Having recently made a moonlit journey from Edinburgh to Wanlockhead for a family gathering, passing through Biggar along the way, we were fairly confident of the journey ahead after setting off for this relaxing break away. We soon found, as so often with Google Maps, that our recommended route was an entirely different one altogether as we turned off the bypass.
With the sun still shining down before Hurricane Ophelia arrived, the surprise change of course was initially a pleasant one, particularly when we passed the shimmering blue waters of the Harperrig Reservoir. However, the scenic route soon began to grate when the roads became narrower and the place names increasingly alien. By the time the white of the Tinto House Hotel snuck into view, drained of energy by 70 minutes in a warm car, we were in desperate need of a recovery nap.
Budget or boutique?
Rooms begin at £50 and dinner and drinks are very much on the reasonable side. The décor, particularly the sweeping staircase with ornate stained-glass window, enabled us weary travellers to forget the pragmatism of the price. One couldn’t help but be charmed by the little period pieces dotted around, like the penny farthing bicycle at the top of the stairs.
While the corridors had been well heated, the room itself was stone cold. A loose handle on one of the window frames had made it difficult to seal shut. Thankfully, the radiator soon had the place warmed up nicely.
The room itself was a little smaller than expected, and it lacked some of the extras usually associated with hotels, like a mini-bar fridge. This was a pity, as the desk on the southern wall had a compartment that would have housed one with ease.
There were a number of recently deceased flies on the window sill in the bathroom and the window itself wouldn’t open without three of the four hinges coming loose.
Wining and dining
The restaurant offered dishes which leaned towards traditional pub grub but with a contemporary twist. Case in point: the haggis and potato scone stack ordered as a starter by my girlfriend. It combined the comfort of a hangover breakfast with a touch of elegance, and was damn tasty to boot. It was almost as good as the pan fried duck supreme, which I ordered as a main. Accompanied by dauphinoise potatoes, charred chicory and cherry reduction, it was superb.
The cheesecake for dessert was nice and light, and the sticky toffee pudding was bursting with flavour.
This was all enjoyed with more than a few mouthfuls of wine. The menu not only offered choice, it also included recommendations under each option for those who wished to select the perfect vino for their meal.
Breakfast was equally bountiful. The early risers had their choice of a continental buffet or they could wait a short time for made-to-order full breakfast favourites.
Worth getting out of bed for
When the weather is pleasant there are a number of walks and local attractions just a short car ride away.
While it would have been amazing, and beneficial to our expanding waists, to climb up Tinto Hill and take in the view of the sprawling countryside, rain made ascent hazardously slippy. So instead we headed a further 10 minutes or so down the road to New Lanark. One of six Unesco World Heritage Sites in Scotland, the village offers stunning views of both the preserved mill buildings and the Falls of Clyde. It was a thoroughly worthwhile trip even though the worsening weather cut short our visit to the adjacent wildlife reserve after only a few minutes.
Staff give diners the option of sitting in the bar with a relaxing drink while they scour the menu, rather than immediately being placed in the rigid, formal dining room setting.
Every night offers a different type of homemade bread, from beetroot to sage and onion.
With coach trips passing through, the hotel provides special tribute nights to entertain guests who may not have the means or desire to venture far from the grounds.
The Tinto is also dog friendly.
Great value for those who wish to take in the views of the Scottish countryside. Better suited to the more mature guest, though everyone is well looked after by the friendly staff.
Prices for a standard room without breakfast or dinner begin at £50 per night. Weekend prices vary from £70-90. Superior rooms typically cost £35 extra. Prices for honeymoon suite begin at £150. Tinto House Hotel, 44 Biggar Road, Symington, Biggar ML12 6FT (www.tintohouse.com)