337: Peebles

OS Explorer map 337, Peebles & Innerleithen: Eddleston & Ettrickbridge Traquair & Yarrow – I own this map, and had visited it before starting this blog. Visited again for this post 24th September 2021.

Google Maps location links: Peebles, Great Polish Map of Scotland

My previous post told you of a short stop I and my parents made, on a day when we were driving from Uig on the Isle of Skye (where we got off the morning ferry from the Isle of Harris), to the hotel near Peebles where we’d be staying the next couple of nights, before going off to our respective homes in Northamptonshire and Cambridge. As you’ve probably guessed, this post concerns that stay near Peebles!

The place that Mother Dearest had booked us into was, interestingly, sort of a cross between staying in a fancy hotel and a self-catering holiday cottage: it was a fancy hotel, but we were staying in a cottage in the hotel grounds, which had a couple of bedrooms, a kitchen/living room and all that, but which they treated as a part of the hotel, in that it got daily cleaning and turn down; breakfast was over in the hotel restaurant.

My parents are quite into upmarket hotels, and during my childhood we’d end up staying in them frequently. At this time I used to love it too, and was often the main driver of us picking some particular one. However, while I still appreciate nice hotels and find it fun to stay in them every now and again, overall I’ve become much more of a holiday-cottage person. I find it more relaxing in a holiday cottage for things like the bigger variety of food options: i.e. being able to cook (which I enjoy) or get takeaway rather than always eating in restaurants, which can be rather tiring. Holiday cottages also feel much more like one’s own space; I don’t like having to think about leaving the hotel room so that cleaning can happen and so on. And it’s nice having a fridge so that I can store the milk I like to drink before going to bed and upon waking! If I do stay in a fancy hotel, I think what I most appreciate is things like the décor, general opulence of surroundings, service, fine food etc (and of course a giant hotel breakfast) – which is nice for a night or two, but gets tiring after that.

Waiting for someone from the hotel to come to let us into our cottage!

One effect of this is that I only really prefer hotels to self-catering when they’re high-end hotels – so it’s a good thing I only like staying in them very rarely, as it would get expensive otherwise! I’d always choose a holiday cottage over a mid-range or budget hotel or a B&B if possible; not because I think the latter things are bad in anyway – indeed, I stay in cheap hotels very frequently for work, which are entirely fine when all I need is somewhere functional to stay a night or two; and there are loads of lovely B&Bs and other cheaper hotels out there – but just because holiday cottages are even better! For 9 out of 10 of holidays, I’ll pick a cute self-catering cottage; I’ll take a fancy hotel the other time.

Anyway, to get to the point of all this: I was intrigued by this hybrid setup of the cottage-with-hotel-service. I think it did get some of the benefits of both: having the more casual space to relax in, and capacity to self-cater; while also getting the hotel breakfast and so on; but overall I think I still prefer self-catering.

Hotel breakfast the next morning!

We arrived at the place just in time for a quiet evening in (oven pizzas from a nearby Sainsbury’s) and bed, and the next day ventured out for a bit of exploring after breakfast. Our first stop was the nearby Great Polish Map of Scotland, which I have to say was pretty amazing. It is a giant (50-meter) relief map of Scotland, made of some stone/concretey thing, sitting in the grounds of the Barony Castle Hotel. The hotel was once owned by a Polish chap who stayed in Scotland after being stationed there in WWII; decades later, having become a succesful hotelier, he had it built in the grounds of his hotel as a thank you to his adoptive nation. I really enjoyed walking around it, testing my knowledge of Scottish geography by naming the islands and working out where various towns lay.

The Great Polish Map of Scotland! Those are two people you can just about see staning at the left. (Excuse the black bars around the edges – I had to stitch two photos together to fit the whole map in, and the software has to bend them about a bit to match them together.)

It being a relief map, one can of course see the mountains – eventually I managed to pick out Ben Klibreck, which I climbed a couple of years ago! The map wasn’t detailed enough to show every mountain: in various places near-together ridges would get absorbed into one: the North Harris hills, for example, were a couple of big lumps. But nevertheless, it was really impressive. The map was abandoned and overgrown for a few decades, and only recently partly restored: apparently in its heyday it was both painted, and had rivers that actually flowed with water. Hopefully it will be returned to its former glory one day!

After this we returned to the cottage to start our other main activity for the day: Father Dearest and I did a walk of about four miles, taking us from there into Peebles, where Mother Dearest met up with us so we could have lunch in the town. It was a great walk: we were mostly on the Cross Borders Drove Road, a long-distance path that was very well-kept, and it being a clear day, the views over the valley of Eddleston Water to the Moorfoot hills were lovely.

In Peebles, we ate lunch sitting outside a pub in the very nice town center. An (admittedly uncited) claim on Wikipedia tells me that the town has “won multiple awards for the range of shops on its High Street”, which I don’t find surprising as the array of shops was pretty fantastic, especially for a town of 9000 people. I spent a good long while wandering around the shops afterwards, including my first time in a second-hand bookshop since before the recent pandemic. The town’s church also featured a very interesting disabled-access method, consisting of a long sloping forest-walk-style wooden walkway from a nearby street, running on high wooden supports over a riverside footpath beloow as it curved around to the church.

That evening, we had dinner in the hotel restaurant, and left for our Northamptonshire and Cambridge homes in the morning. It was a very nice end to our holiday!

Previous visits

I’ve visited Peebles before on my summer 2014 road trip around Scotland with my school friends Joystick, Climbing Programmer and Cabbage. We stayed at a campsite in Peebles for the first two nights of the trip.

We unfortunately didn’t do much exploring of the surrounding area on this trip, arriving tired out on the first evening after driving up from England, and then spending the whole of the first full day away in Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Festival, which you can read about in my Edinburgh post. I did at least take the time for a quick walk around Peebles on the final morning, before we departed to drive all the way to Oban to get the ferry to South Uist!

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