The best Scots course you've never played

2016 11 Skibo Castle7 After Carnegie died, Louise and Margaret returned to the US but regularly spent their summer holidays at Skibo. The property remained in the family until 1982 and, in 1990, it was bought by English hotelier Peter de Savary.

It was de Savary who created The Carnegie Club, an exclusive members-only organisation that was designed to appeal to the rich and famous.

Consequently, Hollywood A-listers became regular visitors to the estate. Madonna and Guy Ritchie even chose it for their wedding in December 2000, which was attended by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Donatella Versace and Sting.

American billionaire Ellis Short purchased the estate from de Savary in 2003 and, since then, the celebs have gone, replaced by a small but committed and enthusiastic membership of roughly 400. They may not be movie stars but they include some of the most influential businessmen and women in the world.

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As an example, I got talking to one American gentleman in the professional shop early in the morning. He wore no obvious signs of wealth and he was one of the least ostentatious guys I’ve ever met. He looked every inch your average, American golfer.

As it turned out he’s a hugely successful private equity investor who advises the Obama administration on economic policy. I only found that out later when I Googled him.
"They’re down-to-Earth people who just so happen to be very successful" - David Thomson

“That’s typical of our members,” Thomson told me. “They’re not ‘showy’. They’re down-to-Earth people who just so happen to be very successful. And, for the most part, they love golf.”

What’s the castle like? Breathtaking. You are woken at 8am by the sound of a lone bagpiper outside. Breakfast is then served with the gentle accompaniment of an organist playing in the main lobby.

All of the rooms on the ground floor are public rooms, so guests have ample space to roam. Special mention must be made of the incredible library, which is stocked with a huge collection of rare and ‘first edition’ books.

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Literature played an important part in Carnegie’s upbringing, so much so that he later donated money from his own personal fortune to various cities and towns across the world to build libraries. To date, there are more than 2,500 Carnegie libraries across the globe, from the UK and USA to Fiji and Serbia.

The walls of the library in Skibo are filled from floor to ceiling with books. Ingeniously, during his initial top-to-toe refurbishment of the castle, Carnegie had the walls lined with steel so that, in the event of a fire elsewhere in the castle, both the room and its contents would be preserved.
"When he bought the castle, he had all the door handles lowered" - David Thomson

One thing that may surprise as you walk around the castle is the position of the door handles. I’m hardly Sultan Kösen (look it up) but I found myself crouching to open them. “There’s a good reason for that,” explained Thomson. “Andrew Carnegie was only 5ft 2in.

“When he bought the castle, he had all the door handles lowered to a height he found more manageable. It has been that way ever since.”

There are 21 bedrooms in the castle itself. All still have their original names, some taken from the surrounding regions – like Evelix, Ospisdale and Migdale, for example – and some from the colourful characters who have been associated with the estate down through the years, including St Gilbert, Montrose and Sigurd. It was the Sigurd room that my wife and I stayed in.

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