Natasha Radmehr rounds up a dozen welcoming Scottish wedding venues in Glasgow, East Lothian, West Lothian, Lanarkshire, Perthshire and the Borders that you can have the run of for your big day
Let’s face it: even pre-Covid, the prospect of strangers barging in on your wedding was not something any of us relished. But in these slightly fraught times, many couples want a guarantee that their venue will be theirs and theirs alone for the duration of their special day. If this is a concern of yours, the magic phrase to keep an eye out for when browsing potential locations is ‘exclusive use’.
Venues offering exclusivity will ensure you don’t have to share your wedding space with anyone else; sometimes for the full day, but often for several days if there’s accommodation involved. It means your wedding will be completely private and will feel that little bit safer – plus, as a bonus, you’ll only be photobombed by people you know and like. Here’s our round-up of some of Scotland’s best exclusive-use venues.
Auchen Castle, Dumfries and Galloway
“At Auchen Castle, our sole focus is creating personalised weddings with our couple’s dreams and visions in mind,” says the venue’s Sarah Threlkeld (Photo: Willow and Wilde)
As if having the full run of an enchanting castle wasn’t enough of a thrill, hiring Auchen Castle means gaining exclusive access to 34 acres of gardens and a private lake. Not bad, huh? The castle itself, in the Dumfries and Galloway moorlands, is a Disney dream with picture-perfect spires and turrets, opulent interiors and period features – you’ll be spoilt for choice when deciding which areas to put to use. “The castle is simply breathtaking, with both grand and intimate spaces to explore, discover and settle into,” promises general manager Sarah Threlkeld. Exclusive hire is available for one day or several depending on requirements, with capacity for 110 day guests and a further 40 in the evening. There are 26 boutique bedrooms too.
The Harbour Chapel, East Lothian
Dating from 1764, this historic building in the East Lothian town of Dunbar was once a Methodist church – the oldest in Scotland, in fact. These days, it’s an atmospheric events space that has been respectfully restored. “The chapel is soaked in history and retains all of its original features,” says the venue’s Fiona Veitch. “The scallop-shelled oak pulpit, the balcony and the ornate Victorian stained-glass windows (originating from St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh) all contribute to creating a special sense of place and provide a beautiful backdrop for photographs.” The bountiful picture opportunities extend to the scenic location beside Victoria Harbour looking out to sea – it’s really quite spectacular.
Aikwood Tower, Scottish Borders
“Everyone has their own vision of how they want their wedding day to be, but the one thing that everyone says about getting married at Aikwood is that it feels just like you’re at home with your best friends and family,” promises owner Vicki Steel. “Couples hire the property for a week or weekend and hold the wedding on one of the days during their stay. This allows them to really spread the celebrations out and spend quality time with those closest to them before and after the main event.” An ideal space for weddings with up to 60 guests (and accommodation for ten people), it’s stylish and cosy inside – think log fires and plush furnishings that create an intimate atmosphere.
Cluny Castle, Aberdeenshire
With its tree-lined driveway and majestic turrets fit for royalty, there’s little wonder Cluny Castle was able to double as Balmoral in The Queen. “It might be steeped in history, but this 15th-century mansion is far from being a museum piece,” says marketing manager Fiona Jones. “In fact, it is the much-loved family home of Cosmo Linzee Gordon and his wife Bronya, both of whom are determined to preserve Cluny and breathe life into the historic building that has been in Cosmo’s family for generations.” Say ‘I do’ in the private chapel (capacity 120), sit down to a banquet in the parquet-floored Tenants’ Hall (capacity 94) or throw a bigger celebration in a marquee on the lawn. A recent renovation to the west wing and top floor of the castle means the venue can now accommodate up to 26 guests in individually styled bedrooms.
Duntarvie Castle, West Lothian
Heart set on a blank-canvas space? West Lothian’s Duntarvie Castle prides itself on the flexibility it offers couples to put their own stamp on the place. Weddings are held in a luxe all-weather marquee that holds up to 200 people (and can go up or down in size depending on requirements), with the option to hire your dream list of wedding suppliers. “We accept your choice of caterer, events company or entertainment,” says the venue’s Tricia Sutherland. “This means you can tailor your day to your budget without constraint.” In addition to exclusive use on the wedding day itself, time is allowed on either side for the set-up and breakdown. “Some of our couples use this time to let guests camp on site if they’re going for that super-casual festival feel,” adds Tricia.
Archerfield, East Lothian
If you’ve ever wondered where celebs get married in Scotland, look no further than East Lothian’s Archerfield. This is where Ronan Keating got hitched a few years ago and it’s easy to see why: the estate consists of a lavish 17th-century house, the Waterfront (a beachside venue overlooking the Firth of Forth), an award-winning spa, an 18-hole golf course and swish accommodation. “Archerfield’s location is truly special, but we also have a unique approach to hospitality, working with each couple to create the perfect day tailored to them,” says the venue’s Greg Dale. Many couples opt to marry in the grand main house before taking the evening celebrations down to the Waterfront, which has space for up to 200 revellers.
Broxmouth Park, East Lothian
It’s an exciting period of change for East Lothian favourite Broxmouth Park, which is preparing to unveil a brand-new luxury venue for 2022 weddings (and beyond). “Our 1841 Courtyard with stables is currently being restored to accommodate up to 160 guests for beautiful, modern but rustic wedding weekends,” says weddings and events co-ordinator Jessica Kirkby. “It’s an incredibly exciting project, and we cannot wait to host our weddings there next year.” Comprising a stunning ceremony chapel, separate wedding gallery, bar facilities and an outdoor courtyard for drinks receptions, the venue will be available to hire exclusively for two days at a time, with accommodation offered for up to 50 guests. The newlyweds will get the coolest digs: the Lodge by the Lake, which has its own hot tub. Bliss.
Shieldhill Castle, South Lanarkshire
Few of us can claim to have had a glow-up over the pandemic, but Shieldhill Castle – a hidden gem nestled between Glasgow and Edinburgh in South Lanarkshire – certainly can. The venue, which has space to host celebrations for up to 200 people, is looking better than ever thanks to recent refurbishments. “We have taken great care to honour the castle’s history and heritage,” says the Castle’s wedding and events co-ordinator. “The castle boasts 30 lovingly restored bedrooms, an enchanted chapel and a host of luxury boutique function rooms.” Couples can hire the venue on an exclusive-use basis for as many days as they require; there’s room for 60 adults to sleep over, with extra beds available for children.
The House at Bridge of Lochay, Trossachs
The House at Bridge of Lochay allows couples to turn their small wedding into a mini-break – and, let’s face it, we don’t need much of an excuse for a holiday these days. The house, just outside Stirling in the village of Killin, can be hired for a minimum of three nights and is suitable for parties of up to 30 people. “It’s a relaxed and comfortable house with a riverside location,” says owner Amanda Clark, who notes that ceremonies are often held out in the grounds on fine days, or in the cosy Morningside Room if the weather isn’t playing ball. Later on, celebrations move to the Riverside Room, a blank-canvas space with a log fire and French doors that open to the river.
Glen Tanar, Aberdeenshire
First impressions are everything, and Glen Tanar in Aboyne makes a memorable one. “From the moment you leave the main road, past the Tower o’ Ess and the estate sign, you know you’re somewhere special,” promises sales and marketing co-ordinator Ross Byrne. “The drive up the glen to the ballroom following the River Tanar is lined with towering Scots Pines, providing a grand entrance.” The rustic vibe continues inside: the Victorian ballroom’s vaulted ceiling is adorned with 700 antlers, while ceremonies in the nearby stone-built chapel are conducted beneath rafters fashioned from local trees. Couples have the venue for the full weekend and there’s space for 160 day guests and 200 evening guests, with on-site sleeping accommodation for up to 30 people.
Eden Leisure Village, near Glasgow
Not far from Glasgow in the Millcroft Wood of Cumbernauld, Eden Leisure Village overlooks the rolling Summerhill fields and is an ideal wedding setting for anyone planning a laid-back, outdoorsy day. “Typically, ceremonies are held outside or in our marquee (capacity 100) which has a country feel with wood, artificial grass flooring and whisky barrels. Both settings offer stunning views,” says manager Janet Gracey. “The evening reception is then held in the barn (capacity 120), which has a dark, moody feel and is decorated with fairylights and festoon lights.” Eden Leisure Village is also a boutique camping site, so many couples hire it for a few days to make the most of the glamping pods, glampervan and hobbit huts.
“Citation has a different vibe from the normal celebration venue,” says wedding manager Louize Hollywood. “It’s rustic and quirky with a modern twist.” You’ll understand how it ticks all those boxes when you see it. Set in the former Sheriff Court building in the heart of Glasgow’s Merchant City, it’s architecturally very striking with a handsome sandstone façade and fluted Corinthian columns. The rustic element is especially apparent in the open-plan Merchant Suite, where ceremonies and meals for up to 130 people can take place – here, exposed brick walls give it a warm, atmospheric feel. Receptions for up to 200 people are held in the Taverne Bar, which has a mood-lit dancefloor, while the Balcony provides guests with the ultimate breakout space: a heated terrace overlooking the bright lights of the Merchant City. And the best bit? These areas are available exclusively all day to the couple getting married.