ONE of the joys of Scotland is how quickly you can find yourself in the countryside from a city centre.
Another delight is the high standard of hotels that inhabit some of the country’s most historic and grandest buildings.
In the midst of a long, cold March, we escaped to Cringletie House near Peebles for a midweek pick-me-up and our mood was immediately brightened by the mass of snowdrops that tracked the long driveway up to the hotel.
By now the daffodils will be in bloom, but regardless of the time of year, the care given to Cringletie’s gardens ensures they will always be full of colour. Located just 15 miles south of Edinburgh and two miles north of the Royal Burgh of Peebles, the hotel consists of 12 unique bedrooms and one suite, as well as two bedrooms in Ardean spa cottage.
Winner of the AA Hotel of the Year 2013-14 and awarded a four-star rating from the Scottish Tourist Board, the building’s history can be traced back to 1666, when Sir Alexander Murray of Black Barony built a house for one of his sons.
That version was knocked down 200 years later and replaced in 1863 with the version still with us today.
Relaxation was the order of the day and a relaxed approach – but no less efficient – is Cringletie’s policy, too.
After a friendly check-in, we made our way to our room, Melrose, which boasted bay windows with views over the garden, a four-poster bed and lots of Charles Rennie Mackintosh furnishings.
It was spacious, homely and the complimentary mini decanter of whisky was a nice touch.
After a drink in the snug bar, it was time for dinner.
The dining room is one of the most lavish parts of the house. There is a huge mural on the ceiling of the former drawing room and paintings decorate the walls.
Near a roaring fire, the three-course meal was beautiful.
There are plenty of woodland walks around the 28-acre estate, as well as croquet and pitch and putt. There is also a walled garden, which dates back to 1660. In the summer, vegetables grown there are used by the kitchen.
After exploring the grounds the next morning, we took the short drive into Peebles. There is a nice walk to be had along the banks of the River Tweed, just a stone’s throw from the town centre.
The high street boasts a good selection of independent shops that don’t just cater for the tourist market.
We loved taking a look around Woodworks, a real throwback of a shop selling handmade wooden toys and gifts, with restoration work and commissions done on-site. Around the corner is a small museum dedicated to the life of The 39 Steps author, John Buchan.
Just off the high street is the famous chocolate and pastry school run by the UK world chocolate master, Ruth Hinks, which is a must-visit for those with a sweet tooth.
And then there’s the bustling Eastgate Theatre, which has a busy schedule of live entertainment and touring acts.
There is so much more to do in the area, whether it is something energetic like Go Ape and the biking trails of 7Stanes at Glentress Forest or historic sites like the four abbeys of Melrose, Dryburgh, Kelso and Jedburgh.
Of course, with Edinburgh only a short drive away there’s the chance to explore the city, too.
Cringletie has a number of specialist packages available depending on your interests, including a fishing expedition, golf break, an Outlander special, hen and stag party offerings, as well as wedding and honeymoon options.
Whether you are looking to get away from it all for a couple of days, wish to explore the treasures of the Borders or are looking for a picturesque base outside of the capital, Cringletie House is the ideal location for a short stay.
Murray stayed at Cringletie House Hotel, Edinburgh Road, Peebles, EH45 8PL.
Bedrooms are available from £130 b&b, plus the cottage is available for self-catering.
Exclusive use of the hotel is available from £2000, with 13 bedrooms for 26 adults plus children. Email email@example.com, call 01721 725750 or visit cringletie.com.
For Borders information go to visitscotland.com/destinations-maps/scottish-borders