I just love the timeless glamour and old world charm of a large baronial house. If these walls could speak, what stories would they tell, what would the wooden panelling whisper? I could happily spend an entire day relaxing here, in the Maguire lounge of the Cringletie House Hotel near Peebles.
The first Cringletie House dates back to the 1600s. It was later demolished and rebuilt, designed by the famous Scottish architect David Bryce, exponent of the Scottish Baronial style, and completed in 1861.
The secret of Cringletie’s success is its relaxed homely feel. Jeremy Osborne, general manager, explains that he is on his second stint here, this time for the last four years, so he knows all about its alluring return appeal. The staff are attentive and explain if you need anything just to ring the bell, and in true Jeeves style someone will appear. When I ask what the secret is to contented guests, he answers simply: “The answer is always yes. Cringletie is your home from home while you are here, so whether you feel the need to do nothing and relax or demand a more adventurous experience, it’s entirely up to you.” There is so much to do nearby, even for the most adventurous of guests. Choose from fishing, treatments, golf, horse riding, and even an alpaca walk in the Pentlands – all of which can be arranged for you.
Rooms and suites are named after local places: Traquair, Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose, Glentress, Neidpath, Selkirk, West Linton, Peebles, Stobo, Rosetta, Eddlestone, Moorfoot, and a self contained cottage in the grounds is called Ardean. My daughter and I have the Peebles suite, with a delightful view to the front of the house and the surrounding woodland. When we stayed the snowdrops were out in force. You can even borrow a pair of wellies if it’s a bit muddy underfoot.
The suite features a grown up complimentary treat of a dram, served from a small whisky decanter etched with an image of the house, placed on a silver tray, naturally. The pièce de résistance is the bathroom, hidden down steps behind an unassuming door which reveals an epic freestanding roll top bath, which my daughter can’t wait to fill to the brim and soak in, helping herself to the complimentary Arran Aromatics products, before wrapping herself in a fluffy white robe and slippers. I manage to persuade her to wait until after dinner, just.
After a quick perusal of the drinks menu, I order a G&T, but if you are a whisky lover, then a whistle stop tour of malts, dram by dram might be in order. We head to the Sutherland dining room where we sample a celebration of Borders woodland mushrooms in the form of soup as an amuse-bouche. The dining room features a glorious painting that includes two colourful parrots, which peer down at us from the ceiling; they’re so life-like they look as if they will fly down and pinch the food from our plates. It was painted in 1904 to commemorate the wedding of the then owners, and is top notch.
I opted for more funghi goodness, in the guise of ravioli starter, this time served with truffle consommé, whilst across the table an Inverlochy goat’s cheese fondant is demolished by the youngster. It came complete with a flavour-packed grape, apple and rocket salad, caramelised walnuts and a port wine reduction. My main course was a vegetable and chickpea tagine served with giant couscous and chilli and lime crackers, while my daughter tucked into a double-baked Parmesan and potato soufflé, served with a lightly spiced ratatouille, chargrilled asparagus, in a delicious basil pesto and tomato dressing.
Neither of us could resist the desserts. I opted for the sticky toffee cloutie dumpling, which sank into a sweet caramel butterscotch sauce with ice cream on the side. The other dessert was an elegant sorbet smorgasbord with caramelised apples and candied pineapple.
At breakfast next day we were wowed by the picturesque views, but a dusting of snow put paid to our game of croquet on the manicured lawns. The owners of Cringletie for the last 14 years, Jacob and Johanna van Houdt, are so lucky to live here, but at least as a guest you are always guaranteed to be spoiled rotten. ■
One night’s B&B at Cringletie House Hotel (01721 725750, www.cringletie.com), Edinburgh Road, near Peebles costs from £130 for a double room. Dinner from the table d’hote menu is £37.50 per person for three courses and includes coffee/tea and tablet.
Dine with the Tasty Sunday package featuring a seven-course tasting menu plus matching wines and stay for free. The offer, including a full Scottish breakfast, must be pre-paid and costs £111 per person based on two guests sharing a classic double room. Room upgrades can be booked for a supplement, subject to availability.