We at Scottish Field tend to confine ourselves to matters north of the border for obvious reasons – we largely do what it says on the tin.
However, we occasionally venture outside our environs, especially in response to queries from readers.
As it happens, over the past few months we’ve had several enquiries from readers asking where they can go just south of the border in order to escape some of the more tiresome strictures emanating from Holyrood. So various enquiries led me to Chillingham Manor near Alnwick, an hour and 45 minutes from Edinburgh down the A1, or just under an hour by train.
This is a newly opened bed and breakfast housed in a beautiful old manor house which was fully restored ahead of its reopening in August 2020. The bare bones are that is has just three enormous en suite bedrooms with king/super king size beds, a large dining room, plus two similarly proportioned public rooms, both of which have roaring log fires and cavernous sofas, with one having a television and the other not.
But that quick precis doesn’t really do the place justice. This quirky manor house is more like a Wolseley Lodge in that it’s pristine but not in the usual manner of an upmarket hotel – this is a set-up so welcoming that you could actually envisage yourself living here.
There is, of course, none of the stress of actually having to run a home, with the annoying admin and day-to-day running of the place taken care of by Scot Mhairi Seymour, who only recently moved here from the Borders. She is the most convivial of hostesses and nothing is too much trouble.
As far as the food goes, breakfast is a monumental affair, with as many of the ingredients as possible sourced locally. The voluminous “full Northumbrian” is a case in point, with sausages and black pudding made by the local butcher, eggs from a neighbouring farm and locally sourced mushrooms.
There is, however, a substantial array of choices, including bacon stotties, smashed avocado on sourdough bread, and Aga pancakes cooked to order. This is designed to be a relaxed affair, so you can be up at the crack of dawn or leave it up to 10.30. Brunch can also be provided up to midday if you ask beforehand.
One other thing worth contemplating is six friends or family taking all three bedrooms, at which stage you not only get access to more of the house, but Mhairi will also cook dinner (and it also means you can bring well-behaved dogs). We were lucky enough to try Mhairi’s evening meal, and I’d heartily recommend it.
Otherwise, there are several options for your evening meal, with the Percy Arms pub in nearby Chatton proving particularly popular. Not that there is any shortage of things to do or, for that matter, places to visit during the day. Lindisfarne (check the tides) and the amazing gardens at Alnwick Castle are both within twenty minutes’ drive, as are Bamburgh Castle, Cheswick beach and Berwick-upon-Tweed. A popular activity is taking Bill Shiel’s boat to the Farne Islands, while there’s plenty of fishing on the nearby Breamish and Till rivers, several local shoots and if you like walking then St Cuthberts Way is minutes away.
Closer to home the 13th century and reputedly haunted Chillingham Castle (owned by the parents-in-law of former spin doctor Dominic Cummings) is literally a quick stroll away, as is the visitor centre for the famously wild Chillingham Cattle.
This charming corner of north Northumberland is a quiet area that manages to avoid the bustle of the nearby Northumbrian coast. All in all, it was a very pleasant couple of days away.
Bed and breakfast at Chillingham Manor starts from £130 per night.
Chillingham Manor, Chillingham, Alnwick, NE66 5NP.
01668 215614 or 07831 121416