As the Queen arrives in Edinburgh for Royal Week, we bring you the most glamorous Scottish houses to book now

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  • Abbotsford

    Overlooking the River Tweed some 35 miles from Edinburgh, this sprawling estate was once home to author and poet Sir Walter Scott. Here illustrious guests have included Wordsworth and JMW Turner, not to mention Queen Victoria, who was so moved by the beauty of Abbotsford that it inspired her to remodel Balmoral. Now, as we celebrate Scott’s 250-year anniversary, make a literary pilgrimage to admire the enduring beauty of this part of the world, with its woodland riverside walks that inspired Scott’s greatest works. The Hope Scott Wing, which is available to rent, with seven gloriously ornate bedrooms also comes with unfettered access to the Walled Garden, South Court and the ridiculously pretty Morris Garden, which overflows with roses and peonies in early summer.

  • Aldourie Castle

    Aldourie is very Robert Burns’s Lines on the Fall of Fyers. This is the only habitable castle on the languid shores of Loch Ness, its full beauty only revealed at the end of a very long avenue. Hidden among the wild meadows and forests, this 13-bedroom private property is part of the glamorous Wildland conservation project (spearheaded by Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, who also has a collection of rentals and a boutique hotel, Lundies House that are spread across three private Scottish Estates). This is the ultimate fairytale lovely castle, which has been restored to perfection and will finally be open early next spring with a beautiful new Gate Lodge and renovated Boat House, too – perfect for picnics by the loch. Dinners are sensational, thanks to the chefs toiling over Scottish venison and organic vegetables. There are traditional country pursuits on tap – from exceptional fishing and angling on Loch Ness to shooting and stalking. At the heart of the house is the Laird’s Room, a breathtaking essay on classicism, which achieves a perfect balance of proportion, perspective and theatre. For added drama, travel specialists Scott Dunn can organise a private candlelit performance of Macbeth, flying up some of London’s finest stage actors to this stately setting.

  • Carskiey Estate

    This great stone edifice on the Mull of Kintyre has been re-animated over the last decade by Tom Helme, founder of Farrow & Ball and, latterly, upmarket fabric firm Fermoie. The Edwardian house, which stands at the centre of the 7,500-acre estate, has been turned into a jewel box of a place. The muted hues of Farrow & Ball arranged against the brighter Femoie colours contrive to make a very agreeable haven from the sometimes spiky weather of this part of Scotland. The house sleeps 16 comfortably and its rooms are arranged for entertaining on a grand scale. There is an enormous hall leading on to three very comfortable – and well-upholstered – reception rooms, with Helme’s wood-lined library on an upper floor. It is a quiet sanctuary. Renting the place means you also have access to Shore Cottage, which is a little away from the house, down at Carskiey Bay. It is an old sea captain’s cottage (sleeping four), which can be used as a base for beach-side entertaining, where you can relish dinners of Scottish lobster, then savour local malt whisky and the endlessly beautiful view of Sanda Island.

  • Kinross House

    This is perhaps the most lavish house in Scotland. Built by the visionary architect Sir William Bruce, Kinross House is the perfect example of a classical villa (Bruce drew inspiration from the romantic landscapes of Renaissance Italy) and was even described by Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, as ‘the most beautiful and regular piece of architecture in Scotland’. The location is dazzling – the island itself is where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned and forced to abdicate in favour of her son, King James I of England – but so too are its interiors, where the original features combined with elaborate furnishings and rich fabric, from individual crystal chandeliers and fireplaces to the vast, expansive windows. There’s even a tartan-covered Whisky Library, stocking some of the very rarest in the world. Guests can bask in the grounds, weave down the herbaceous border, play a spot of cricket or nip into the spa in the old stables courtyard. The building dates back to 1680 and has been renovated as a spa, with a hydrotherapy pool and sauna. Best of all, though, you can venture by boat for a champagne picnic on Loch Leven Island – today a designated nature reserve – and admire its castle, at the eastern most point of the estate.

  • Dougarie Estate, Isle of Arran

    Tucked away on the west-coast of Scotland, this estate was originally built as the sporting lodge for the 11th Duke of Hamilton, and boasts a magical landscape of rivers, lochs, craggy peaks and isolated beaches. Since inheriting Dougarie in 2018, Jamie Gibbs, laird and passionate conservationist, has been revamping the estate with his interiors-savvy wife Jules. They are a formidable duo; Jamie grew up at Dougarie so knows every inch of the landscape intimately, while Juliet understands the mod-cons that city-dwelling visitors expect. There are now five beautifully appointed houses available to rent, complete with private chef, masseuse, reflexologist and reiki (on request). This is the place to go for stalking, walking, shooting, fishing, golfing and switching off. Don’t be surprised to see dolphins and seals during sea-fishing and lobster potting expeditions and new-born lambs frolicking on rolling green hills in spring. A barbecue in The Boathouse – which will be available as a wedding venue later this year – followed by a swim in the sea is soul-stirring stuff. Arran’s ancient, distinctive natural beauty is utterly irresistible.

    This article is part of the August issue, on sale 1 July. Subscribe now for a trial offer of 3 issues for £1 plus free digital editions and home delivery.

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