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Historic Scottish castle being 'turned into mini-Glastonbury' for AirBnB hen and stag parties, locals claim

Izzy Lyons
A turreted castle rented out on Airbnb is being ‘turned into a mini-Glastonbury Festival’ by unruly guests - who have been accused of sectarian singing and lobbing Buckfast bottles - SWNS

A Scottish castle that was once home to a Victorian socialite is being "turned into mini-Glastonbury" for hen and stag parties booked through AirBnB, locals have claimed. 

Neighbours claim they have called police 12 times to report bad behaviour from guests at Invergare Castle, in Rhu, near Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute.

The ten-bed turreted castle, built in Baronial style and dating from 1855, can be rented out on Airbnb for £1,750 a night.

The grand building was home to Victorian socialite Madeleine Smith, who went on trial accused of murdering her older lover by poisoning him with arsenic and became the first person in Scotland to be let off on a 'not proven' verdict.

It is now owned by Graham Gardner, who bought the house as a wreck in 2017 and funneled cash into a restoration project.

Madeleine Smith

Disgruntled neighbours claim that guests have used “a very loud, Glastonbury-style outdoor sound system”, scaled the parapets of the property and sung offensive sectarian songs, a council meeting was told.

However, Mr Gardner insisted he does not allow stag or hen parties to stay in the castle and “prefers family gatherings”. 

Neighbour Derek Hall told a Rhu and Shandon Community Council meeting: "The police have been alerted and incident numbers noted.

"The antisocial behaviour extends to the climbing of parapets on the property, singing sectarian songs and the tossing of empty Buckfast bottles onto the lawns - all unsupervised as the owners spend quiet evenings at home.

"It is not unusual for them to have a very loud, Glastonbury-style outdoor sound system that can go on until 2am or 3am.

"Within the last year, we have called police on 12 separate occasions to try and quieten them down but it does not seem to do any good.

"The owners' response has been well short of what we feel a responsible owner should do."

Owner Graham Gardner refuted suggestions that stag and hen parties were responsible for noise, and dismissed claims of anti-social behaviour.

"As far as we are aware, there has not been any anti-social behaviour beyond guests talking on the patio late at night,” Mr Gardner said.

"The police were asked to attend and fed back to us there was nothing of concern.

"We do ask our guests to respect our neighbours, keep noise outside to a minimum after 10pm, and if we were aware of any anti-social behaviour we would want to resolve it as quickly as possible.

"When we purchased Invergare it was a wreck and we have invested a huge amount of our own money restoring this important historic building sympathetically and to a high standard.

"The feedback we've had from guests on Invergare, the local area and the welcome they've received has been extraordinary."

According to its Airbnb listing, Invergare Castle is described as “a fabulous house for families” set in “extensive gardens in a friendly and safe community”.

Another neighbour, Mike Thornley, welcomed proposals from the Scottish Government to regulate Airbnb properties, adding: "The new powers, if adopted by local authorities, should provide additional safeguards, particularly if licenses are revoked when conditions or standards are regularly breached.

"This would be a great improvement on what happens at present, where the owners of Invergare, living in Glasgow, are not able to ensure that the conditions they place on unsupervised guests are adhered to.”

A spokesman for Argyll and Bute Council said: "We are looking into the situation and an enforcement file has been opened."