Scotland on Sunday travel
The Allan Ramsay Hotel was established in 1792 and named in honour of the celebrated Scots poet. Ramsay was famous for, amongst other things, his rural comedy The Gentle Shepherd, which was turned into the first opera in Scots. It is an everyday tale of country folk based around locals from Carlops and nearby Newhall and Penicuik house estates.
Ramsay had a varied career. He was apprenticed in the wig-making trade before setting up as a bookseller/writer, while his shop, in Edinburgh, became Britain’s first circulating library.
The historic inn is located at one end of the former weavers’ village of Carlops, at the foot of the Pentland Hills. It is a blink and you’ll miss it kind of place, right on the A702, but only 20 minutes drive from the centre of Edinburgh. This makes it an ideal base to explore the countryside nearby, but close enough to make a jaunt into the capital a distinct option.
The hotel has four comfortable guest rooms on the upper floor (all en-suite), offering single, double, twin and or family options. There is also a self-contained apartment with its own separate entrance which sleeps six.
Lunch is served daily 12 noon until 3pm, and dinner 5pm to 8.30pm, using fresh, locally sourced produce, while good service is something the publicans, Rosemary Brown and Kenny Hall, are passionate about. The hotel has one of the last remaining “penny bars” where the bar top is decorated with large old coins, and the gantry is well stocked with a fine selection of Scottish malt whiskies and gins.
I stayed in the family room overlooking the pub frontage, which despite being on the main road felt quiet and restful. The roomy en-suite provided practical showering, while wall-mounted TV and free wifi meant I could connect to the modern world. So take it easy, kick back and relax after a hard day exploring with a cuppa and complimentary biscuit.
Budget or boutique?
Good service makes this place special, but a double room with breakfast costing £99 makes it an absolute bargain.
Wining and dining
The hotel can seat up to 36, with a range of food from Scotland and further afield. I was delighted with my homemade breaded brie wedges served with salad and chilli sauce but was beaten by my tasty but sizeable homemade veggie burger followed by a Ramsay ice cream sundae.
Worth getting out of bed for
Head to the romantically ruined Penicuik House nearby with acres of landscaped parkland. There Ramsay was a frequent guest of his patron, Sir John Clerk of Penicuik. This is a great place to roam around and discover woods, rivers and breathtaking vistas. There is even a memorial obelisk to Ramsay on a hillside, visible through the picturesque lime tree avenue, wistfully framed by the Chinese gate. Scones and cakes can be procured in the stable café after you explore the fire-damaged ruins.
Pentland Hills Regional Park is just outside the front door, where you will discover miles of trails ideal for rambling or running. There are four main circular walking routes here: Glencorse View, Harlaw Woodland, Capital View and Torduff Water.
If you are Edinburgh bound, why not spot Ramsay’s likeness carved into the Scott Monument, seek out the memorial plaque in Greyfriars Kirkyard or gaze at his turban-clad statue near the Mound?
With a nod to the hotel’s literary past, there is a library in the restaurant for guests to borrow a novel or two during their stay, while super comfortable beds and toiletries from Taylor of London add a touch of luxury.
Guest book comments
A historic inn in the foothills of the Pentlands with oodles of old-world charm and influential Scottish literary connections, I found it was just the place to makar do for a wee break.
Prices start from £99 for a double room including breakfast. Allan Ramsay Hotel, Carlops, Penicuik EH26 9NF (01968 660 258, www.allanramsayhotel.com)