The best that Moray can buy: Elegant mansion is the ideal base for shopping break in historic Elgin

The Mansion House Hotel, Elgin. (Gordon Lennox)
The Mansion House Hotel, Elgin. (Gordon Lennox)

CYNDI LAUPER is going at it full pelt as we head up the Moray Coast, my pal’s flash little Mini hugging the road and glorious sea views – dubbed among the best in the world by National Geographic – unfolding before us.

We might be in the grip of winter but the sun is out and the shades – like the radio – are on.

We’re off to Elgin for a mini-break because – in the words of the ’80s diva herself – Girls Just Want To Have Fun.

And it matters not a jot that we, at 50-something, are “old enough to know better”.

Elgin is a great base for a weekend away. Smack-bang between Aberdeen and Inverness, this town is in the heart of whisky country with the beautiful River Lossie running through it. And it has enough pubs, restaurants, clubs and shops to keep most girls – even the very grown-up ones – happy.

Elgin, Morayshire (Alamy)

Our home for the stay is the Mansion House Hotel & Country Club, awarded four stars by the AA and Visit Scotland. Beautifully located on the banks of the river, it is only a few minutes’ walk to the town centre.

This former 19th Century baronial mansion has its own pool with Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and gym. And it offers a range of spa package, hair salon and an award-winning restaurant.

Its main reception hall needs some TLC but what it lacks here is more than compensated by its elegant piano lounge and sumptuous bedrooms.

Our superior twin room is perfect with luxurious four-poster beds, thick drapes, a cavernous bathroom with a deep bath and powerful over-bath shower, fluffy white bath robes, a dvd player and large plasma screen TV.

The Mansion House Hotel, Elgin. Interior of restaurant. (Gordon Lennox)

No time for the gogglebox though, because we’re off to shop ’til we drop, followed by drinks and dinner. And Elgin is buzzing.

The streets are crowded as we, clutching bulging carrier bags, weave in and out of every store from Monsoon in the small but perfectly formed St Giles Shopping Centre to Marks and Sparks and the town’s three charity shops, spreading the retail love.

Johnstons of Elgin is high on the visit list. This place has been creating some of the finest woollen and cashmere cloth, clothing and accessories since 1797. And it’s a mecca for lovers of luxury.

The Drouthy Cobbler, tucked away up a close just off the High Street, is a great place for cocktails and its namesake mix featuring a Benromach single malt (from the distillery in nearby Forres), Pedro Ximenez sherry, raspberries and honey comes highly recommended (there are alcohol-free ‘mocktails’ too). A short walk away is Joanna’s nightclub. No need for taxis here then.

Elgin Cathedral (Getty Images/iStock)

For those who don’t like shopping or clubbing, there are plenty of other attractions.

Historic Elgin Cathedral – once the country’s most impressive – is now a ruin boasting a collection of nearly 100 medieval stones.

The town also has museums, a climbing centre, the wonderful Cooper Park, and visitors can even enjoy dolphin watching from dry land at nearby Spey Bay. The seaside holiday town of Lossiemouth, dubbed the jewel of the Moray Firth, is just over five miles away with its golden beaches and dunes, and there are a string of woodland walks in an around Elgin as well as cycle trails and outdoor centres.

We’ve been out on the town for hours and, exhausted, find ourselves back at the hotel’s piano lounge for a fireside nightcap. We would definitely stay here again.

Chatting to other residents, we discover they have just returned from a Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers tribute night nearby.

Apparently there’s an Elvis Tribute event coming up next month (February). “A little less conversation, a little more action” methinks. Time to get booking …

The Facts

A one-night stay at The Mansion House Hotel & Country Club in an en-suite superior twin room with dinner and breakfast came to a little over £200.

Check out the hotel’s website for details and offers. 01343 548 811 mansionhousehotel.co.uk

If you’re planning a trip in Scotland, head to the Visit Scotland website for info and ideas.

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