Five go mad in Beat­tock

KIRSTY BARR AND FRIENDS EN­JOY A TOUCH OF GRAND COUN­TRY LIV­ING AT MOF­FAT MAN­SION HOUSE IN DUMFRIES AND GAL­LOWAY

Sunday Herald Life - - TRAVEL FEATURE -

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.

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