the elphinstone, biggar, hotel review

One of my favourite things about living in Edinburgh is the versatility you can find just by leaving the City and going no more than an hour afield – go east, you get the beautiful beaches of Gullane, Longniddry and North Berwick; go north and you can find the “Kingdom of Fife” with its beautiful towns (not to mention the impressive bridges over which you travel to get there); go west and you can be at one of the most famous stretches of water in the world: Loch Lomond. South, now the south is quite like no other as the roads stretch out to beautiful country roads, breathtaking scenery, hills and pretty little villages that almost inspire you to move to the country!

We’re lucky to live in West Edinburgh where we have views to the Pentlands to one side and the water between South Queensferry and Fife and those stunning bridges. I was also lucky to grow up in the Scottish Borders which are just over half an hour south of Edinburgh so I know the Borders well. Biggar is a town technically in South Lanarkshire so although it neighbours the Borders, it’s not somewhere I had explored as much as some of the other towns.

I was kindly invited* to stay at the Elphinstone Hotel which is a former coaching inn situated in the heart of Biggar. Despite being stuck behind a big truck for 40 minutes with no opportunities on the country roads to overtake (don’t let that put you off, it just gives you more of a chance to take in the scenery!) it took us no more than an hour to drive the 31 miles south-west to the town.

We set out with Stan for his first ever hotel stay and arrived mid-afternoon to a snowy Biggar, settled into our comfortable family room with a big bed, an additional bunk bed and en-suite bedroom. I must admit, at this stage I felt like I was living a dream and as if I was participating in Four in a Bed; I didn’t quite go as loco as some of its contestants but I did pay a little more attention to detail than I normally would and came up trumps: the room was immaculately clean. Even under the bed was hoovered to within an inch of its life. Classically decorated, the room is cosy and warm if a little on the dated side but suitable for both its price and within its overall setting in the former coach house.

We then took the opportunity to go out and appreciate the real snow – the likes of which you don’t really see in Edinburgh. Poor Stan wasn’t quite so appreciative, we might need to think about snow boots for him in future (!) and he ended up with a little doggy cold afterwards. Whoops.

The town is so quaint and looked even cuter in the snow. Back in the hotel, we went to the dog-friendly bar for a drink and to try to get some of the warmth from the wood burning stove. Back up to our cosy room, we relaxed for a little while in front of the big TV before heading down to the dining room for dinner.

After reading Kirsty at the Monday Project’s review, I was almost tempted to try the Fajita Burger but if I see scampi on the menu, I can’t turn it down. To start, I went full Scottish and opted for the cullen skink – a traditional Scottish dish of smoked haddock soup whilst Pat went for prawn cocktail.

The cullen skink was decadently rich with a flavoursome cream-based soup with chunks of smoked haddock and potato.

Pat’s prawn cocktail was a throw back to its heyday in the 1970s served with brown bread and topped with marie rose sauce. Other than commenting he would have liked the prawns and sauce to be mixed there were no complaints.

For our mains, I of course had to have scampi which is and has always been my favourite pub-grub dish; you can’t really go wrong with scampi (no where has yet beat The Dorset with its homemade scampi in its success) but the scampi and chips were satisfying none-the-less and were the perfect antidote to the richness of the cullen skink.

Pat bravely went for the mixed grill which featured a steak, chicken breast, bacon steak, chips, mushrooms, tomato and peppercorn sauce. His medium steak was cooked to his liking and he almost managed to defeat the whole plate!

After that, there was no way we could even contemplate the dessert menu so we were glad to just have to make a short walk upstairs to undo the top button on our jeans and slob in front of the TV! The bed was very comfortable and if we hadn’t had a dog trying to get on the bed every five minutes I would have had a really good night’s sleep – you might have seen my Instagram stories the following morning which may have featured a few expletives about said night!

(When the little bugger was finally asleep – at 8am!)

I was actually glad when my alarm went off the following morning and took Stan out for a little walk before breakfast.

Back in the dining room, the breakfast is served to your request. They offer all the staples of a Scottish breakfast: lorne sausage, link pork sausages, haggis, black pudding, tattie scones as well as tomatoes, beans and eggs. As well as the cooked breakfast – which you can tailor to your liking – there is also a selection of cereals, juices and jams etc. I went for the full breakfast, minus haggis and with scrambled eggs. I don’t think the breakfast quite lived up to the standard of the dinner the night before but it was decent and filling, just what you need to start your day. The eggs were flavourless so I left them, but everything else was nice enough. When you take into consideration that one night’s stay, including breakfast is between £79.00 and £82.00 for a couple (our family room’s tariff is £92.00) the breakfast was of the quality you would expect for the price.

The family run hotel is welcoming and warm with lovely staff and was popular with tourists and locals alike when we visited. For a short break within driving distance of Edinburgh, Biggar is a perfect place and the Elphinstone will keep you well rested, fed and watered to go exploring!

* I was invited for a night’s stay at the Elphinstone with breakfast and dinner included for the purpose of this review but all opinions are, as always, entirely my own.

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