It ought to be axiomatic that there are times when, given the pace of modern living, we just have to step off the travellator of life, and take a break. Let the rest of the world muddle on, while we ‘Take Five’, or whatever it needs to revive a flagging spirit.
This is what my wife and I found ourselves doing at the Cringletie House Hotel, a few miles north of Peebles – that’s cringle-tee, by the way. The sound of silence in this ancient pile is deafening, and when the floorboards do creak, as well they are justified in doing, it’s almost with a hint of apology. But that’s about it; this silence really is golden; come here if you want to hear yourself think.
Located just 30 minutes south of Edinburgh, this former Scottish Baronial castle provides relaxing accommodation in twelve tasteful and well-equipped bedrooms, one luxurious suite and a delightful cottage in the grounds, all individually designed, and offering intimate views over the gardens and countryside that surrounds it.
The present Cringletie House is not the first to stand on this elevated spot rising from the right bank of Eddleston Water. There is a long history of the name ‘Cringletie’ or ‘Crelenge’ in this area since the 13th century, but it was the famous 19th-century Edinburgh-born architect David Bryce who was responsible for the present building, which was completed in 1861.
The approach view of the hotel is stirring enough, over a bridge and up through mixed woodland, but the view from one of the generous rooms at the rear, across the putting green and up the gorse-clad brae where cattle graze contentedly is one to relax into. Tucked away behind the hotel is a walled garden with its 400-year-old yew hedge, reputed to be the oldest in Scotland. Explore these 28 acres a little further and you will find a river and waterfall, an historic dovecote, woodland walks, outdoor sculptures and a croquet lawn.
Back inside, while there is a lift, we are given a quick guided tour by Gerard, who steers us upwards through a small maze of corridors and landings to the Selkirk Suite. Attention to detail is paramount here from the marble fireplace with gunmetal surround – a characteristic theme throughout the building − the comfy group of chairs and the welcoming mini-carafe of whisky. The bedroom is generous enough, but the bathroom is the highlight of the suite with its jacuzzi bath, walk-in shower, twin washbasins and illuminated mirrors, floor lighting for night-time visits; there’s even a small television on the wall – in fact, there’s a TV in every room.
In the comfy Maguire Lounge, groups are gathered for afternoon tea, an inviting display of the pastry chef’s art, but, as I’m not a cake-ist, just something I admire from afar. Even so, after a longish journey, it’s such a pleasure just to sink into the soft baggy sofas with a pot of Earl Grey. There’s another fine fire surround here, too, in a design made up of stylised fylfots carved in wood, and a log fire with brass scuttle and kettles that would provide a warming embrace on a winter’s night. For anyone not on the move, this would be a great place for morning coffee while you take your time over the papers.
But it was the Sutherland Restaurant that was soon drawing our attention. With another magnificent fireplace and a hand-painted ceiling, it offers a spectacular setting for dinner. It also is the setting for unpretentious fine dining using the best ingredients, often home-grown but always local and seasonal, prepared with the greatest of care but not too much fuss.
The citrus-cured Shetland salmon wrapped in seaweed rather in the manner of Japanese nori dishes certainly has the tang of wild, wind-swept places, while the tournedos of poussin stuffed with Stornoway black pudding and cured ham displays an inventiveness that is worthy of comment. Swill it all down with one of Sancerre’s finest white wines and you have a satisfying start to any meal.
We switched to an Italian pino grigio for the main course, a trio of Borders lamb that included crispy sweatbreads served with a colcannonesque timbale of potatoes, and a lime and chilli peppered sea bass filled with gingered prawns.
We decided against desserts, and failed, soon launching into a Trio of citrus − Lemon meringue pie, lime mousse, warm citrus drizzle cake, and combed white chocolate sauce – and an apple crumble parfait served with classical apple Tarte Tatin. On Sundays, they offer a seven-course tasting menu with matches wines…today is not Sunday. But it is evident that the Cringletie approach to fine dining features seasonal menus, invented and refined to perfection and restrained in ambition to ensure that quality and skill shines through.
Perhaps if there is a niggle, it’s simply that the courses followed one another a little too rapidly, and I was left with the feeling that our table was needed for someone else. Perhaps this was our fault, because we like to eat early, but, equally, we like to linger over our meal à la mode Française, and to enjoy the sort of chatter we never seem to make time for at home. But this minor grievance was quickly mollified by a heady glass of digestif Armagnac.
Cringletie is about time out, a little self-indulgence in a relaxed and peaceful atmosphere without the weight of impersonalised ritual that is a feature of so many hotels and restaurants. There’s a strong family essence about the Cringletie team, whether they are front of house, in the kitchen or just wandering the corridors taking a vacuum for a walk; it makes a difference that is well worth seeking out.
Tell me more about the Cringletie House Hotel
Tel: 01721 725750
Prices for B&B start from £114; for DBB £189. There are 2- and 3-night packages including a dinner on the first night from £294 and £387 respectively.
The hotel is especially proud of its accessibility policies, and is fully wheelchair accessible and includes a range of disabled facilities that are quite exceptional for such an historic building. This includes a ground floor room and en-suite bathroom specifically designed for wheelchair users.
Disabled parking is available close to the entrance with plenty of room for transport with additional space requirements, a wheelchair access ramp outside the house, an easy-to-operate chairlift to the ground floor, and a passenger lift to the first and second floors.
After consulting with the Scottish Deaf Association, the hotel has also installed technical equipment in the bedrooms to help guests with impaired hearing feel safe in their beds at night, including ‘vibrating’ pillows to supplement a flashing fire alarm.