We’ve found 12 Scottish venues that offer somewhere special to say ‘I do’ outside
As a Scot, summer matters to me on a spiritual level. We spend three-quarters of the year gazing hopelessly out of rain-spattered windows dreaming of those elusive summer months and then, just like that, they’ve been and gone. And so when the sun does finally come around, I want to take advantage of it in whatever way possible.
With this in mind, is it any wonder that Scottish couples are infatuated with the outdoors when it comes to planning their big day? We do have the perfect landscape for it, after all, with our moody forests and dramatic peaks, white sandy beaches and verdant fields. We’d be suckers not to exploit all that rich terrain – and wedding venues know that. That’s why we’ve created a round-up of our favourite open-air settings across the country.
Sitting in the heart of Lanarkshire, Chatelherault Country Park was built in 1732 as the hunting lodge and summer house of the Dukes of Hamilton. Now, however, it’s a favourite with dog-walkers and engaged couples alike, owing to its sprawling woodlands and picturesque landscaped gardens.
From the house itself, strikingly perched atop a hill, you’ll find spectacular vistas across the Clyde Valley, while the ornate Banqueting Room features Venetian-style windows that open out onto the Parterre Gardens, a fabulous place fit for capturing the first few moments of wedded bliss.
Looking to host a festival-inspired bash? You could do a lot worse than Cambo House, a sprawling estate close to the Fife coast. Although it also boasts a two-acre walled garden, a courtyard and countless lovely spots for photo opps, we’ve got our eyes on something a little more unconventional.
“The magical Party Woodland can only be reached by walking through a spectacular fairylight tunnel leading you to a festoon-lit haven among the trees,” reveals Emma Aspinall-Bailey, sales and events manager at Cambo.
This blank-canvas clearing is included in the hire price for the whole weekend, so you have the option of hosting a pre-wedding get-together or post-wedding barbecue out there. If you do choose to use it for your wedding celebrations, mind, you won’t have to obey any curfews. Party on…
When it comes to planning your outdoor ceremony, variety is the name of the game at Scone Palace. “Our grounds and gardens provide a lovely natural backdrop for wedding services – couples can exchange vows in the centre of the maze or in the pavilion in the Pinetum,” suggests Heather McArthur, the venue’s sales and events manager.
“Scone can also arrange marquee or tipi weddings in several beautiful locations within the estate.” Planning a celebration fit for royalty? Hold your outdoor ceremony on Moot Hill, the historic site where Scotland’s kings were once crowned. While you’re there, you might want to say hi to Alexander, one of Scone’s resident rare white peacocks.
For those interested in letting literature inspire their big day, Fingask Castle, a traditional rural estate of 240 acres between Perth and Dundee, is a must-visit. “We are fortunate to have a range of different landscapes within the property’s bounds: manicured lawns, wild flora, pretty woodlands and unique topiary gardens which are very Alice in Wonderland-esque,” smiles owner Andrew Murray-Thriepland.
The castle is often used for the ceremony, before the wedding party depart for the grounds and courtyard for drinks and canapés – though the service and reception can be held on the lawns if a couple so wish. With the castle fit to accommodate up to 300 of your friends and family, you won’t need to worry about squeezing everyone in, even if your guest list is as populous as Wonderland itself.
New Lanark Mill Hotel
The sky’s the limit at New Lanark Mill Hotel, thanks to its spectacular rooftop garden. Covering 9,000 square feet, it’s the largest of its kind in Scotland, and offers fantastic views of the New Lanark World Heritage Site and the nearby Falls of Clyde. “Get hitched on our rooftop garden and then enjoy arrival drinks with your guests while your photographer takes stunning group pictures,” advises the hotel’s Lindsay Bain.
“This secret venue is available fully dressed, with white chairs and your choice of aisle runner.” With over 70 different plants and shrubs, a water feature and numerous sculptures, we’ve got high hopes for this one.
The Byre at Inchyra
A perennial favourite with aesthetically conscious types the country over, The Byre at Inchyra in Perthshire prides itself on its ability to deliver thoughtful, bespoke celebrations. “The fairytale walled garden at Inchyra gives couples even more ways to make their wedding unique to them,” promises venue co-ordinator Lucy Johnson.
“It exudes history and is teeming with beauty and character. We have an aisle of apple trees, for example, that makes this the perfect place for a wedding ceremony in the fresh air, in front of the romantic wooden pavilion. You could also hold your drinks reception here, before moving back to the Byre to dine.”
Tucked away deep in the south-west is the National Trust for Scotland’s Threave Garden, a treasure trove of pretty gardens, tree-lined lawns and over 200 varieties of daffodil. Although the venue boasts exemplary indoor spaces (think grand staircases and bright formal rooms), it’s the outdoors that really makes this place sing – ceremonies and drinks receptions can be held anywhere you please.
“We’ve achieved that rare balance of stunning, memorable settings that still feel comfortable and relaxed,” explains visitor services manager Michelle Robertson. “When you cross the threshold together, you’ll be stepping into a landscape rich in natural beauty, history and culture.” Sounds like a marriage made in (horticulture) heaven.
If having the entire venue to yourself isn’t enough for you, bookmark Perthshire’s Murthly Castle – the venue holds just 12 weddings a year, making it one of the most exclusive spots in Scotland in which to get hitched. Of course, Murthly has much more besides that to recommend it.
The estate’s 17th-century walled garden still has its original fountain, as well as a romantic little summer house, and there are a couple of fabulous staircases on which to strike a pose. If you’ve got your heart set on reciting your vows outside, you’re in luck: “Our Douglas Fir avenue was one of the first to be planted in Scotland, and dates back to the 1840s,” reveals Murthly’s Thomas Steuart Fothringham.
“The trees are 55 metres tall and make for a spectacular outdoor cathedral.” Wedding planning might be stopping you seeing the wood from the trees, but we promise you – this one’s a winner.
St Andrews is undoubtedly one of Scotland’s most scenic corners, so is it any wonder that it’s home to a variety of similarly charming venues? One of our top picks is Rufflets, whose extensive and bounteous grounds win over dozens of couples every year. Several acres of nearby woodland and the kitchen garden are ideal for exploring with your photographer post-ceremony.
Elsewhere, the chameleon Virginia Creeper that cloaks the hotel is a popular picture spot due to its changing colour, from green in spring to orange and red in the later months, while the field across the road transforms from green shoots in May to golden, waving wheat in the summer. One thing’s for sure: this is a venue for all seasons.
Edinburgh Zoo Mansion House
If you’re from the Central Belt, you’ll no doubt have fond childhood memories of Edinburgh Zoo – we’re still obsessed with the penguin parade after all these years. In which case, you’ll probably be delighted to hear that it’s possible to tie the knot at the zoo’s imposing Mansion House.
Hold your ceremony on the pathways in front of the property, using the impressive façade and the tree canopy as your backdrop, before roaming the grounds with a glass of bubbly in hand. And if you weren’t already convinced, lemurs, flamingos and penguins are all within close walking distance and always up for a photo opp. Cheese!
Many a wedding wish-list will have a castle at the very top, and Cluny’s namesake, deep in the idyllic Aberdeenshire countryside, would fit the bill perfectly. Surrounded by wooded parkland and manicured lawns and equipped with its own chapel, this is one venue that impresses without trying.
Intimate and mid-size weddings are usually held in the main house, while larger parties can make themselves comfortable in a marquee in the grounds. “Cluny Castle is an exclusive-use venue offering you complete privacy with an intimate feel,” promises Fiona Jones, marketing and events manager. “There are so many wonderfully secluded spots within the estate for bridal photographs.”
The Firth Pavilion at Seamill Hydro
We like a venue with a trick up its sleeve, and the Firth Pavilion at Seamill Hydro – purpose-built and opened just two years ago – has that in spades. The venue has put its enviable surroundings on the Ayrshire coast to good use.
“Firth Pavilion occupies an imposing, elevated position, with stunning views of more than 100 square miles of land and sea,” says senior sales manager Jane McNeillie. “To make the most of it, we have gone to great lengths to create wonderful landscaped gardens full of colour and photographic opportunities.” Host your drinks reception on the flower-bedecked patio and gaze out across the waves as you toast the start of married life. Cheers!