Published: 21/02/2013 02:00 - Updated: 19/02/2013 17:54

Stepping back in time at country retreat

Shieldhill Castle became a hotel in 1959 after over 700 years as a family seat.
Shieldhill Castle became a hotel in 1959 after over 700 years as a family seat.

In our second visit to the Scottish Borders, Helen Bushnell tells us about Shieldhill Castle nestled in the heart of the countryside

PULLING up to Shieldhill Castle Hotel nestled in peaceful countryside in the upper Clyde Valley, I felt like I was arriving on a movie set.

Prior to becoming a hotel in 1959, Shieldhill Castle was the seat of the Chancellor family for over 750 years and boasts surroundings so charming and elegant it’s as though they have been untouched over the centuries. It looked like a scene straight out of a big screen period drama. Rolling my suitcase into the check-in desk, I was met by the sight of a full suit of armour, which added to the character of the place.

The friendly receptionist showed us to our room, Bonnymuir, located a couple of levels up a sweeping staircase carpeted in red with a yellow crest motif.

We stopped to peek in a honeymoon suite – where I could picture a bride feeling like a princess. With it’s 7ft gold leaf bed, open plan double jacuzzi and windows spanning the gorgeous grounds, it had the wow factor.

Our room was spacious, included an en-suite bathroom and black and silver themed decor giving a modern feel to its original features including large fireplace and bay windows overlooking the grounds. It also included an antique dressing table and

wardrobe and wall-mounted flatscreen TV.

However, I noticed only one window shutter worked and the bathroom door did not close very easily.

Shieldhill Castle is a four star hotel near Quothquan village, around 45 minutes drive from Edinburgh and Glasgow.

It’s very much a country retreat, and is about four miles from the market town of Biggar, which is associated with several historical names including William Wallace. Renovated by owner Mary Yuill, it features 16 bedrooms while its converted Victorian stables house 10 further rooms. The hotel also has a chapel and a 300 capacity marquee available for weddings, private functions, and conferences.

In the castle grounds and surrounding areas, activities include falconry, paintball, game shooting, clay pigeon shooting, fishing, golf and even helicopter flights and hot air balloon rides.

Legend has it the castle is haunted by the "Grey Lady", though I can’t say I met her during our stay!

In the evening we were welcomed into the lounge by one of the many polite, well groomed and efficient staff members. We poured over the menu with a drink by the roaring fire. We then moved to the Chancellor restaurant, awarded two AA Rosettes.

The menu included five choices for each course at a cost £24.99 for two courses, and £29.99 for three.

For starter, I selected the gateau of haggis with malt whisky sauce – a mouth-watering stack of haggis, neeps and tatties. I then opted for the 8oz sirloin steak sizzler with hand cut fries and peppercorn sauce. It seriously sizzled as it was served on a hot plate, along with onions mushrooms and tomatoes. It also included a sizable boat of sauce and generous helping of chips.

Meanwhile, my travelling companion, my mum, selected the cream of leek soup starter and pan seared chicken breast, fondant potatoes and creamed leek sauce. It came with green beans, carrots and broccoli, but unfortunately not much sauce. Afterwards, we sat in the relaxing atmospheric lounge enjoying coffee along with other guests.

The following night, the menu had changed only slightly. I opted for pressed ham hough terrine with homemade chutney and oatcakes and oven roasted salmon with spinach, mash potato and a tarragon butter sauce. Although the salmon was tasty in itself, I would have preferred something more than butter with it. For dessert, I enjoyed the sticky toffee pudding, which was delicious.

On both nights, the service was prompt and efficient.

For me Shieldhill provided an extra special getting away from it all experience – and allowed me to travel back in a time too.

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