When my friend planned a Harry Potter themed party she did it in style, not only did she spend hours sewing costumes and making food and drink but she booked a castle for the night. Castle Menzies (pronounced ming-us), which is near to the village of Weem on the banks of the beautiful Loch Tay is available to locals for hire for a very reasonable rate and is also the venue of many ghost hunting trips as well as being open to the public as a tourist attraction.
When you enter the driveway and approach the castle, the first thing you will notice is the lack of formal gardens. The castle is surrounded by grass for a hundred metres or so and then surrounded by farmland. The castle itself is smaller than any other castles I have seen, the Z shaped building dates from the 16th century and is built from a mixture of local rubble and carved blue freestone. The castle looks both bleak and imposing even in the sunlight.
The castle's main claim to fame is the fact that Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed here on his way to the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The Prince Charles Edward Stewart room is decorated in a similar style to the room he would have stayed in with the four poster bed lined with luxurious fabrics. Bonnie Prince Charlie's death mask is also on display in one of the exhibits which is a rather chilling sight and his facial features bear little resemblance to the portraits of him during his lifetime.
Other rooms are also decorated to reflect how they would have looked in earlier days including the kitchen with an enormous grate and another bedroom complete with a spooky looking doll. The main hall is the Dewar room which is used for functions but during visitor times you can go and see the works of art. A lot of the rooms, especially the attic rooms, were empty but it was still fun going up and down the little winding staircases to explore. There are some historical exhibitions with interesting artefacts which are worth a look. These exhibitions are going to appeal far more to adults than children and the lack of interactive exhibits might mean young children get bored quickly.
Any Scottish castle worth its salt will have a number of resident ghosts and Menzies is no exception with no fewer than 20 apparitions believed to live there. These include a shouting man and a young boy who is seen going up and down the stairs. The castle manger told us to take photos in the kitchen and we would then see orbs appear and move around the room on the photos which signify some kind of ghostly happenings. We followed his instructions and he was correct that we had numerous orbs show up on our pictures but never saw or heard anything else. One of the bedrooms is renowned for paranormal activity and is apparently so haunted a TV crew only managed to spend a very short time in there before making a sharp exit. It was extremely spooky finding an Ouija board in one of the upper rooms of the castle too. There are regular ghost hunting sessions at the castle but I think I will give those a miss.
Apart from the main exhibitions there is a small gift shop and café which were not open during our visit. The castle manager is an extremely friendly and helpful, he is a trained historian who lives in the castle and is happy to spend lots of time with people answering questions and telling spooky stories.
Castle Menzies is worth a visit if you are in the Highland Perthshire area, it may lack the grandeur of some larger castles but makes up for that with quirky charm.