Great Places to Stay
- Peebles Hotel Hydro
Peebles Hotel Hydro has a reputation as the ultimate family resort. Travel writer Vivien Devlin and her partner paid a visit to see for themselves what attracted so many people there. They found that whatever your reason for coming here - single travellers, golfing friends or couples wanting a romantic retreat - you will equally find this a perfect and restful place to stay and the ideal base for the Scottish Borders.
With its wild open spaces, mountains, lochs and rivers, Scotland has long been a great country for healthy, outdoor sports and pursuits. A century ago visitors would come here "to take the waters" in several Hydro hotels - the original Spas. The Peebles Hotel Hydropathic opened for business in 1881 and had a resident doctor, Professor Petsky, who would prescribe such healing treatments as Russian, Sulphur, Peat and volcanic mud baths. There were electrical therapies using infra-red, ultra-violet, high frequency and radiant heat. If that sounds rather too aggressive then you could simply treat the body with a sun and air bath, (i.e. sunbathing) - the first of its kind in Britain.
If any readers recall the superb film "Road to Wellville" with Antony Hopkins starring as health guru, Dr. Kellogg of Cornflake fame, you'll get the picture.
The world of the Spa has changed a great deal since then. Country house and city hotels around Scotland are now offering far more a quiet game of croquet. If you can blend a luxurious environment where you can exercise, swim, relax and pamper your body, as well as sampling the very best of Scottish cuisine and fine wines, amongst natural landscape then that must be the perfect combination.
Peebles Hydro Today
Peebles Hotel Hydro today offers the perfect blend of tradition and style, elegant Edwardian surroundings, together with modern day leisure and entertainment for all the family. This is excellent resort where children can be taken care off in supervised playgroups while parents are free to enjoy a swim, golf, tennis or perhaps time to read or a good rest.
There is a range of bedroom size and style with a good percentage of family rooms, featuring a separate children's room with bunk beds, and also cots are available. The superior double rooms, facing the front garden offer a spacious sitting area and are very comfortable. The decoration and design is of the old-fashioned chintz and swirly carpet variety with 1970s bathroom suites. Careful refurbishment is an on-going process while the traditional grandeur of this Edwardian hotel is maintained, adding to the timeless homely comforts.
This was opened in June 1998 by HRH The Duke of York and is therefore a spanking new, purpose-built, carefully designed resort catering for all ages. At its centre is the bright and airy heated indoor swimming pool measuring 20 x 10 metres, an excellent shape for lap swimming as well as a leisurely breaststroke. There's also a small shallow toddlers pool at the side for safe paddling immediately beside the lounge viewing area where parents can keep a watchful eye on their children. There is no lifeguard on duty. At the other side of the pool you'll find a whirlpool, sauna and steam room, the perfect way to unwind and relax. If you wish to give a glow to your body, then visit the solarium for a boost of ultra-violet. The pool is open from 7am to 10pm with the first hour reserved for serious swimmers and adults only policy after 7.30pm.
If it's more concentrated exercise you are looking for, then the spacious gymnasium next door will get your muscles toned. This is well equipped with all the necessary equipment and machines although there are no free weights provided. The room has huge picture windows overlooking the garden and is well ventilated. I was very surprised to see that there is no permanent supervision in either the pool area or in the gym itself. "Guests using the equipment do so at their own risk. Strictly no children under 16", warns the information leaflet.
I was informed that members of Leisure Club staff are on duty but have many tasks to carry out and therefore not always around. However, assistance will be given, if requested, with using the fitness equipment or advice on a suitable exercise regime. The facilities are free to hotel residents with access through the adjoining changing rooms using your room key - which incidentally is not particularly useful when partners are sharing the one key and both wish to visit at separate times. The leisure centre is not exclusive to the hotel guests as there's a very popular membership club available for people who live in the area.
Outdoor leisure pursuits include two well-kept tennis courts, putting green, (great fun!), pitch and putt, basketball, volleyball, croquet and riding stables. Nearby there are several excellent golf courses and the Tweed for the keen fisherman.
And for miles around there is the opportunity for healthy walks along the river or high into the hills. The Scottish Borders Tourist Board has a range of booklets, maps and ideas of where to go and what to do, fishing permits, botanical gardens, historic houses and walking and cycling routes. And Places to Visit on this site has lots of illustrated guides to places in the area.
The tariff for accommodation at Peebles includes breakfast and dinner in a reasonable selection of packages depending on the season. After an energetic day out and about in the fresh air of the Scottish Borders you will look forward to dinner. Enjoy a drink in the bar with an unusual selection of exotic cocktails as well as your typical aperitifs served by a waiter. Rather than suitably soft music being played, all you can hear is the rather irritating sound of a radio behind the bar - for the benefit it seems of the staff not the guests.
Dinner is served in stunning surroundings with ornate ceiling cornice with glittering chandeliers, a grand piano (music played each weekend) and a row of tall windows overlooking the gardens. An army of young friendly international waiters will ensure you have a lovely evening. There is an old fashioned formality about dinner at the Hydro - men are asked to wear jacket and tie - and service is exceptionally efficient and personal. Dinner is a grown up affair as children are well looked after in the own dining room, described below.
The menu is extremely varied to suit all ages and tastes with the emphasis on good home cooking with flair. Soups, smoked salmon, salads, grilled steak, chicken, salmon, omelettes of every description, cold meat and salad, and vegetarian dishes such as pasta and risotto. Ice Cream, sweet and sticky classic favourites for pudding as well as a good platter of cheese and biscuits.
On the garden level of the hotel there's also the option of the more casual brasserie open all day from morning coffee, lunches, to afternoon teas and snacks with evening meals served only at the weekends when the hotel is busy. The menu here is contemporary cuisine offering a range of inventive international dishes - Stir-fries, Thai curries - as well as the usual suspects for all the family - pasta and pizza, salads, chips, soup, and sandwiches.
Breakfast as you might expect in this charming Edwardian style hotel is superb. You can enjoy this in the dining room until 9.30pm or (for a small charge) in your bedroom until 12 noon. Porridge, poached eggs, fresh fruit, coffee and hot milk, toast and marmalade brought promptly to the room on large trays. That is what I call service.
During all the school holidays, Easter, Summer, Christmas and New Year there are full time hostesses resident at Peebles Hydro who arrange games, sports, treasure hunts, painting and drawing competitions. There are suitable activities for 3 -7 year olds including story telling, singing, finger painting, outside hide and seek, and nature walks. For the older age group, 8 - 12 year olds, there will be the opportunity to play rounders, table tennis, clay modelling, take part in a swimming gala or see a special film-show.
In order to give parents an evening to themselves, children have their own dining room for a high tea between 5pm and 6pm with a menu of kids favourites such as fishcakes, chicken nuggets, burgers, chips, spaghetti and eggs to suit all tastes. There's a baby listening service and teenagers can also enjoy their own adult free supper at the Lazels brasserie and then entertain themselves in the games room with table tennis as well as Nintendo and other game machines. The over 16s may also use the billiard room.
There's a safe well equipped playroom full of toys, books and videos for young children with parental supervision. Outdoors they will enjoy the playground with swings and climbing frame and a huge garden to run around and work off their energy.
While the children are having fun in their supervised groups, parents are free to do what they wish - perhaps some me-time for a little pampering.
Health and Beauty Salon
Note that the word Health comes before Beauty and that is an excellent and thoughtful decision. This first class salon does not just cater for women who wish a simple manicure. The extensive range of Elemis treatments, therapies and Eastern rituals are for men and women all of which will benefit the whole body with a wonderful sense of calm and contentment. Sally the manager is in charge of a team of therapists who work in five very comfortable treatment rooms.
Choose from a range of facials, Swedish massage, Aroma Stone therapy, reflexology, a manicure, pedicure, or perhaps treat yourself to an exotic coconut rub and milk ritual wrap. The salon offers an excellent range of specialist treatments with helpful experienced staff who will advise on the best therapy to relax and benefit your body, spirit and mind.
Peebles Hotel Hydro is indeed the ultimate family resort and very popular with many return visitors who may come two or three times a year for a long weekend or full week during the children's half term. But whatever your reason for coming here - single travellers, golfing friends or couples wanting a romantic retreat - you will equally find this a perfect and restful place to stay and the ideal base to your the Scottish Borders.
For more information or to make a reservation, see the Peebles Hotel Hydro Website.
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