Fauhope Country House – a graciously artistic place to stay in the Scottish Borders
“Yet was poetic impulse given, by green hill and clear blue heaven”
Sir Walter Scott
The Scottish Borders, Scott’s beloved countryside, offers gentle, rolling landscape, rivers, lochs and a dramatic sense of history with its abbeys, castles and grand mansions. The quiet Border towns and villages preserve a rich literary, cultural and rural heritage: this is the home of fine tweeds and knitwear, sheep farms, world class fishing, walking and mountain biking and the Rugby 7s.
Just an hour or so south of Edinburgh, Melrose in the heart of the Tweeddale valley is the ideal base to stay awhile and tour around. For perfect tranquility, scenic views and architectural beauty, I warmly recommend Fauhope Country House in Gattonside, just across the River Tweed from Melrose. Their private drive is up a rather steep and rugged road, but when you turn the corner at the top, my word!
Surrounded by lovely gardens, this stunning white-washed Arts and Crafts house was designed by Sidney Mitchell in 1897 for Major General Lithgow, a shipping tycoon. With its gable roofs, turrets and bay windows, it’s charmingly, graciously elegant. As you step into the spacious hallway, the windows frame a panorama of the Eildon Hills across the valley.
And this is the same magical view from our Turret Bedroom; decorated in calm shades of mushroom and cream, with antiques and period furnishings, it’s all very homely – soft towels, soaps, lotions and even emergency medication essentials in the spacious bathroom.
All one would need to feel at home – armchairs, flat screen TV, a bookshelf of classics, crime fiction, poetry & local travel guides, not forgetting the tea tray and decanter of sherry for the weary traveller.
The bedrooms are all indivually designed with care.
Fauhope has been owned by Ian and Sheila Robson since 1986 and for the past fifteen years they have opened their door to welcome Bed and Breakfast guests. It remains very much their family home decorated with personal photographs, artwork, ceramics, books and a child’s rocking horse; huge vases of flowers throughout the house, arranged with style.
In the Lounge, it was so lovely to sit in front of the log fire to enjoy a cup of tea and home made chocolate cake. Sheila and Ian love to chat with their guests to ensure that they experience a great time while visiting the Borders, suggesting what to see and do.
If they are free to do so, they will even offer to drive you over to Melrose for dinner so that you can have a drink or two!. There are some excellent places to eat out, such as the cosy Burts Bar serving hearty pub grub.
Marmions Brasserie is also a well established and popular place for locals and visitors. Its name is inspired by the epic poem, Marmion; A Tale of Flodden Field by Walter Scott. This is like a country inn with pine wood furnishings and paintings for sale around the walls.
Border country is renowned for its meat, game and seafood and the Marmion’s menu emphasises the provenance of food with local Salmon, Venison and Lamb. I selected delicious Fish cakes and Seabass, Mediterranean vegetables and crushed potatoes; across the table, Ken had Arancini and then a huge platter of Eyemouth haddock and chips. You can’t get fresher than this. The well selected Scottish cheese plate was excellent and with a bottle of fruity Merlot, this was a very tasty dinner indeed.
Then it was just a quick taxi ride back to Fauhope Country House.
You are sure to sleep well in this quiet rural retreat, with just the dawn chorus of bird song as a gentle alarm call. Breakfast is a gracious affair served in the blue-painted, art-filled dining room. Classical music on the soundtrack. Our table, with lovely garden views, was laid with linen napkins, vintage silverware, crystal bowls.
First a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a selection of cereals and fruit – berries, prunes, apricots and Sheila’s own rhubarb compote – this was all delicious with natural yogurt. You can then expect a choice of Full Scottish (bacon, eggs, mushrooms, potato scones et al), scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. and perhaps the Edwardian dish, kedgeree, all in keeping with the period of the house. With toast and marmalade and a large pot of coffee, this was a fine start to the day.
With this style of hospitality, no wonder Fauhope has received 5 star ratings from the AA and Visit Scotland and warmly recommended by two renowned hotel inspectors:
In Alex Polizzi’s Little Black Book, she writes “staying at Fauhope House is quite simply a joy because of the owners and hosts, Ian and Sheila Robson. The care and attention they spend on their guests would put many top-class hotels to shame, and if all B&Bs were like this I suspect most hotels would go out of business!”
And in his Special Places to Stay, Alastair Sawday describes it thus: “ Views soar to the Eildon Hills through wide windows with squashy seats; all is luxurious, elegant, fire-lit and serene with an eclectic mix of art.”
From the Visitor’s book at Fauhope, it seems that many guests stay here before and after setting off to walk the St. Cuthbert’s Way, the 62 mile, ancient pilgrimage trail to Lindisfarne, the Holy Isle. The Borders is an adventure playground for outdoor activities, fishing, biking, hiking and hill walking.
The magic mountain in the Eildon Hills was believed to be sacred by the Celtic priests, who had fire festivals to ward off evil spirits, and still a place of mystery evoked in ballads and legendary tales. And at the heart of this local literary tradition, you can Abbotsford, the former majestic home of Sir Walter Scott, where you can view his library, study, and stroll in the landscaped gardens.
After a tiring day of exploration out and about, return to Fauhope to relax on the sofa in front of the fire, or a seat on the lawn surrounded by trees, flowers and extraordinary metal bird sculptures brought back from a trip to Zimbabwe.
And you can also book a facial, massage or other beauty treatment from their in-house therapist.
While it is best to have a car to tour around, you could certainly enjoy a few days at Fauhope and enjoy walking here and there. It is just a 15 minute stroll down the hill and over the Chain footbridge to Melrose with its many restaurants, bars, attractive shops, (antiques, tweeds, woollens, books.). And of course, do visit the dramatic ruins of Melrose Abbey.
I completely concur with the comments of these guests and could not describe our stay at Fauhope House better myself. …
“ … a dream of a place to stay; it has charm and character ..extremely warm and comfortable. Sheila & Ian are very welcoming with nothing too much trouble..”
Fauhope Country House
Gattonside, Melrose, TD6 9LU, Roxburghshire, Scottish Borders
Tel. 01896 823184
Marmions, 5 Buccleuch Street, Melrose. http://www.marmionsbrasserie.co.uk
The new Borders Railway is due to start its passenger service on 6 September 2015 linking Edinburgh with Tweedbank, Scottish Borders. http://www.bordersrailway.co.uk
Check out the bus service from Edinburgh to Galashiels > Melrose and local Borders bus routes. http://www.firstgroup.com