On a cold and wintry morning, when all you want to do is cuddle up, escape to the country and snuggle in front of a fire, last week Phil and I did just that. We had a sneaky day off following our lovely little engagement and had been invited to spend the day and night at The Elphinstone in Biggar.
We packed up our unpacked bags and made the forty five minute journey to the heart of central Scotland. I was shocked at how quick (and beautiful) the drive was. Although it is merely on the “other” side of the Pentland Hills, it is a completely different landscape from Edinburgh. It was raining and cold but breathtaking.
Biggar is some 30 miles from Edinburgh and is situated between the Clyde and Tweed, ensuring luscious surroundings. The town’s history can be traced as far back as the Stone and Bronze-age but there are fragments of settlements nearby: Bizzyberry is one, but in truth the road to Biggar is paved with history. As a thoroughfare between the north and south, it is no wonder the area is rich in particles of our past.
Throughout the centuries, the town had close links with Robert the Bruce; the lands in the area gifted by him to the Fleming family; remnants of the family’s presence can be around the area with the notable Fleming Arms next to The Elphinstone and mounds of their residence: Boghall Castle nearby. The family held on to their lands until 1735, when – the male line of succession ended – they passed to the Elphinstone family, following the marriage of Lady Clementina Fleming to Charles, Lord Elphinstone.
Although the history of building prior to it being known as The Elphinstone is somewhat unknown, there are mentions of the main hotel in Biggar being hugely popular for over four centuries. In fact, when one of the outbuildings was demolished in around 1947, a coin of Queen Elizabeth I’s era was found.
The Elphinstone name was introduced in the late eighteenth century following the mentioned marriage of Clementina and Charles. The Inn becamee a pivotal horse resting stop between Edinburgh to Carlisle.
Sadly, the popularity of the Inn from passing carriages ended when the railway era arrived. However The Elphinstone adapted, enticing visitors with free fares from the station and a wee dram to ease their journey. The visitors had amongst them some real characters – including the The Duchess of Buccleuch, Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria who regularly moved in from Dalkeith Palace each year.
The current owners: Robert, Janette and Michael Allan have done well to retain the historic feel of the Inn but ensure it is more than fit for purpose in the 21st century.
The rooms are warm, clean and spacious – with accommodation for families or couples. Whilst each room is unique, they are all linked with how cosy they are – the corridor leading straight to the heart of the bar, with a burning fire warming the whole building.
That very fire is one of the highlights of the Inn. It is such a selling point and I spent hours in front of it, reading and enjoying some of their own Merlot which was delicious. The time passed by so quickly and before we knew it, it was time for dinner. I had heard lots of good things about the food at The Elphinstone prior to our trip – and right enough the menu was not only large but offered an incredible choice. I began with my favourite – deep friend brie with a stunning salad. I followed this by a healthy option of black pudding, chicken and bacon salad. Again, it was absolutely divine. Only one of us had room for desert – a giant ice cream sundae and despite wanting to, I couldn’t take a bite.
Following our meal, we relaxed back in the warmth of the lounge. The restaurant was really busy but not overpowering – it added a gentle hum to the evening. I will be honest that we went to bed about 9pm – the fresh air and fire had done wonders to relax us both. The bed was incredible. We slept soundly right through the evening with the blissful lack of sound from traffic outside, planes overhead (which I am so used to). In the morning, when we woke, we experienced another delicious meal – a full breakfast and sadly had to make our way back home.
One overpowering feeling has stuck with me since; the sense of history that the place holds is astounding. When you think of who has passed through the lodgings and what they might has discussed it is just amazing to have been a tiny part of that.
Before we made our way home, we found three amazing little gift shops next to each other – a must see for anyone visiting the town. We emersed ourselves in an old fashioned book shop packed full of the most amazing novels and made a stop at The Big Red Barn. I’m not sure what we were expecting but it certainly wasn’t what we got. The food, the shop, the staff: everything was incredible. The quality of shops and eateries in the area was brilliant and unexpected – we definitely found a hidden little gem and can’t wait to visit again.
Fancy some life and love?
With thanks to The Elphinstone Hotel and Crimson PR for a wonderful overnight stay, dinner and breakfast.