If you’re thinking of going on a rural retreat to Scotland, East Kilbride isn’t exactly the first place you’d think of but let me challenge that.
Crossbasket is a 17th century castle, which has recently been renovated into a hotel and events venue; when we arrived they’d just celebrated their 5th year since opening. This little gem is one of the lesser known hotels in the ICMI collection, hidden in plain sight, twenty minutes south east of Glasgow.
We arrived by car, having driven from Edinburgh, which took us an hour and a half. The entrance was breathtaking, with vast grounds and the Rotten Calder river curving around the west side of the castle, which gives an apt moat effect. There is a beautiful patio out front where you can take your drinks or afternoon tea, surrounded by sweeping greenery and with the sounds of the river close by. This is the stuff of fairytales, and I haven’t even gone inside yet.
The hotel caters for weddings and events, and much to our luck, they had just finished holding a wedding fair in their new extension at the back of the hotel when we arrived. We were lucky enough to see their hall set up for wedding dinner, which was utterly stunning, with huge amounts of natural light and a warm church-like feel for the wedding venue at the back. The vibe was modern and spacious, whilst keeping the interiors in tune with the castle theme: oak beams, period doorways and medieval looking chandeliers.
They also use the function rooms for yoga retreats, which are still running safely with Covid restrictions, as the space they have allows for social distancing. They had also just hosted a baby shower in one of the public rooms, and as each public space and landing is beautifully decorated with an array of antique furnishings (outside our room was an antique sewing box) they are able to manipulate the spaces to cater for all kinds of needs.
They have nine ensuite rooms, each individually decorated with its own unique style. They also have a self-catering option, with a three minute walk to the restaurant and public rooms, so you’re abe to enjoy the castle whilst keeping the privacy of your own space.
Our suite had a French style, with light blue and green decor and a beautiful bed (pictured.) There were gorgeous touches throughout, including an antique push button telephone. The bathroom was larger than my front room, and was kitted out with a leather stool centre piece and a freestanding bath with claw feet, a large shower, beautiful smelling spa products and gorgeous wallpaper. Our bedroom and bathroom had chandeliers and mood lighting, and the TV was cleverly hidden in a wardrobe to keep with the castle vibes. I’ll say it again, it felt like a fairytale.
We were then shown around the bridal suite, an entire turret dedicated to the bride and groom. It lay in a restored 17th century tower, and was four floors tall. It was absurdly glorious, with a four poster bed, two reception rooms and a large bathroom. The photos really don’t do this justice. Right next to the bridal tower is an ideally located drinks reception room, with magnificent original ceilings.
The kitchen is headed up by the famous French chef Albert Roux and son Michel Roux Jr – dishes are made with locally sourced ingredients, with all the creativity you’d expect from a Michelin starred restaurant.
Keeping with the modern twist on period style, you have the option to eat in the main restaurant, which feels very much part of the castle, or in the bar for a more modern and lighter dining experience. We had pre-dinner drinks and canapés – with a particularly delicious pate – in their drawing room before moving into the main restaurant.
We went for the taster menu, and were sent a sweetcorn and chilli amuse-bouche to start. For starters we chose west coast crab, which had a perfect balance of sweet and sour, and a duck and pistachio ballottine, which was hearty, comforting and filling. A pea veloute and a tongue tingling ham hock bonbon followed, which was a luxurious take on an old classic. I’m still not sure how they managed to get so much flavour from pea soup! For the main courses we both went for the beef, as it was Sunday. The meat was perfectly cooked and we found that we only needed a little of the jus, as the pommes anna was a little salty, which overpowered the rest of the flavours ever so slightly, but it was delicious all the same. A cheese course followed, and we were recommended to try the Madeira with it, which balanced out the umami flavours perfectly alongside the quince and damson plum jelly and fresh grapes. Each cheese was described to us from mild to very strong, with a nice touch of humour from our friendly and well informed waiter. For dessert we ordered the Perthshire strawberry mille foise with elderflower sorbet – light and creamy and perfect in my opinion – and for those who prefer a richer flavour, we also had a tangy and flavoursome lemon tart with raspberry sorbet.
We then moved back into the drawing room and went for a whiskey nightcap, with chocolates. There was an endless selection of whiskeys on display and the waiter listened to our preferences and recommended new whiskeys for us to try, which allowed us to have our pick without being overwhelmed. I liked mine so much that I bought a bottle from a local seller on the way home!
For breakfast we were served pastries and toast to start (with a particularly delicious danish in the mix.) The Chez Roux jams and freshly squeezed orange juice rounded it off nicely. The tea sets were particularly pleasing, and I loved to look at the the decor in the dining room in the light. My guest had a creme brûlée style porridge, which was not too sweet, just a satisfying nod to the dish and with an aftertaste of whiskey. I ordered the Katy Rodgers natural yogurt with vanilla poached pears, the two ingredients were light and perfectly balanced: a tart yogurt with sweet caramelised pears. We then ordered the full Scottish breakfast, a classic for a reason, and a pain perdu with fresh fruit and cream, a cheeky desert after all that, um, desert.
Out and about
There is a lot to do and see locally, whether you like outdoor activities such as golfing, fishing and hiking or want to visit the sights and sounds of Glasgow, just a short drive away. We visited Chatelherault Country Park and the Falls of Clyde, both of which were beautiful sights and easy to access, even with Covid restrictions.
Crossbasket have a lot of weddings, which is no surprise given how overtly romantic it is. At the moment the clientele are a mix of couples of all ages, families and older clientele. The hotel is planning on building another fifty bedrooms and spa, which will give the space more of a resort feel, and no doubt bring in city dwellers for a spa weekend away, as well as provide more accessibility for younger people and weddings guests who might favour more affordable accommodation.
The staff were receptive to our needs, friendly and always happy to chat, which for me made the experience even more enjoyable.
The best thing
There really is something magical about this place, and the fact that it feels hidden adds to that. I could spend hours walking around the grounds, inside and out, absorbing the splendour – from the views to the tiny trinkets and daybeds scattered around the hallways. Our beautiful suite, complete with the most beautiful bath in the most beautiful bathroom, was very difficult to say goodbye to.
The worst thing
If you want to go for one of the more luxurious rooms, and you’re going to want to, it is a little on the pricey side, but you get what you pay for. Other than that, it’s very had to think of anything negative to say about Crossbasket Castle!
Prices vary from season to season and currently range from £300 to £6,700 per room/suite. They are currently running one day yoga retreats and event and wedding packages are available.
Telephone: 01698 829461 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.crossbasketcastle.com
Crossbasket Estate, Stoneymeadow Road, High Blantyre, Glasgow, G72 9UE Scotland