Fancy making a splash on your wedding day? Natasha Radmehr has gathered together the best Scottish riverside, loch-side and seaside wedding venues for water babies, from harbour-side havens to dramatic, romantic coastlines
Here’s an interesting – if unsurprising – fact for you: spending time by the water has been scientifically proven to boost our mood and promote relaxation. So why not choose a wedding venue with a setting that has the power to calm those pre-ceremony jitters and add an extra dose of joy to your big day?
Whether you’d like to exchange vows by the banks of a loch or you’ve always loved the idea of stealing some time away after the ceremony to walk hand in hand with your other half on a beach or riverbank, you’ll find plenty of waterside wonders in Scotland that fit the bill. Book one of these venues and you’ll have the ultimate something blue!
The Boathouse at Dougarie, Arran
Framed by majestic mountains, the Boathouse perches in an idyllic spot overlooking the glittering Kilbrannan Sound with views of the Mull of Kintyre. “Some of our guests have had the good fortune to spot dolphins swimming by as they enjoyed drinks on the lawn, and other couples have chosen to arrive by boat,” says Malin Stewart, the venue’s events co-ordinator. The Boathouse (capacity 80 for a sit-down meal; 120 for receptions) is no stranger to parties, either. It was built as a sporting lodge for the 11th Duke of Hamilton in the 1850s and played host to soirees attended by European royalty. “It has been fully renovated but all the original features remain, which gives you a real feel for the history and splendour of the building,” adds Malin.
The Harbour Chapel, East Lothian (below right)
The Harbour Chapel is so named because of its proximity to Victoria Harbour in Dunbar, one of the last working harbours in East Lothian. “It is awash with colour and activity,” says the venue’s Fiona Veitch. “There’s a real vibrancy with the fishing boats and lobster creels – for a small harbour, there is always a lot going on.” An outdoor ceremony can be held by appointment with the Harbour Trust, but we recommend getting the best of both worlds by saying ‘I do’ within the atmospheric venue and using its surroundings for your photos. “The remnants of Dunbar Castle sit high on the rocks at the harbour entrance and the recently renovated Dunbar Battery, with its sandstone amphitheatre, provides the most spectacular views of the dramatic coastline and the famous Bass Rock,” adds Fiona.
The Royal Hotel, Argyll (above left)
Salty air, a bustling harbour, seafood worth queuing for: the resort town of Oban is a real charmer. Right in the centre of town is the Royal Hotel, a venue that manager John Horne says is one of Oban’s most iconic. “It has so much character and has really become synonymous with the place,” he says. “This year the building will turn 127 years old, so it has a lot of history.” There are 91 bedrooms, so plenty of accommodation for your loved ones, and guests will love having the opportunity to spend the weekend by the sea. Have your photographs taken by McCaig’s Tower and on the promenade, then after the big day you are perfectly placed to hop on a ferry to mini-moon in Mull.
The Waterside, Ayrshire
Positioned on the seafront at West Kilbride with stunning views that stretch across the Firth of Forth to the Isle of Arran, the Waterside’s location is as much of an attraction as the venue itself. Happily, this contemporary hotel has been designed to celebrate its coastal setting. Floor-to-ceiling retractable doors in the Kyle Suite (capacity 240 guests) flood the space with light and open out to a covered veranda where guests can soak up the scenery. The gardens, meanwhile, offer an outdoor ceremony space with panoramic island views. “When the sun is shining, there really is no better place than the Waterside,” smiles the venue’s Lisa Parker. “The private gardens lead onto the beach via a boardwalk – hard to beat for photo opportunities!”
Dunkeld House Hotel, Perthshire
“The setting of Dunkeld House is absolutely picture-perfect,” beams May Hunter, weddings and events executive at the countryside venue. “Right in the heart of Perthshire on the banks of the River Tay, the hotel boasts unrivalled views of the river and surrounding trees and hills. It is an oasis of calm.” Weddings here are held in a stylish permanent marquee in the grounds (capacity 140 guests) which is festooned with stag antler chandeliers and has its own whisky barrel bar. If you want to extend the celebrations for a few days, the 97-bedroom hotel has plenty of space for you and your guests to stay, and there’s lots to keep you entertained too, from chilling in the spa to fishing for salmon.
Skeabost House Hotel, Isle of Skye
Skeabost transports you to another world entirely. Just a ten-minute drive from Portree on the Isle of Skye, this elegant Victorian mansion nestles amid 23 acres of woodland on the edge of Loch Snizort and even has its own private pier. “Getting married on the pier looking out onto the loch and the sea is our most popular ceremony location – and we’re not surprised,” smiles Oskar Gilchrist-Grodnicki, group wedding sales manager at Sonas Hospitality. “On top of that, the hotel is full of character, from the tower dining room offering panoramic views across the island, to a bright and airy conservatory for those all-important evening parties.” Skeabost offers elopement packages too – very romantic.
Everyone who visits Crear is swept up in the magic of its coastal setting, fringed by a stretch of powder-soft sand. “It’s absolutely stunning, with totally uninterrupted views over to the coast of Ireland and the islands of Gigha, Jura and Islay,” says director Kate Lithgow. An exclusive-use venue, it can be hired for intimate or large weddings (there’s space for 100 reception guests, or more if you opt for a marquee), midweek or weekend. Marry on the beach, inside the glass-walled studio with panoramic views to the Paps of Jura, or by the ‘wibbly wall’ just outside. Our favourite thing about Crear? It offers the flexibility of a blank-canvas venue while taking care of essentials thanks to its in-house florist and phenomenal food. “We want to make planning as stress-free as possible,” explains Kate.
Cambo Estate, Fife
Whatever your dream wedding set-up, it can become a reality at Cambo. Just south of sunny St Andrews, it houses a variety of Insta-worthy event spaces for weddings of all sizes and styles, from a rustic fairy-lit courtyard and an opulent Victorian mansion to a wildflower-filled walled garden and a woodland festival space. Better still, the 1,200-acre estate is a stone’s throw from the sea. “A Cambo wedding allows you to come together with your nearest and dearest on a stunning and secluded seaside estate that’s yours for the weekend,” says Louise Walker from the weddings team. “Why not make the most of our beautiful surroundings and head down to the beach for an early pre-ceremony dip or a post-hangover loony dook to blow away the cobwebs!”
The Firth Pavilion at Seamill Hydro, Ayrshire
It doesn’t matter what the weather’s up to if you tie the knot at this luxury coastal venue because the vista really is remarkable, with the distant silhouette of Ailsa Craig and the mountains and glens of Arran all visible from the venue’s prime position on the water’s edge in Seamill, Ayrshire. The Firth Pavilion can host up to 200 guests for dinner (250 in the evening), and has been thoughtfully designed for weddings. “From the secret staircase to the dedicated buffet service station, the discreet ceiling-mounted microphones for the speeches and the direct access to the stage for the band (so they can set up while you eat), every moment has been considered in exacting detail,” says Jane McNeillie, Seamill’s senior wedding co-ordinator.
Barnbougle Castle, near Edinburgh
The Firth of Forth laps the shoreline that skirts Barnbougle Castle, the regal home of the earls of Rosebery. The castle is seven miles from Edinburgh, but the gentle waves and secluded location could trick you into believing you’re on a remote island. “There are not many venues with this proximity to both city and sea,” says Becky Hamilton, Barnbougle’s weddings manager. “The terrace can be used for your drinks reception or as a waterside cocktail bar in the evening, and our private beaches are an amazing spot to launch a surprise fireworks display.” Inside, meanwhile, the castle is lavish yet welcoming; the Scottish Library, a popular ceremony spot, exudes warmth, and the Banqueting Hall with its barrel-vaulted ceiling is a show-stopper. Arrive by boat or helicopter to really start the day in style.