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Are you prepared to meet thy maker?
De Vere Barony Castle (Scottish Borders)
Member Name: berrydelight
De Vere Barony Castle (Scottish Borders)
Advantages: Beautiful setting and it was a freebie!
Disadvantages: See review....
Living in Scotland can be quite an attraction for our English relatives and last weekend my boyfriends parents came up to stay and we decided to do a bit of touring. In light of the current employment, or lack of, situation my boyfriends mum and dad obviously felt we were in need of a bit of TLC and insisted I take some time off work and come with them. My boyfriends mum is also a bit of a bargain hunter and managed to bag us a stay in Barony Castle on Saturday night with dinner, bed and breakfast for the princely sum of £0. Amazing I know! With this in mind you would expect me to be lulled into writing a glowing review, surely that is the reason behind such ludicrous offers but in true Dooyoo style I have been 100% honest because not everything in life comes for free....
**Just fly due south on your broomstick**
Barony Castle is owned by the De Vere Hotel group and is located in a tiny village in the Scottish Borders called Eddleston, south of Edinburgh and on a main route the A703 (by main I mean a small country lane that sees a reasonable amount of traffic) which makes actually getting to Eddleston reasonably manageable and is a good distance away from Edinburgh to make it a good stop over or country retreat.
However on arriving in Eddleston you become somewhat disorientated, the village is small and in seconds you've passed through it so where exactly are the signposts of this large hotel? Well I will put you out f your misery because they are nowhere to be found! Hidden by Scottish Magic Mist me 'thinks the village either does not want you to know this place is there or the De Vere wishes to remain anonymous. Thankfully I already knew about this and so duly instructed a left turn at the Horseshoe pub (coming south from Edinburgh).
The driveway is impressive winding through beautiful paddocks that house geese, horses and alpaca's! I cant honestly say I have seen an alpaca before this visit and will just comment that they are the oddest looking animal! Almost like a cross bread between a llama and a poodle.
Autumn was a perfect time to visit, the hotel boasts 25 acres of land to roam around in and take country walks not to mention stunning scenery and a picturesque location. As you get out of your car with your back to the castle itself the view was amazing, golds, reds and yellows in the foreground with rolling hills in the background and the setting sun just placing an unreal eeriness on the whole place.
The silence was equally staggering, you are very much isolated here, an odd feeling in itself when I am used to city hustle and bustle but I know people love tranquillity. Sometimes being contained in a cosy country retreat is idyllic and I hoped Barony's Castles facilities would live up to the job of making this a perfect getaway.
"Prepare to meet thy maker"
Ahh I hear the Dooyoo reader cry now we're getting to the reason for these ghostly references she keeps making! This delightfully uninviting slogan is written above the door to the reception. Yes really. "
A large dose of trepidation to go with your overnight stay sir?" Its hardly what you expect at hotel, already slightly unnerved by the clearly historical building this slogan sent me over the edge. "This is the type of place they film horror movies and you laugh at the characters for ever having stayed there in the first place," I whispered as my overnight bag on wheels disturbed the rabbits.
The Castle is breathtaking to look at (aside from the slogan) and I can well imagine this being a great setting for a wedding as the photographs would be fabulous. The Castle itself was built in 1536 and was a mansion house (anything of that age is bound to be haunted?!) and I must confess it has been tastefully restored on the outside.
Taking a deep breath and entering the reception we also found that this area was modern and tastefully decorated. The receptionist was very helpful and warm and made our reservations for dinner. I had almost forgotten that I was preparing for my death!
**The haunted toilet**
Our bedrooms were on the first floor and already we could see a change in the standard of decoration, the hotel is also used as the Scottish Ambulance College, quiet at the weekends but our rooms were beside the college teaching rooms. As you expect in all Scottish hotels a tartan carpet is a standard feature.
Our rooms were next door to one another and as we entered the first thing that hit us was the cold! The window had been left wide open, its October, nearly dark outside and the windows are open? Maybe im fussy but the radiator was also off which meant we had to spend five minutes shivering while it warmed up.
The double room was of a good size and decently decorated with a tv and tea, coffee, hairdryer and ironing board facilities. The bathroom was a good size with all the complimentary bits and bobs you expect but there was mould growing round the bath, a feature I find a lot of hotels struggle with. I know its common but it always makes me think its not clean! Then I used the toilet, I did nothing unusual but on flushing the sound that emerged was unthinkable!! (Room 102 in case anyones interested!) It actually roared and caused the walls to shake and then persisted in its roaring for three minutes!! (God knows what my boyfriends parents thought was happening!). I ran out and shut the door but it continued. At first I though maybe it hadn't been used for a while but no this continued throughout our stay causing me to nearly have a heart attack at 4am when I forgot and flushed and jumped out of my skin with the resulting noise.
There is nothing like waking your fellow guests!
The rooms on the whole were well done as I do appreciate that this is an old building so the hotel is working under different restraints, to relax after my toilet fright we decided to go and have a swim.
**Cold enough to chill you to your bones**
Heated changing room floors were a nice touch and the pool, gym and sauna area all looked very nice. It was around 6pm on a Saturday evening so you would have thought all systems would be go for this popular time of day, but of course it can never be that easy.
Stepping into the pool it was cold, I attempted to get warm by swimming around but that failed. I climbed into the hot tub, I had to climb out to turn the hot tub on however the hot tub wasn't hot! Using the same water from the swimming pool it was essentially just a bubbling hypothermia tub, I shivered for a few minutes then gave up and tried the sauna. This too wasn't hot but was warmer than the pool, a sign outside indicated it's on a timer but after ten minutes and some several equally chilly companions we decided to investigate.
In order to turn the sauna on you have to leave the sauna and pool area and walk to the gym (complete in shivering swimwear) then locate the phone which is under a blue light and call reception asking them to turn it on. Ok I can put up with that but reception has a camera covering the pool and the sauna so surely can see all of us stood outside then racing around looking for the magical blue light? Or maybe that whole set up is for the receptionist's entertainment.
**The mystery shrouding dinner service**
Being lucky enough to have dinner included in our stay we happily trotted down at 8.30 to the hotel's Bothy restaurant. Very tastefully decorated and bustling but not busy. The menu prices are very reasonable and a three course dinner from an extensive menu was £22 per head. The menu featured some interesting dishes like roasted fig and parma ham along with some decent Scottish fayre to keep the tourists happy. The food was good but not excellent not helped by the incredibly slow service. We waited 40 minutes for starters to arrive and I had to ask for bread as all the other tables had it provided except ours. It wasn't a disaster for us as we were having a leisurely time of it but by the time we finished it was 11.30! Who knows the reason for the delay, it was never explained and when your on a freebie you don't want to make a fuss.
**The angelic aspects**
It may sound very negative but I had a fabulous time and left very relaxed apart from getting nervous over the last few toilet flushes. The highlights were:
- Jaw dropping scenery
- Whiskey to have on your porridge at breakfast (full cooked and on till 11am)
- Historical location, great photo opportunities
- That it cost us no more than a bottle of wine
**The Devilish details**
- Improve the slow service (it hadn't got any better by the next morning)
- Keep the rooms warmish in winter
- Decorate the rest of the hotel to the high standard of the reception and you could have people flocking
Offers on at the moment
In case I haven't put you off and I hope I haven't as it wasn't all bad.....
Amazing offer on at the moment 2 nights b&b for £99 which includes dinner in the restaurant on one night, tickets to Brintannia or the bus tour, lunch and wine at Malmaison on one day and free whiskey on arrival.
So I am giving it three stars but if your prepared to settle for stunning scenery, good food but with a wait and an ok bedroom I can highly recommend this.
Summary: A nice break but would return based on the service
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