Five go mad in Beattock
KIRSTY BARR AND FRIENDS ENJOY A TOUCH OF GRAND COUNTRY LIVING AT MOFFAT MANSION HOUSE IN DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY
IT isn’t a long drive from Glasgow to Beattock – it’s a painless and quitefrey scenic hour down the A74(M). Unfortunately, this is long enough to allow for a complete rendition of The Sound Of Music as we head over the hills. Our passenger, who has arrived with a pre-installed hangover in the back seat, groans. As we head into Dumfries and Galloway it starts to snow heavily and, as if just to prove how particularly Scottish the weather is feeling, five minutes later it abruptly stops snowing and the sun comes out. This reminds me that I’ve forgotten my anorak.
After an hour we accidentally arrive in the small and picturesque town of Moffat, having gone in slightly the wrong direction following an earlier minor panic at a roundabout. A quick recce later, we make our way on the short distance to the mansion.
Moffat Mansion House is a stunning mid-19th-century Category B-listed Victorian house set in 7.6 acres of parkland, just outside the quiet village of Beattock, Dumfries and Galloway and just 50 miles from Glasgow and Edinburgh.
We arrive for a midweek visit – a group of five friends from Glasgow, some of us up for a bit of walking and exploring but mostly here to enjoy the scenery, tranquillity and share food and drink large amounts of wine in the luxury to which we are not really that accustomed.
On arrival, a friendly local housekeeper shows us around the place. Two large dining rooms, a full-size snooker table, a grand piano, an enormous new kitchen and seven bedrooms. It’s easy to get lost in, and the whole lot is resplendent in antique furniture.
We are impressed, and just about maintain a level of decorum and resist the urge to run round the bedrooms “bagsying” them until the housekeeper has left. Luckily the rooms are all laid out to a very high standard and there are a good number of bathrooms. We manage to unpack without falling out.
Exploring the house gives everyone the chance to pretend to be in Downton Abbey. The refurbishment of the house, carried out in 2016, retained many of the building’s original period features: its fireplaces, cornicing, balustrades, rich oak panelling and sweeping staircases. Largely the details have been lovingly preserved: paintings, bookcases filled with beautiful collections, and the former bells board – an array of bells rung by the masters to summon their servants. These serve as a nod to the house’s grand past. There’s the odd incongruous bit of furniture or artwork here and there, but the overall effect is one of opulence.
Eventually two of the more active types among us head off exploring in their (remembered) waterproofs for a constitutional to the Grey Mare’s Tail – a local 60 metre hanging valley waterfall. The weather, meanwhile, has had a predictable fit of pique and taken it upon itself to rain.
The rest of us peer out at the downpour and decide to make good use of the vast kitchen and the roaring wood-burning stove in the living room before tackling anything as ambitious as going outside without an anorak. If, however, you are a walker, a birder, a nature or history lover, and have suitable gear, there is lots to do in the area, and even strolling around the grounds holds rewards.
Some celebratory holiday drinks and nibbles and a few logs on the fire later, the walkers reappear with grand tales of The Outside and a packet of wagon wheels. The rest of us resolve to be more adventurous tomorrow and start on dinner.
No-one really knows how to work the Aga but it appears to be on and we pretend to take charge. Some time later, courtesy of the grand dining room, company, candlebras and wonderful cooking, dinner is exceptional and the evening passes with only one disaster.
The area around Moffat is a designated Dark Skies area. This means
that on one hand it is absolutely fantastic for wandering outside and looking at the Milky Way (there’s also a telescope available in the property if you are so inclined). On the other hand, stargazing does create opportunities for toppling down three steps I hadn’t noticed. The stone stairs break my fall, but not (quite) my arm. It is very painful but some nice red wine makes it feel better.
A delightful stay and several meals, walks, and remarkably few incidents or arguments later, it is time to leave.
Before hitting the road three of us head into Moffat once again and attempt to find lunch. A vegan, a gluten-free vegetarian and a carnivore walk into a bar … And walk out again.
A lack of punchlines aside, you might want to consider bringing things for packed lunches if you have any strict dietary requirements, as while there are many good pubs and cafes around, the meal options we found were quite traditional (although we latterly have heard very good reports of Brodie’s Restaurant and Wine Bar). As the house is self-catering, this shouldn’t trouble you, there’s a wide range of shops and supermarkets in the town where you can find whatever you need.
Moffat also features a conservation area, a coaching stop and a refurbished museum. In the town there are art galleries, theatres and shopping. Events throughout the year include the Moffat Gala and the world-famous Moffat Sheep Races (where you can place your bets on knitted jockeys on the finest racing sheep as they gallop down the High Street).
All in all, a wonderful time, highly recommended. But don’t forget your anorak. Kirsty Barr and friends were guests of Moffat Manor. For more information and bookings call 01259 235554 or visit
Walkers venturing past the Grey Mare’s Tail, one of Scotland’s finest waterfalls, can view the beautiful Loch Skeen.
Moffat Mansion House nestles in 7.6 acres of parkland, offering a tranquil escape.