“ Address: Duns / Berwickshire / Scotland „
"I'm the King of the Castle and you're the Dirty Rascal!" That's what I could have been saying to you last month, when I was staying at the Pavilion Lodge in Duns Castle. For our honeymoon, my wife fancied something a little bit different and Pavilion Lodge seemed to fit the bill nicely.
Duns Castle is located on the English side of the Scottish Border country, just 15 miles or so from Berwick upon Tweed. It's ideal for exploring both the far north of England and parts of Scotland. The town itself, though, is very small and lacking in facilities, so you will need a car to get around to the bigger places nearby.
The cottage is managed by English Country Cottages - a large firm responsible for letting out holiday cottages all over the country. Once we had identified the place we wished to stay, it was simply a case of choosing the dates we wanted and making the booking online - a nice easy process.
Prices vary depending on the time of year you stay, but are around £300 for a 7 night break. You pay half the money up front, with the remainder due approximately 2 months before the start of your holiday. Payment can be made by cheque, debit card or credit card, although be warned, there is a surcharge of £2.50 on each payment made by credit card..
When the final bill is settled, a letter is sent by post detailing how to get to your cottage and any special arrangements on arrival (for example, where to collect the key from).
The unusual feature of Pavilion Lodge is that it's actually a castle tower - part of the old gatehouse which guarded the entrance to Duns Castle. There was just something very appealing about living for a week in a round tower. The lodge itself sits on Duns Castle estate and more or less the whole of the estate is accessible and provides a nice environment for pleasant, gentle walks.
The first thing you need to know about Pavilion Lodge is that it's not suitable for families. It only holds two people and probably isn't suitable for elderly or infirm visitors, due to the circular staircase that leads up to the sole bedroom.
The rooms themselves are a bit of a mixed bag. The bedroom and the lounge are very comfortable and pleasant. The bedroom is decorated and furnished nicely and there's a reasonably large wardrobe, chairs, bedside furniture and so on. Be warned, though: take your own coat hangers. We assumed some would be provided, but there was a grand total of just 4 in the whole place!
Because the bedroom is on the first floor, you get a great view of the estate. Although one of the main routes to the castle runs past the Lodge, it's not at all noisy - very few cars go past and the most you have to worry about is the bleating of the sheep in the fields outside! The only other disruption came from a fan built into the window. Initially, we didn't realise this could be closed, so spent the first two nights listening to it rattle around. It was a bit like having a manic hamster in the room endlessly going round on its wheel and we were very glad when we worked out how to stop it!
The lounge is similarly very comfortable. Although small, there's enough room for two double sofas, a glass dining table and plenty of space left to move around. There's an open fireplace, although the heating system is very efficient (and set to on a timer switch), so we never felt the need to try and light it. There's a small TV and video player provided, and even a Freeview Digital TV box, which was a surprise. No DVD player, though... There's even a telephone with a direct line so you can keep in touch with friends or family whilst you're there or they can phone you. You simply pay for any calls you make.
What lets Pavilion Lodge down is the kitchen and the bathroom, both of which are very basic. The bathroom consists of a toilet, bath, sink and very basic shower - that's all. OK, technically, speaking, that's all you need, but there's been no attempt made to decorate the bathroom in warm colours or make it look pleasant - it's just bog standard white everywhere! It's also downstairs which, when you need the toilet in the middle of the night is a real pain to get to using the narrow, winding staircase.
The kitchen is probably worse doesn't really encourage you to do much cooking. There's a tiny fridge (about the size of a standard microwave)but a large freezer, which seems odd to me - surely most people staying for a week are more likely to want to put things in a fridge than a freezer? There's also an electric cooker and hob, microwave and washing machine. What lets the kitchen down is the number of things missing or faulty. There's no baking tin, only a very small range of pans, no oven tray (and the oven only has one shelf, making advanced cooking impossible!), or many other things that you would expect to find in a standard holiday home.
The kitchen also lacked some of the things it said would be provided. For example, our introductory letter said that a small amount of washing up liquid would be provided on arrival. We got there find there wasn't any. Similarly, there were very strict instructions that rubbish had to be put in the black bin bags provided... except there weren't any.
Two of the biggest annoyances were the hot water (or lack of it) and the washing machine, which didn't work. Although the heating was set to come on for abut 8 hours every day, the water never seemed to heat up at all - at best it would run luke warm for a couple of seconds, before turning cold again. This made washing up (or washing generally) extremely difficult! In fairness to the estate staff, when we reported this problem, they came almost immediately to fix it. It turned out that someone had messed around with the timer switch, effectively turning off the hot water. However, you do feel someone should have checked this prior to our arrival. The washing machine, meanwhile was just dead and remained so throughout our stay.
Pavilion Lodge feels like it is a work in progress. The bedroom and lounge have been completed and furnished to a high standard and are welcoming and comfortable. The kitchen and bathroom are still waiting to be done and the only word to describe them is basic. It's unfortunate, because these two rooms (together with the hot water situation) really drag the overall rating down.
Another thing to be wary of is that Pavilion Lodge imposes lots of extra charges if you do certain things. For example, we stayed in March, and there was a fuel surcharge to cover the fact that the heating is on for longer. Fair enough: I have no problem with that, and it was made clear to us at the time of booking. However, there are others too. Want the heating on all day? That'll be £5 a day extra. Want to have towels provided? That's another £3 per person. Want to use the open fire? Well, you'll have to go out and buy some coal from the local supplier. Of course, there's nothing wrong with these charges, since you're the one that benefits from them, but they are "hidden" until you get there. If you took them all up, you could easily add an extra £50-100 onto the cost of your holiday, which is quite a significant amount.
Overall, Pavilion Lodge was a quirky little place to stay, but a number of faults, together with some basic facilities makes it difficult to recommend for anything other than its novelty value.
If the kitchen and bathroom were brought up to the same standard as the bedroom and lounge, Pavilion Lodge would be a pleasant holiday cottage for two. As it is, the basic level of these facilities drags it down. Nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to stay there long term
Duns Castle Estate
Tel: (01361) 883 211
E-Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright SWSt 2008
This unique, stone-built, two-storey lodge cottage at the base of a high stone arch was renovated to provide warm and comfortable accommodation, access to the extensive grounds, such as the glorious woodland, hill vistas, a nature reserve and a splendid lake.