FOLLOWING a busy few weeks, a pressing need to escape the city reminded me that a friend had once enjoyed a relaxing time staying in a roulotte, a French gypsy caravan in a flower meadow by the Eildon Hills in the Scottish Borders. It sounded like the perfect retreat.
Deciding which roulotte to choose was far from easy – there are eight individually styled caravans – but I finally settled on the sumptuous velvet scarlet and gold of the Oriental-themed Zenaya.
On arrival, we crossed a meadow packed with purple clover, buttercups and oxeye daisies, then wandered around a lochan with its resident watchful geese, to get to our delightful bright red roulotte. Its exterior wood panels were decorated with pale pink lilies and leaping fish with the most sublime expressions on their faces. Clapping my hands together in glee at the sight of it, I noticed our roulotte also had wooden shutters, hand carved in geometric designs.
My husband and I spent much of our weekend reading books and enjoying the sunshine on the deck area. But as the sun set and the fairy lights on a nearby tree twinkled on, it was definitely time to draw the curtains, switch on the beaded table lamps and snuggle up.
WINING AND DINING
Taking advantage of a glorious evening, we fronted up to the feisty geese to enjoy a barbecue in the evening sun. The following evening, a short drive to Galashiels took us to the busy Hergés on the Loch with its tasty Scottish fare and Tintin inspired decor.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
Roulotte Retreat is just three miles from Melrose, home of Rugby Sevens and the Borders Book Festival. St Cuthbert’s Way long-distance footpath meanders nearby and woodlands, streams, waterfalls and hills complete the beautiful surrounding landscape.
We visited Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott, which was recently reopened by the Queen following a two-year £12 million restoration programme. Only the ground floor of this grand stately home, which Scott designed himself, is open to visitors but the tour gives a fascinating insight into the personality and celebrity lifestyle led by this once best-selling novelist. We followed our visit with a walk along the Tweed and lunch at the shiny new Abbotsford Visitor Centre.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
The quirky hand-carved design and the attention to detail definitely puts a stay in a roulotte into the boutique category. Prices start at £190 for a two-night stay, rising to £250 to book one of the new roulottes. However, do check the website for regular special offers.
We were lucky enough to visit Roulotte Retreat in the middle of a heatwave, but for when it gets chilly there are logs provided to facilitate cosying up in front of the wood-burning stove. To cope with washing those wine glasses, a miniature bottle of Ecover washing up liquid is provided in the kitchen. But do bring your own toiletries so you can make the most of the surprisingly powerful shower.
While a roulotte is small – cooking in the miniature kitchen feels a lot like playing house – it is certainly comfortable and cleverly designed so that everything you need is packed into the three-room space provided.
Roulotte Retreat, Bowden Mill House, Bowden, near Melrose, Scottish Borders (0845 0949 729, www.roulotteretreat.com)