A perfect break in the Borders
Looking for a perfect weekend break on Edinburgh’s doorstep? Look no further than this fabulous Borders mansion. Cringletie House offers elegant dining, cosy nooks and 14 roomy, stylish rooms, with country walks and a sprinkling of heritage attractions nearby.
I was charmed by Cringletie House.
As we roll up the drive to Cringletie House, sunning itself in its lushly floral setting above Eddleston Water, a deer bounds through the field nearby and two plump cock pheasants strut on the tree-shaded lawn. The makings of a nice pie, I suggest to general manager Jeremy Osborne, who’s there to greet us. He tells me the story of a bygone owner, James Wolfe Murray, who used to take pot-shots at rabbits from his bedroom window – after luring them from their burrows with his silver flute.
Just north of Peebles, a half-hour drive from Edinburgh in summer, Cringletie is a lovely place for a cosy short break at any time of year, but it was just about perfect in spring on my visit, when its leafy grounds were bursting into bud and the surrounding lawns were splashed with daffodils.
And there’s a fabulous Tasty Sunday package on offer which will allow you to extend your weekend.
David Bryce, doyen of Scots Baronial, rebuilt the dilapidated 17th century pile in the 1860s, turning it into a turreted, red-sandstone Borders mansion that delights fans of romantic historical fiction. In its 19th-century heyday the estate spanned several thousand acres of pastures, moors and riverbank. Its domain has dwindled, but the gardens are a lovely place for a pre-dinner stroll. Appetite duly whetted, the Sutherland Restaurant awaits on the first floor, reached by a grand, softly-carpeted walnut staircase.
Originally the house’s ballroom, this is fine space, with a ceiling graced by Italianate frescoes and bears the interlinked initials of George Sutherland and heiress Elizabeth Wolfe Murray, who married in 1904 and promptly had the house done up in the latest style.
Potting bunnies from your bedroom window is not the done thing these days, but Cringletie’s menu is often bursting with locally-sourced game – including rabbit, grouse, pheasant venison from suppliers like Tweed Valley, in nearby Peebles, along with rabbit, grouse and pheasant.
The 17th century walled garden supplies the kitchen with home-grown produce vegetables, fruit and herbs and flowers that dress up the restaurant’s tables. You’ll also find locally sourced treats like seafood from nearby Eyemouth, and Pentland brie and other cheeses from Clarks of Penicuik, and Border lamb from Braehead in Selkirk.
From the other side of Scotland come Atlantic cod and the Stornoway black pudding that makes an appearance in my amuse-bouche, topped with a perfect coin of crunchy beetroot and a tart sliver of grapefruit. The wine list is curated by Villeneuve Wines, the long-established Peebles vintner, and has a strong New World accent.
It’s back to Scotland for after-dinner drinks in the bar, where you’ll find an elegant sufficiency of malt whiskies – including innovative offerings from some of Scotland’s upstart distilleries alongside artisan ales from the pioneering Traquair House and Broughton breweries, not far away.
And so to bed, in a room that is a veritable cocoon of softly-coloured tartans and snow-white linen. So cosy, in fact, that getting up next morning is a challenge – but the lure of Cringletie’s full Scottish is irresistible.
You could easily spend all weekend pottering around the grounds and playing a game of croquet or a round of pitch-and-putt. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can wet a line in the Tweed, go riding, or rent a bike at Alpine Bikes (tweedvalleybikehire.com from £25 a day) to ride through miles of woodland trails at Glentress Forest. Richard Hannay fans can discover the life story of his creator at the John Buchan Story in Peebles.
It’s hard to fault Cringletie: good food, home comforts, beautiful surroundings and unobtrusively excellent: staff don’t hover, but materialise at the push of a bell. All in all, this pocket-sized mansion is a find.
Cringletie House Hotel
Tel: 01721 725 750
Getting there: Cringletie is around 20 miles (around 30 minutes drive) south of Edinburgh on the A703.
Robin Gauldie is a freelance journalist and author of numerous travel guides including the new Eyewitness Guide to Scotland, published by Dorling Kindersley. He lives in Leith.