Take one exhausted, thinly spread mamma, who is chasing after a little mini canon ball while also carting another canon ball around her middle and place her in a dreamy location with a coffee machine, crisp white bedsheets and magazines and remove said mini canon ball and you will probably create a pretty chilled out and relaxed human resembling her old self. For at least one night.
This recently happened. Having just returned from a month spent with family and friends north of the border, two of my amazing sister in laws removed Otto from my hip, allowing the husband and I to spend our first night away together in 16 months without the toddler. To say this was a euphoric experience is an understatement.
Our destination, Windlestraw, a luxury boutique guest house in the Scottish Borders. And quite frankly it was just to good a stay to keep this hidden gem underwraps any longer…
From rolling hills, beautiful moorland and breathtaking landscape, it’s not hard to understand why the Scottish Borders is the perfect destination for those looking to escape the treadmill of their daily lives and enjoy some peace and tranquility as well as an opportunity to sample some of Scotland’s finest food and drink offerings.
For many an escape to the Borders may take them to the picturesque town of Peebles or the chocolate box village of Melrose. Walkerburn is unlikely to be on their radar. However on the fringes of Walkerburn sits Windlestraw, an Edwardian manor overlooking the Tweed Valley.
The house was originally built in 1906 by cashmere magnate John King Ballantyne as a wedding present for his future Austrian wife Hilda and has now been transformed into a stunning boutique guesthouse run by husband and wife team John and Sylvia Matthews, offering something very special and unique to those who step through their front door.
With six bedrooms, Windlestraw retains many original features, however Sylvia has also added her own style throughout the property getting the balance between modern and traditional just right, creating a real home from home that will allow you to relax and unwind all to easily. In fact you won’t want to leave.
There is also evidence throughout the property that this is a couple who have travelled far and wide, before settling in the Borders, where they have been for the last 2 years.
Between 2009 and 2011 John was in Nepal. Having come across a very poor school while trekking, he took an active role in helping to improve the education and stamp out the inequality that was in abundance. John wanted to give children in Nepal the same opportunity as children back home and set about helping to build 11 new schools through the charity Children of the Mountain, which Windlestraw still supports today.
On arrival to Windlestraw you’ll receive a warm welcome from Sylvia who has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry in both Scotland and Dubai. Enjoy a pot of tea and homemade shortbread in the sunroom, which has a collection of 250 books, while soaking up the surrounding views and make use of the binoculars to spot bird of prey flying over head. You could be miles from anyway.
The grounds are also worth exploring. Play croquet or try your hand at putting on the lawn and roam the walks in the local woods up to Caberston Hill, perfect if you’re looking to work up an appetite before your five course dinner.
Or alternatively you may like us just want to make the most of relaxing in the beautifully designed ensuite bedrooms combining luxury and comfort beautifully. Again the attention to detail and the personal touches, including the homemade tablet from Kelso, Nespresso machine as well as magazines in each of the rooms makes Windlestraw very special. The interiors, especially the bathrooms, wouldn’t look out of place in a homes interiors magazine. I took plenty of notes for my own look book for future renovation plans!
Dinner is also a must. You’ll start with a pre dinner drink and canapés in the sun lounge before moving to the exquisite dining room. The food prepared by both John, who has a background in accountancy as well as being a chef, and local chef Stu Waterson, is simple but presented with a modern and personal touch. It’s fine dining but in a relaxed setting, that is far from stuffy.
There is a real focus on Scottish produce and the team make the most of local suppliers on Windlestraw’s doorstep, including apple juice from Kalzie’s Garden’s Cuddybridge, Macaroons and Marshmallows from Cardrona’s Macamoon, meat from Peelham Farm and Shaws of Lauder, vegetables from Peebles Community Action and The Allotment in Innerleithen as well as Scottish cheese from Wild Tastes.
Each dish on the set menu is executed exceptionally well. The stand out star for us was definitely the trout and the poached pear tart was hot on it’s heels. It’s an experience that will certainly whet the appetite of any foodie.
After a good night’s sleep you’ll be ready for breakfast, which is far from disappointing. As well as a selection of yoghurt, fruit, granola and muesli, Sylvia’s homemade blueberry muffins, fruit tea loaf and Irish soda bread is a great starting block to set you up for the day ahead. But why stop there. Chef will also prepare an a range of hot dishes.
As I’m a creature of habit I opted for porridge and honey while my other half chose Eggs Benedict. After tea, coffee and a read of the weekend papers we were well prepped to kick off the day with a spring in our step.
This is a team that know exactly what they are doing and offer something very unique to those looking for a getaway to the Borders. It will be hard to match the personal top class service you’ll receive. And although children are welcome, my advice is to leave them at home and make the most of him and you time!