Windlestraw

Tweed Valley, Peebleshire, Scotland, United Kingdom Book from £175

Reviewed by Laura Dixon
Cosy hideaway in the Scottish Border hills with fine food, peace and quiet, and as much fresh air as you can handle
Doctors should be allowed to write prescriptions for stressed patients to visit places like this: here on the chaise longue in my lovely bedroom in Windlestraw, all I can hear is the hum of my laptop. No traffic, no people, not even the sheep in the neighbouring field. This boutique hotel is an idyllic spot for city dwellers seeking peace and quiet - and the fresh air guarantees a good night's sleep too.

Windlestraw is a grand Edwardian house with views over the Tweed, around an hour south of Edinburgh. With just 6 rooms, it's an intimate and romantic retreat and also very appealing for outdoor types, with golf courses and some of Britain's best fishing and mountain biking nearby. Built by mill owner Mr Ballantyne in 1906 for his Austrian wife, the sense of grandeur has not diminished over time, with Austrian carpentry, leaded glass windows and ceiling roses, not to mention the heavenly views. John and Sylvia have created a cosy and welcoming atmosphere, with roaring fires, luxury fabrics and lots of personal touches.

Highs

  • If you want a silent night, this is the place
  • Fabulous views from most bedrooms of the Border hills and river Tweed; you can also watch the pheasants strut about in the garden from your window
  • The intimate wood-panelled restaurant with crackling fire and great service
  • A house with great historical character and stylish contemporary details

Lows

  • Although the bus from Edinburgh stops close by, you really need a car to get around
  • It's more of a retreat than entertainment central, and the nearest decent restaurant (outside the hotel) is 12km drive away
  • Children are welcome but not especially encouraged - this could be a positive, depending on how you look at it!
  • A 5-course dinner every night is not for everyone, particularly if you are staying for more than a couple of nights

Best time to go

Windlestraw is open all year round except for Christmas and New Year. It's a great place for scenery in the autumn, with colours rivalling New England, and is equally delightful with cosy log fires in winter, and wonderful walking in summer. It's also a lovely haven for visitors to the Edinburgh festival in August as it's just an hour's drive away.

Our top tips

If you're fishing, bring a rod. Otherwise, bring a waterproof, warm clothes and good walking footwear - which doesn't have to mean walking boots as the paths are very good round here. Mountain bikes and pretty much everything else can be bought or hired nearby.

Ask the owners about the name of the room you're staying in - they're all named after key local people or previous guests at the hotel.

Great for...

Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 6
  • Restaurant and bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 13 Jan 2016 - 11 Mar 2016...
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Peddie

Rooms

The hotel's 6 rooms are full of individual details. The largest and loveliest is the Grand McIntosh room, with a huge comfortable brass bed, crushed green velvet cushions, a chaise longue and classic views of the surrounding hills. The bathroom has a unique Edwardian bath, complete with champagne flutes to encourage you to enjoy bubbly in the bath. It also has a more modern, separate shower.

A step down - but still offering glorious views over river and/or forest - are the Deluxe rooms. Moritz, named after the Austrian wife of the mill owner who built the house, is generously sized, with a brass bed (kingsize, as the name suggests), reupholstered settee and well chosen contemporary fabrics giving a hint of tweed and a lot of style. Deluxe Willison is particularly special, thanks to its huge bathroom with roll-top bath and separate power shower. Classic Balantyne, Peddie and Caberstaun are also charming, and a little lighter on the wallet.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Internet access
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Tv

Eating

Well-regarded by locals, Windlestraw's restaurant is often open to non-residents, but has the feel of a private dining room, seating just 12 people. It's very welcoming with a roaring log fire, stripped wooden floors and panelling. Tables are set with linen but the atmosphere is relaxed. It's open-plan design leads to a drawing room with deep sofas, a sunny conservatory, and a bar well-stocked with whiskies.

Windlestraw offers a daily set price 5-course dinner, emphasising freshly prepared and locally sourced produce. Fish is from Eyemouth and organic vegetables and mushrooms are supplied by Wild Tastes. We enjoyed starters of butternut squash soup, smoked halibut and crayfish mousse and sautéed mushrooms with pancetta in filo pastry; large mains of chargrilled loin of venison and wild sea bass and scallops with asparagus. This was followed by Scottish Brie, homemade oatcakes and honeycomb, and raspberry and pear crème brulee. There are usually three or four choices per course and the menu changes daily. A 6-course tasting menu is also available throughout the winter as part of a special gourmet package.

Breakfast is equally substantial: a classic full Scottish breakfast, porridge with cream and honey, omelettes with local cheese, freshly squeezed orange juice, and tea and toast with homemade jams.

The hotel doesn't serve lunch but can provide a packed lunch on request. Those with special dietary requirements are asked to inform the hotel at time of booking. If you'd like to eat out, John and Sylvia can provide recommendations.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Lace up your boots and get walking. The Forestry Commission owns many of the forests nearby so there are plenty of marked trails

  • Head to Traquair House, the oldest inhabited house in Scotland, and get lost in the maze or walk in the footsteps of Scottish kings

  • Hire a bike at Innerleithen and head for Glentress Forest, the best downhill mountain bike track in Britain. There are four different tracks and you can hire everything you need when you get here. Bird lovers should also check out the Osprey Watch Centre is at Glentress.

  • Grab your purse and head to the pretty market towns of Peebles and Melrose to snap up some cashmere. This area of Scotland is known as Cashmere Country

  • Go golfing at one of the four courses within a five-mile radius of the hotel, including Cardrona country club and leisure centre

  • Go fishing on the Tweed - you can buy a permit at the hotel for approximately £20 - or on the nearby loch. Trout is your best bet - salmon may be too much to hope for!

  • Spend the day in Edinburgh, just 40km away

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Mountain biking
  • Plantlife / flora

Kids

It's a bit too quiet to be appropriate for a family holiday, and the owners encourage this air of tranquility. Having said that, children are welcome and the hotel will provide smaller portions for their dinner. It's not the sort of place where boisterous children and their parents will feel at home, though. There is no charge for children under 5 yrs old.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Baby equipment:

Baby cots and high chairs on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
9/
Overall

{{ review.firstName }}{{ review.countryName ? ', '+ review.countryName : '' }},
Feedback is only from guests who have booked and stayed through i-escape

Rates for Windlestraw