Great Places to Stay
- Cringletie House, Peebles
Location and Introduction
The 18th century Scottish Judge Lord Cockburn was said to have coined the phrase "As quiet as the grave - or Peebles." Probably meant as a slightly tongue in cheek witticism in his time, today we can use his comment in a much more positive light. Peebles is a pretty town on the banks of the River Tweed with good arts, antique and crafts shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs and a new theatre. Located a few miles outside Peebles in the heart of the Scottish Borders, yet only an easy half an hour drive from Edinburgh, it's the perfect place to enjoy a town and country break. At Cringletie House, you can combine the attractions of our Capital city for great shopping and historic sites, with the traditional charm of a fine Country House hotel and a host of rural leisure activities.
The renowned Edinburgh architect David Bryce designed Cringletie House in his distinctive trademark Baronial Castle style with turreted towers and crow step gables, in 1861. High up on the south wall is an engraved stone panel with the motto, "Whatever me befall, thank the Lord of all". Bryce's other notable buildings include Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire and Fettes College, the famous public school in Edinburgh. The name "Cringletie" is believed to be derived from the name of a local 13th century landowner William de Crelenge. Alexander Murray of nearby Black Barony purchased the land in 1663 and built a house. This was replaced in the 19th century by Cringletie House and the Murray family continued to own the property and grounds until 1941. Historic Scotland has listed the house, lodges, walled garden and dovecote an important grade B status.
Meander up the curving drive from the main Edinburgh Road, over a bridge and up the hill to reach the front porch of the house. Arriving at dusk on a cold winter's night, it was a welcoming sight with the honey tinted, red stone house all flood lit and a glittering Christmas tree by the front door. A porter immediately came out to assist with luggage and lead us inside. In the porch - in traditional country house manner - are two rows of Wellington boots, green wellies for the boys and pink flowery wellies for the girls. The Hall is also most welcoming with a roaring log fire. A wheelchair lift has been installed up the three short steps from the porch to the Hall. Once we had checked in, the porter took us upstairs to our Four Poster bedroom, named Melrose. There is now also a lift to all floors except the top Attic level. More about this and other bedrooms later. Time for a cup of tea after our drive so downstairs to the Lounge Bar with log fire burning in the grate. Just next door to the bar is the pretty Conservatory, used in the summer for coffee, afternoon tea and drinks as well as private parties and weddings. Upstairs are the main public rooms - the beautiful Sutherland Dining Room, the Maguire Drawing Room, with piles of magazines and newspapers, and The Library with its classic brown leather Chesterfield sofas and shelves stuffed with novels, biographies, thrillers, as well as board games.
The resident owners of Cringletie House are Johanna and Jacob van Houdt from the Netherlands who took over the hotel in 2003. Since then they have spent around £2 million on superb refurbishment with style, flair and imagination. Without taking away the classic Victorian ambience, the interior design, wallpaper, paintwork and overall colour scheme are all based on subtle calm tones in grey, mushroom, cream and a touch of gold. More detail on bedrooms and Dining Room in the sections below, but every room - public and bedrooms - is very different, giving a particular mood, style and character. The Maguire Drawing Room for instance, featuring a grand fireplace, retains a traditional look with wing armchairs, attractively upholstered in crimson check and brown and cream stripes.
Throughout the house, the van Houdts have taken time and great personal interest to source contemporary Scottish artwork including fine watercolour landscapes and bold prints.
And So To Bed...
Great attention to detail and design has gone into the decoration of each of the fourteen comfortable bedrooms, which come in all shapes and sizes and are named after place names around the Borders such as Kelso, Stobo, Selkirk and Abbotsford. An explanatory note in each room gives the background to the name. There are three grades - Standard, Deluxe and Principal bedrooms. All the bedrooms are extremely spacious with homely comforts, featuring a sofa or couple of armchairs, choice of twin or super king-sized beds, attractive polished wood furniture, modern style upholstered headboards, good lighting and fine quality fabrics, drapes and cushions. On the bed is a friendly teddy bear called Huggy, whom you can adopt if you wish to take him home. He is so cuddly that it is not surprising many guests do! All rooms have a very neat flat screen TV, mounted discreetly on the wall. Expect a small but wide selection of TV and radio channels including Sky News. You will find a bowl of fresh fruit, mineral water and in the Deluxe and Principal rooms a small decanter of sherry and whisky. A very thoughtful touch is a selection of paperback books beside the bed including romances and thrillers for your bedtime story. Depending on the size of room you will either have a bath and separate shower closet, bath with overhead shower or just a shower. Beautifully soft pillows, duvets, white towels, bathrobes and Gilchrist and Soames toiletries all add a touch of luxury.
Choose your preferred style of room between the charming rounded Turret rooms such as West Linton, with pretty heather green and mauve fabrics, or Peebles, with a canopied bed and designed on two levels with a freestanding, roll top bath in the cosy downstairs bathroom. If you don't mind climbing up to the attic, Rosetta is a charming room decorated in brown and beige tweed, with spectacular views across the hills to the town of Peebles. The largest and most spectacular room is Melrose, painted in cool white and ivory with a distinctive Charles Rennie Mackintosh artistic theme, including a delightful dining table in the bay window with high backed chairs. The wrought iron Four Poster bed is draped in white muslin and gorgeous silk cushions while the entire room is nicely furnished with Mackintosh flower emblem and decorative artwork.
One bedroom on the ground floor - Traquair - has been completely adapted for guests with mobility problems and wheelchair users. This is a fabulous spacious double room, with automatic door open/close system, roll in shower with shower seat, separate corner bath, motorised seat-lifting armchairs and facilities for hard of hearing. Congratulations on providing such first class accommodation for disabled guests.
The Sutherland Dining Room is probably one of the most classically elegant and artistic hotel restaurants in Scotland. The name comes from the former owners, George and Elizabeth Sutherland who had inherited the house from her father James Wolfe Murray. The exquisite centrepiece is the pale blue ornate painted ceiling depicting heavenly cherubs and angels, completed around 1903. This is apparently a copy of an original Italian fresco and the van Houdts are endeavouring to find out where this painting may be - perhaps a church, private villa or museum.
The panelled walls are now painted in soft cream and dappled gold while the tables are draped in white linen with soft lighting and candles. It is a very romantic setting for a first class 5 star dinner. Head Chef Paul Hart previously worked at the prestigious Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons in Oxfordshire and the Michelin starred Moody Goose, Bath. He joined Cringletie in the summer 2004 and has immediately created a very distinctive and individual style of modern Scottish cuisine. Hart is passionate about sourcing fresh local ingredients and ensuring the provenance of the seafood, poultry, lamb, beef and vegetables is named on the menu. Paul Hart has been awarded 2 AA rosettes.
Paul likes to pick local mushrooms and was delighted to find wild Ceps in the garden. The old Victorian kitchen garden is being replanted to produce herbs and vegetables which cannot be sourced elsewhere, such as yellow carrots and black tomatoes. He is working with the son of a former gardener to restore part of the garden and orchard as it was fifty years ago with the plan to grow apples and quince. It is all part of Hart's enthusiasm for creating a diverse range of dishes. He enjoys experimenting with a certain food such as creating a platter which offers a variation on a theme. He has perfected an appetiser featuring three versions of Foie Gras and a main course dish of Lobster, prepared in three different ways. He is also keen to re-introduce Offal back on the menu, usually as a starter portion to encourage people to try Sweetbreads and kidneys. The 3-course dinner menu, followed by coffee and home made chocolates, is very extensive with a choice of seven dishes per course. Vegetarian dishes are always available.
Before dinner gets underway, sit in the bar for an aperitif and sample a selection of delicious canapés - haggis balls, mushroom strudel and thin cheese straws - as you peruse the menu. Arriving upstairs at your table, a choice of home made bread such as sun dried tomato and cheese and mustard will stop the hunger pangs. Next up Paul Hart's amuse bouche, which on this occasion was mouth wateringly wonderful. This was a Duck egg, with the top sliced open and filled with truffle egg custard. Two tiny toast soldiers were laid on the saucer. How ingenious is that? This deserves a Michelin award all by itself. Then on to the Starter, such as light melt in the mouth, Roasted West Coast Celtic Scallops with smooth Cauliflower puree or a superbly richly flavoured Jerusalem Artichoke soup with Truffle Gnocchi, sage leaves and Parmesan shavings. Then perhaps Roasted Partridge with prunes and Armagnac or the enlightened Tasting of Scottish Lobster (including a creamy Thermidor tartlet and lobster ravioli). Portions are well judged and despite bread and butter and all this fine eating, you will surely have room for pudding. Again Paul loves variations on a theme and a delicious trio of Coffee Desserts hit the spot, as did the Baked Rice and Quince pudding with Rice Pudding ice-cream. Talk about an imaginative culinary mind!
The only quibble after a fabulous dinner was the lack of heating in the public rooms. In the Library where we were taken for coffee and petit fours, the radiators were off and it was far too cold to sit there. Moving to the Drawing room, the log fire was not lit and the radiators were off. Downstairs to the Bar (where all the other guests were gathered), it was a little chilly, as the log fire had almost died out. Likewise the fire in the hall. Please do keep the fires burning in winter!
Breakfast is also served in this fine dining room with a help-yourself buffet for fruit juice, cereal, fruit (rather limited with just prunes and fruit salad), quality French yoghurt, and basket of croissants. Top marks for leaf tea and strong coffee. Hot dishes are the usual suspects, Scottish fry up with eggs, bacon and sausage, or scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. Suggestion to Paul Hart - what about adding a classic dish such as Kedgerie or Eggs Florentine?
Leisure and Sports
There are lovely gardens to stroll around including the walled garden and take a look at the ancient dovecote up the hill. You can play croquet on the lawn as well as pitch and putt, petanque and there's a giant chess board. All around Cringletie there is wide open countryside, forests and hills for wonderful walks. Visit the Border mill shops for fine woollens and cashmere. All kinds of sports can be arranged locally including fishing on the Tweed and mountain biking in Glentress forest. For golfers there are several first class courses nearby including the Peebles 18 Hole course and the new Cardrona championship course. An escorted chauffeur-driven drive around the historic sites of the Border country can be arranged and particularly suitable for corporate groups the hotel can organise special leisure events such as archery, clay pigeon shooting and Commando sports. The beauty of the location near Peebles is that you can take a trip to Edinburgh for the afternoon or a full day, to go shopping or visit the Castle or art galleries.
Weddings and Corporate Events
As a small country house, Cringletie is perfect for an intimate luxury wedding where the house is taken on exclusive use so that guests are free to use all the public rooms, dining room and conservatory for drinks and reception as well as all the fourteen guest bedrooms. Likewise conferences and business meetings can be organised with the choice of various function rooms. The Maguire room with views over the garden can cater for 36 delegates, the Wolfe Murray Room is ideal for a board meeting seating 12, while the Conservatory is an alternative venue for theatre presentations for up to 60.
The hotel also arranges special seasonal activities such as cookery demonstrations and antique valuation days with a guest speaker.
Cringletie is a hidden gem of a country house hotel which needs to be highlighted more. It has been named one of the prestigious 200 Top Hotels by the AA, the only such hotel in the Scottish Borders. Those who may have visited in previous years are in for a wonderful surprise. This is the new look, luxury and glamorous Cringletie which celebrates its elegant Victorian architecture but which is now dressed in contemporary, fashionable style for the 21st century traveller. It is worth travelling far and wide to experience Paul Hart's imaginative cooking - just come and taste his speciality foie gras dish, lobster creations and coffee desserts. This is a homely wee place to stay where you can enjoy both the peace and quiet of the Border country as well as the city lights in Edinburgh.
For more information or to make a reservation see the Cringletie House Web site or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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