Great Places to Stay
- Best Western Dryfesdale Country House Hotel, near Lockerbie
Greeted by the Kirkhill Piper
Just a few miles north of the border, a mere stone's throw from the M74, nestles a peach of a former 17th century mansion. The Dryfesdale Country House Hotel set amid five acres of scenic, elevated parkland is approached through a winding avenue of beech trees. The building was converted into a Country House Hotel in the early 1950s and has belonged to the current owners since 1999. The hotel has undergone major refurbishment in the past few years including a 12-room extension and the magnificent carving of the Kirkhill Piper which stands proudly at the entrance to the driveway. Couples can get married here too and unlike many hotels who offer complete wedding packages, at Dryfesdale every detail is tailor made right down to the smallest detail.
What a pleasure it is to be greeted by capable, smiley staff! It makes a whole world of difference although there are still many hotels that don't seem to clock how important first impressions are. Dryfesdale's bright, well furnished reception area is efficiently run, though I did a double take when I saw a rather fiercesome-looking sword hanging on the wall behind the reception desk (but more about that later.)
Dryfesdale Country House Hotel has 16 luxuriously appointed en suite bedrooms, all of which have superb views of the surrounding countryside. Our ground floor room overlooking the Dryfe Valley had French doors opening onto a patio, an ideal spot for guests to enjoy a relaxing pre-prandial drink while also drinking in the views across the rolling Borders countryside. A spectacular sweeping staircase backlit by a magnificent stained glass window leads to the other bedrooms, three of which have been transformed into luxurious four poster suites.
Our room was much as we expected: compact and efficiently kitted out. In fact it had nearly everything finicky people like us could want including satellite tv, trouser press, hairdryer, fabulous hospitality tray chock-full with goodies including bottles of Scottish water, shortbread and sweets, all of which were generously replaced daily … but - and I am sorry to turn on Moaning Minnie Mode here - no chest of drawers and a munchkin-sized wardrobe meant not a lot of space for travellers to hang their hat, or indeed other apparel they may have brought along for the journey.
The room's overall colour scheme, a vista of calm soft cream and pale lemon tones is pleasing, while the queen-size bed with gold and white scrolled throw, matching swagged and tailed curtains and soft panelled headboard add a touch of swishness. Unlike many hotel rooms I've stayed in this had a cosy feel, not yet another impersonal hotel room.
The compact spotless bathroom managed to squeeze in bath, power shower and a sheer abundance of towels, flannels, B&W toiletries, cotton wool, shoe shine mitts, liquid soap and tissues, everything really that a guest would need.
Food and Drink
After sprucing-up, it was time to relax in one of the lounges and have a drink from the bar while we pored over the dinner menu. Dryfesdale Country House Hotel is renowned for its fine food and guests can choose to eat in the spacious 2 Rosette Kirkhill Restaurant with its wonderful views of the surrounding countryside and French polished grand piano to add a touch of grandeur (see illustration below). Those who prefer a more casual setting, can opt to have their meals in the Malt bar, so-called because it holds a selection of over 100 malt whiskies ranging from 10 year old to 42 year old. However, wherever guests choose to eat, only the freshest ingredients selected from local suppliers are used including Solway salmon, Galloway beef and Lockerbie cheeses.
Starters include delights like poached pear salad with pecan nuts and blue cheese with honey and pink peppercorn dressing, or chicken and haggis thyme terrine with Melba toast served with red onion marmalade. Main temptations include herb stuffed corn fed chicken supreme on roasted garlic mash, sautéed chards and mushroom sauce or seared wild salmon supreme with roast new potatoes, green stir fry and Hollandaise sauce. Whatever you choose, you can be assured that you'll be given a generous helping served with a smile. Puddings, if you can manage to fit one in, are also moreishly tempting - think summer berry cheesecake presented in a glass with strawberry icecream or maybe roasted pineapple with lemon sorbet and strawberry puree.
Sleep came easily on the marshmallow pillows in the pleasantly firm bed with nothing to disturb weary travellers but snatches of early morning birdsong and the occasional bleat of sheep in the fields nearby.
Breakfast offers a wide choice of juices, fresh fruits, prunes, grapefruit, yoghurt, cereals and muesli and tasty porridge served with a separate bowl of cream. Cooked dishes include eggs however you like them, and a host of goodies including bacon, sausage, haggis, tattie scones, kippers, as well as plenty of thick slices of toast, home made preserves and tea and coffee.
The Dryfesdale House Hotel offers a comfortable, semi-rural retreat at a reasonable price and it certainly ticked all the right boxes for us. Oh - and what's that? Ah, yes, the sword. Well, Glen Wright, the hotel's owner, joked that it was there to scare those guests who wouldn't pay their bills…….
Actually, I know the truth about why it hangs there, but I'm not going to spill the beans. To find out for yourself, you'll have to pay a visit…..
For more information or to make a reservation see the Dryfesdale Country House Hotel Web site or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The hotel was winner of the 2004-2005 AA Scottish service hotel of the year.
Pets, by prior arrangement, are welcome and ground floor rooms are available for disabled guests or those requiring wheelchair access.
Gilly Pickup, British Guild of Travel Writers
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