The first day of July was upon us, Cheeky and I were at King’s Cross about to board the 12:20 train to Berwick-Upon-Tweed. It is hard to beat train travel when sitting in first class, with wine on tap, good conversation and the lush green British landscape speeding by. The 4:20 hour journey flew by, before we knew it we were climbing aboard our Range Rover chariot at Berwick-Upon-Tweed and being whisked off over the border into the Lammermuir Hills in North Berwickshire. Our destination for the weekend was to be the Grade I listed Cranshaws Castle. The castle or ‘Peel Tower’ dating back to 1350 was originally built to watch over the Scottish and English borders. The Castle has only just recently been restored to stunning perfection with beautiful interiors whilst retaining many original features. Despite being built to keep the locals in check the exterior has quite a quaint look about it, whilst the interiors are cosy and as the Danes say ‘Hygge’!
We were shown up the spiral staircase to the ‘Pink Room’ which would be home for the next few days. It had a very old world feel, as with most old building there was not a straight line in sight. If once upon a time the castle had been cold, dark and damp, it certainly was not any more. With its own sitting room, Super-King bed, roll-top-bath and 3 foot thick walls we felt very safe from the outside world. Once settled in it was time to adjourn up one flight of stairs to the drawing room in the centre of the castle. This really is the heart of the castle. With the roaring log fire, sofas to sink into plus secret bar hidden in the walls, one could while away the hours sipping on Gin and Tonics putting the world to rights. We were excited when it was time for dinner, but secretly I was looking forward to returning to my cosy spot on the sofa.
We made our way down to the ground floor open dining room/kitchen. Once again this is a place one could spend many hours with friends, with thick bright white stone walls, large wood burning stove, simple interior design and a long oak table with comfy dining chairs in the centre. What I loved about this space was how intimate it was; we could watch, smell and experience our food being created for us by our private Michelin star trained chef Frédéric.
The food he produced over the weekend was sensational. Using a lot of local produce where possible he served up dishes to feed the taste buds, the nose as well as the eyes. We dined on such delights as fresh mackerel with parmesan crisp, Foie Gras, Red Snapper with Samphire grass or Lamb with sweet potato mash, asparagus and beetroot.
Each evening we would retire to our favourite spots on the sofa whilst the very dapper Chris and Calum looked after our every whim and desire. Like personal butlers they worked their socks off keeping the whole place ticking and they always made sure that our vats of G&T were never empty and that there were logs roaring in the hearth. These two brought the castle to life making it feel like home for the weekend.
The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast, it was time to explore the local lands by foot. We meandered our way through the local fields trying to avoid upsetting the local herd of cows. With rolling hills, patchwork forests, huge blue skies with wind turbines in the distance it is hard not to unwind and forget about the rest of the world when wandering through the Lammermuir Hills. Once back at the castle we jumped into the car and made our way through the beautiful Scottish landscape to one of the local bothies owned by Cranshaws Castle estate. It was off the beaten track and across the moors down to this little bothy where lunch and some bubbles had been prepared by Frédéric. Despite the howling wind It was a restful little place once the log fire was lit, and so we sat down to more fabulous food and the most delicious homemade gluten free brownie. Is that ‘seconds anyone?’ I hear… Oh, was that ‘Thirds?’ Nom Nom!
Later that afternoon it was time for a culinary class with Frédéric back at the castle. On the menu was Sushi with a Scottish twist! Sushi is something that Cheeky and I love and game is always at the top of our menu selections so this combination was to be a marriage made in heaven. First we made Maki with pheasant, rice, cucumber, onion and mango slices followed by Uramaki with venison, rice, carrot, cucumber with toasted sesame seeds. Wow! Our french chef had hit on something spectacular mixing Japanese with Scottish cuisine. What a great way to spend the afternoon.
Altogether the castle sleeps eight people and guests can tailor make they stay with as little or as much assistance as one requires from self catering all the way to fully catered services, though I would highly recommend the assistance of Chris, Calum and Frédéric. As for activities, there is so much to do in the area from hiking and picnics to hunting, fishing, sailing or just sight seeing. Personally, I would love to return for Christmas with the family for long wintery walks followed by hot toddies by the fire and the christmas tree, nothing could be more cosy.
After, our weekend at Cranshaw Castle we really did not want to step back on the train back to London. I am sure that we could have locked the doors and fended off the next guests with their siege engines for quite some time, after all we still had enough food to sit it out for a fortnight! So what made this place so special? Firstly, I would say the venue is simply gorgeous with attention to detail having played a large part of its making. Secondly the staff were just fantastic; warm and friendly it was a pleasure to spend time in their presents.