Stepping over the threshold at the The Roxburghe Hotel and Golf Course, guests are left in no doubt they are in Scotland. From the tartan carpets and the roaring fires in grand grates, to the antlers adorning the walls, this hotel gives the full Scottish country house experience.
The main hall is dominated by a grand staircase and there are half a dozen ante-rooms – bar, restaurant, library, drawing room – to hide away and relax.
Part of the Roxburghe estate, it is furnished with pieces from the Duke’s personal collection and even the decanter of whisky in every room is a personalised blend made for the family.
The Roxburghe ancestral seat Floors Castle, a couple of miles down the road in Kelso, is the largest inhabited castle in Scotland. Entry to the public rooms and gardens is free for hotel residents and is a chance to contrast the traditional oil painting portraits of previous incumbents with modern black and white shots of today’s aristocrats.
Back at the hotel, the best suite is the Bowmont. The canopied superking bed in the original master bedroom of the house is an ideal location to contemplate which outdoor pursuit to enjoy next.
With an open log fire already laid and the whisky and shortbread to hand, it might not be shame if it bucketed it down for a while.
The hotel has 22 rooms and suites, and is set in acres of parkland that include a golf course, fishing lakes and woodland walks.
Housed in a cute courtyard is the health and beauty suite, offering a full range of treatments.
Don’t miss the traditional Scottish breakfast, the peppery haggis is a real treat. The star on the menu, however, were the kippers. A poached egg was the perfect foil to the juicy tangy fish.
Make time for a quick game of croquet on the front lawn – mallets are found by the imposing front door.
Hotel golf courses can be a real mixed bag. Often they are over-played and poorly maintained.
The Roxburghe is neither of these and you would never guess it was only opened in 1997.
The course cuts its way through Scottish forest. The front nine is good, the back nine is better and includes the signature 14th hole, a par five that follows the River Tweed and ends under a viaduct.
The members’ club is run by director of golf Craig Montgomerie and fellow PGA pro Steve Johnstone.
Lessons are held on the hotel’s driving range or short game area.
Our host for the clay pigeon shooting is gamekeeper-turned-teacher Alistair Ferguson.
Alistair is impeccably turned out in full tweed suit and plus-twos (or possibly plus-fours). Like the golf pros, he also knows his stuff.
He is almost as sharp with the gags as he is with a gun: “I bet you are five foot ten – I am also am undertaker.”
After a few safety rules – don’t point the gun at anyone, always carry the gun open etc – it’s time for some target practice.
Most of the early clays fly over our heads but after 20 minutes I am hitting almost every one.
Taking kids on holiday can be expensive. Not so in the Scottish Borders, as two of the best – and coincidently, free – attractions prove.
Jedburgh, a picturesque little town in the rolling countryside around eight miles from the hotel, is home to the Castle Jail.
The well-preserved mini-fort gives the thrill of hearing the heavy iron door clang shut, leaving visitors trapped in bleak stone cells as well as documenting history of crime and punishment in the area. Nothing cheers a six-year-old like locking up his little sister for many imagined offences.
Take a picnic, enjoy the views and the knowledge children are no longer locked up for pinching the last bread roll.
Afterwards to relish freedom and stretch the legs, head for Harestanes Country Park. It has a fantastic play area on grassy slopes with climbing areas, huge swings and even a thatched ‘hobbit’ play house.
The Borders are a pretty glorious place to be when the sun is shining – and even when it’s not, there is more than a sporting chance you will find something amazing to do.
Double rooms with breakfast at the Roxburghe Hotel start at £155 per night. Suites and dinner are extra. Full details at www.Roxburghe.net
A round of golf starts at £40 for residents and 25 clays are £45.
(Prices correct as of June 2013)