The weekend of James’ 29th birthday had arrived and we’d decided to spend a long weekend away.
We had a car rented and we had 3 days. But where should we go?
We had discussed a few options, some local, some abroad, but, after a recommendation from a friend (based on our requirements of quaint and not too far, with good hiking and scenery), we ended up in Peebles (it should be noted here that Krysta particularly enjoys the name).
The drive up took us through some fantastic landscapes in Northumberland National Park and the Scottish Borders countryside, and we contemplated pulling over to go on a couple of mini walks on several occasions.
We’d booked to stay at The Park Hotel, which looked quite impressive from the outside.
Walking through the front door, the first thing that caught our eye was a delicious-looking bakery right at the front desk. It turned out the hotel baked all the bread and croissants they made available for breakfast on site – what a bonus!
The lobby and surrounding rooms were recently redecorated and mostly up-cycled – plates and teacups were used to make lights, floppy discs were used to make paintings, and there was even an upside-down chair attached to the roof (because reasons… right?). There was plenty of wood panelling, comfortable furniture and a couple of rooms to relax in. Definitely a good start.
However, once we made our way upstairs to our bedroom, we quickly realised the rooms weren’t up to the same high standard. In fairness to the hotel, they were in the middle of a huge redecoration job and hadn’t been able to start on the rooms yet.
Despite the outdated style (think 1970s-80s hotel decor), the room was clean and the bed was comfortable. The owners of the hotel had actually reduced the overnight costs while they were renovating, and included a free breakfast too – so we couldn’t really complain.
On another friend’s recommendation (apparently everyone else has been to Peebles before), we decided to do a riverside walk to find Neidpath Castle. It was a relaxing and pretty stroll along the bank as we followed the fast-flowing river beside us.
After a little while (the whole walk there and back probably took around an hour) we saw Neidpath Castle nestled into a hill a little way up from the river bank. We struggled somewhat up a slippery, muddy slope to reach the castle, probably not taking the actual path, before exploring the grounds a bit.
The castle is a bit of a cliche (in a good way), in that it’s typical of the oft-romanticised image of British castles – crumbling walls of ancient stone, slowly being swallowed up by nature. You’ve seen in a thousand times before, but it never gets old or any less pleasing to look at, especially among such landscapes as those in the Scottish Borders.
It should be noted that the castle is not the biggest, and is privately owned too – so not open to the public. However, the grounds and the scenery around it was rewarding enough for the walk there, and we’d recommend taking a stroll to see it should you ever find yourself in Peebles.
We decided to hang around and enjoy the views for a little while, before heading back to our hotel to get ready for James’ birthday dinner.
And, what a surprise, the restaurant we went to had come recommended.
Apparently, this was the trip of recommendations for us.
The restaurant was called The Howgate Restaurant, which was about a 15-minute drive from our hotel, so not too far.
A restored stone barn or outbuilding, the restaurant was open plan with a big brick fireplace that made us feel very cosy indeed (we’re suckers for big, warm fireplaces).
Hungry and ready to enjoy a delicious dinner, we devoured our meals of wood pigeon, mussels and t-bone lamb steaks enthusiastically. Everything was amazing!
We had a very enjoyable evening and while we would have definitely recommended this place to anyone, we just found out that as of July 2017, it has closed down for good (so sad to see that happen anywhere, but especially when the food and dining experience was so great).
The rest of the evening was spent back at our hotel drinking champagne and eating chocolate cake to celebrate! Rock and roll lifestyle, or what!?
The next morning we found out just how good the continental breakfast was. Neither of us are early morning people, so when breakfast is served between 8 and 10 am, we’ll be the ones rocking up at around 9:30 in our PJs. Thankfully there was plenty of food left to enjoy and even more was brought out as we sat down.
Croissants, coffee, orange juice, fruit, yoghurt, cereals, milk, tea, toast – everything and more that you’d expect to be a part of a good continental breakfast was on offer. Of particularly good quality were the croissants and other baked goods (remember what we said earlier about the on-site bakery?).
Service was excellent and the breakfast room itself was very welcoming with a lovely view of the gardens around the hotel and the hills of the Scottish Borders off in the distance.
Full of energy and ready to enjoy the day, we set off for a wander around Peebles itself. Our hotel was right on the edge of the high street through the town so we wandered up one side while popping into any shops that caught our fancy. The road curved at the end and took us into the Old Town of Peebles, which was complete with interesting historical knick-knacks and architecture. Peebles is the sort of place that the word quaint was invented to describe.
After a while, we decided to grab a cup of tea at a local independent cafe (no, you won’t ever find us in Starbucks, Cafe Nero, Costa or any other major cafe if we can help it). The one we did end up going to was called The Oven Door – a small and charming café that was decorated with bright and vibrant colours.
It was packed (usually a good sign) but we lucked out and got a table right away as other customers were leaving. To give you an idea of how popular this cafe was, there was a line up of people waiting for tables the entire time we were in there.
As we sat down at our table we realised that we were, unfortunately, sat right beside the array of home-made cakes and scones. Not being able to help myself, I enjoyed a delicious cheese scone with my gourmet hot chocolate, while James sipped his Americano coffee. Stumbling across these fantastic little places is such a great part of travelling!
The next stop on our tour of Peebles was at the local award-winning pub, The Bridge Inn, for a quick pint of real ale. The end of the Six Nations England and Italy rugby game was on, so the whole place was very busy. Again, we got pretty lucky and found two comfortable seats right by the wood-burning fireplace. The perfect spot to warm up and enjoy our pints of Arran real ale while we soaked up the atmosphere.
That evening we headed back to our hotel to give their restaurant a try. The Park Hotel staff had previously told us that their beef dishes are very good, so we went there with the intentions of ordering beef and only beef. However, after looking at the menu, we both settled on getting a hamburger (it’s still beef!!). It wasn’t the type of beef we were planning on ordering, but unfortunately, the steaks would’ve burned away the rest of our budgeted cash, so we were sensible and stuck with the burger.
We had also ordered the same starter – a lamb hotpot. It was one of the biggest starter dishes we’ve ever had and could easily have passed for a small meal on its own.
Both courses were absolutely delicious and by the end of the meal, both rather full, we were happy with the fact that all we had to do was wander upstairs to collapse on our bed!
The following day we left Peebles and, after a short detour to Edinburgh, we made it home. It was a weekend full of recommendations, all of which worked out, and we both left satisfied with what we had experienced.
We would definitely recommend Peebles for a short break!
Have you been to Peebles before? What would you recommend doing? Are there any other Peebles-esque small Scottish towns that you’d recommend we visit?