spa is the first of its kind outside the U.S.
Toast to your impending nuptials with one of over 260 whiskys at the Old Course Hotel’s Road Hole Restaurant. For a post-round pint, swing by St. Andrews Brewing Co., or better yet, sample one of their three amazing gins, paired with flavored tonics made in-house.
Head two hours up the coast from St Andrews to Aberdeenshire, a.k.a. “Castle Country.”
Home to over 260 castles, we’re sharing a few fan favorites. Balmoral Castle has been the Scottish home of the Royal Family since 1852 and is allegedly Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite. Cliffside Dunnottar Castle is a ruined medieval fortress that has played host to the likes of William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots and my husband and I, for a post-wedding sunrise photo shoot.
The seaside town of Stonehaven has charm to spare and boasts the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. In fact, The Bay Fish and Chips’ food truck hosted our wedding dinner!
STAY & “I DO”
After a pre-wedding scouting trip, I heartily decided on Drumtochty Castle (pronounced: drum-tock-tee) for our elopement! Available for exclusive hire, the neo-gothic castle can host weddings of up to 120 guests and accommodate 95 in the estate. It was the seasoned staff, historic interiors and surrounding 350 acres of woodland glen that sealed-the-deal.
My husband and I dated for 12 years before finally saying, “I do,” so I had plenty of time to consider destinations. Scotland’s mind-bending history, kind people and easy affordability all exceeded my wildest expectations.
Discover the other amazing venues I toured with my priceless wedding planner, Tartan Weddings.
Photos courtesy of (in order of appearance): Marketing Edinburgh (1st & 2nd), Dalhousie Castle (3rd & 4th), Old Course Hotel (5th), VisitAberdeenshire (6th), Courtney Kellar (7th) and Fern Photography (8th)
This article first appeared in Destination I Do's Fall/Winter 2019 issue. You can order a copy here.
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