AIKWOOD Tower cuts a majestic figure as it looks proudly out across the Ettrick Valley, and our first sighting of it elicited shrieks of delight from my daughters (who had been counting the sleeps until their stay).
I might have joined in with a small squeal myself, and who could blame me? The impressive stone building with its Saltire flying dates from the 16th century. It is a piece of Scottish history that has been lovingly and sympathetically restored, and now provides fabulous self-catering accommodation for up to ten guests.
During the 18th and 19th centuries the tower had been used for agricultural storage, but in 1989, David Steel (now Lord Steel of Aikwood) bought it and he and his wife, Judy, restored it. The award-winning project became their home for 20 years until they sold it to their son, Rory, two years ago. He, along with his wife Victoria, refurbished and upgraded the tower, turning it into luxurious five-star accommodation available for exclusive hire.
Our visit was a family affair, but would Aikwood work as a space for three generations to relax and enjoy spending time together? From walks across nearby fields, cone gathering in the forest and eating around the large kitchen table to stoking the enormous fire in the Great Hall, the answer was a resounding yes.
Wining and dining? Aikwood is self-catering, but you can hire in local caterers, which is ideal for special occasions. The main kitchen, has an Aga, a beautifully carved wooden dining table surrounded by clear polycarbonate chairs with a chaise nestled under the whitewashed stone walls. It is fully kitted out with every conceivable pot, pan or ashet your cook’s heart could desire.
Room service? The tower is a visual delight inside and out. Step into the stone-walled lobby and you feel the centuries falling away. The left-turning winding stone stairs lead up to the striking Great Hall. It’s not cavernous, as the name might suggest, but it is the heart of the tower with the biggest fireplace I have ever seen. There are five double rooms, with a couple that can be made into twins, each with its own distinctive personality. Wooden beams and exposed stone are set against a pared-back yet luxurious style. Clutter is at a minimum, but there are still lovely objects everywhere you look. Four bathrooms are en-suite, while a fifth houses a huge slipper bath. Beds are super-comfy with sumptuous bedding and throws from a Selkirk supplier. There is also a games room complete with table tennis and piano. In the gallery in the old byre extension you can chill out in an Arne Jacobsen Egg chair watching digital TV.
Worth getting out of bed for? The list of local activities include guided tours, shooting, fishing, off-road driving and horse riding. Selkirk is worth a visit and the area is popular with cyclists. There is also Melrose Abbey and the Samye Ling Buddhist temple nearby.
Budget or boutique? Boutique all the way, but you are getting a unique experience. How many people do you know who have spent the night in their own private castle? And a five-star one at that.
Little extras? As well as a welcome pack there are complimentary Arran Aromatics toiletries and the games room is well stocked.
Guestbook comments? It is a magical experience. A centuries-old building that exudes luxury and comfort, while being full of interesting quirks and architectural delights.
• From £2,450 per week, Aikwood Tower (01750 700 500, www.aikwoodtower.com)
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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