AH! Nice dressing gowns. Oooh! Molton Brown bath stuff. Look! A teddy bear on the bed!” Mrs Barnes was happy already.
On top of the dresser, a little tumbler of whisky, perfect for a pre-dinner nip. Outside, snow on the ground and silence – the traffic on the nearby A703 was too far away to be heard. Dinner about to be served downstairs and the smell of wood-smoke wafting up the staircase from the large open fire in the reception. No hardened Weetabix welded to the floor as at home. Both of us happy.
Cringletie House Hotel is 30 minutes south of Edinburgh on the road into Peebles. Built in 1861 by the Scottish architect David Bryce, it is now a small 12-room hotel set in 28 acres of land, complete with four gold VisitScotland stars and the only AA “Inspectors Choice” hotel in the Scottish Borders. The weekend we were there, it was mostly filled by couples who looked like they were getting away from their children for the night. For central-belters who want to get away from it all without going that far to get there, it is perfect.
WINING and DINING? The restaurant is under the control of Patrick Bardoulet, whose food has now given it a 3 AA Rosette rating. Guests can choose between an à la carte menu, or choose, or go for the full taster menu option. We decided to choose – highlights included a melt-in-the-mouth scallop starter and what was described as a Border’s Pig, “cooked from head to toe” but which disappointingly wasn’t actually an entire pig. Tasted really really good though. All in all, a delicious meal, served in a spectacular dining room.
ROOM SERVICE? We stayed in one of the junior suites, with a large adjoining bathroom, and dominated by a vast and very comfortable bed. The kind of room you don’t want to leave – even though the hotel has a library and a drawing room to explore as well. At least, I’m told it has. We stayed in and watched telly.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR? Peebles is just down the road. Chocaholics should head straight to the award-winning Cocoa Black shop in the middle of town for spectacular treats. If you want to stay closer to the hotel, it has extensive grounds and a walled garden to wander around. The peace and quiet of the place is a delight, particularly for those used the background hum of the city.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE? A place like Cringletie offers a slightly cheaper, more homely, but no-less luxurious option than the full Cameron House/Gleneagles/Turnberry experience. Two people can, for example, enjoy a two-night stay in April and May, with one full meal thrown in, for £300. OK, so there’s no swimming pool and golf course attached, but given the hi-spec of the place, it is very reasonable.
LITTLE EXTRAS? Did I mention the whisky in the room? Also enjoyed the cocktails in the bar before dinner and the flamboyance of the cocktail waiter. In room spas are also available
• Cringletie House Hotel, Edinburgh Road, Peebles, (01721 725750, www.cringletie.com). April 1 to May 31: Daffodils Delight – two or three-night break including accommodation and breakfast on each morning as well as a set three-course dinner on one night. Prices from £300 for two nights for two sharing a double/twin room.