Travel: Kirkbean, Dumfries and Galloway

L OVERS of elegant rural breaks owe a debt to big-thinking 18th-century entrepreneurs and their desire to create brick and mortar legacies. One such treat is this handsome house on the Solway coast, built in 1752 by the tobacco baron Sir Richard Oswald.

It stayed in his family for 200 years and is now an intimate country house hotel run by husband and wife team Angus and Jane Fordyce.

The dcor is traditional and smart but the Fordyces aim to provide a relaxed atmosphere in which guests can make themselves at home in the sitting-room with a book and a dram. The house is set within six acres of landscaped gardens, and is a two-and-a-half hour drive from Edinburgh; less from Glasgow.

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Wining and dining? Cavens takes its food seriously, and the fine dining on offer to guests also attracts non-residents. The menu changes daily and focuses on traditional Scottish elements such as game, beef and seafood, and uses locally sourced ingredients wherever possible.

Depending on the season, you might be eating salad, vegetables and herbs from the garden. Little touches such as super-attentive service, aperitifs before supper and wee treats with coffee combine to make meals an altogether pleasant experience.

Breakfast is fantastic too – it's definitely worth rising early to work up an appetite for the freshly cooked morning feast.

Room service? All the rooms are en-suite, with tea and coffee-making facilities, biscuits and fruit. Each is decorated individually, with sturdy, classic furniture, and they all have views of the garden. The premium rooms – known as estate bedrooms – are larger and have the best views. Of these, the Criffel (each is named after a Scottish place that means something to the owners) is absolutely huge.

It's painted a striking gun metal grey colour and the bed would probably fit a family of five. The country bedrooms, which are smaller but equally elegant, are on the ground floor and also have views of the grounds.

Worth getting out of bed for? Dumfries and Galloway is a truly beautiful part of the world, with lush green scenery, delightful coastal areas and lots of walks to choose from, whether you like to be challenged or just fancy a stroll with pretty views.

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The half-hour walk from the beach at nearby Rockcliffe to Kippford is particularly charming, taking you past some unusual, eccentrically designed houses and gardens and a gleaming sea.

The area is excellent for bird watching too. The RSPB reserve at Mersehead is a great spot; even if you're not into birds it has some attractive walking routes and is on a wonderfully unspoilt beach. Golfers are in for a treat too: Southerness course is a mile away and there are other cheaper courses to choose from. You're also a half-hour drive from Kirkcudbright, which is increasingly presenting itself as an artistic coastal community.

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Budget or boutique? Because this place is so intimate in scale, guests get the personal touch in a way that's simply impossible in bigger venues.

Little extras? Cavens can be hired exclusively for groups, and also hosts wine tasting and bird watching events, but you do need to book ahead. Well-behaved dogs are allowed to stay – providing you follow some reasonable, pre-agreed rules.

Guestbook comments? If you're after a smart, comfortable but friendly weekend away amid green countryside and near seriously pretty coastal spots, you're in for a treat. Rooms are 110 for country bedrooms for two (including breakfast, dinner and afternoon tea) and 150 for estate bedrooms. Cavens, Kirkbean, by Dumfries (01387 880 234,