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Travel & Holidays in later life

Scotland- Biggar- Where to stay - The Elphinstone Hotel

Biggar is a town and former burgh in the Scottish country of Lanarkshire. It has a variety of one off shops, great places to eat and more museums than you can shake a stick at. We sent Alan and Louise Mairs to check out the Elphinstone Hotel and the town itself.

From our home in Glasgow Biggar is a short but pleasant drive along the A72 tourist route taking in the fertile Clyde Valley and passing through the towns of Crossford and Lanark. It’s beautiful countryside, the roads lined with drystane dykes and there’s the occasional glimpse of the River Clyde.

The Elphinstone Hotel is where it has been for the last four hundred years, right in the heart of Biggar, on the High Street. Locals just call it ‘The Elph’ and the owners have given that name to their newly refurbished public bar which stocks a good range of beers (including local beers) and spirits.

We arrived to a very warm welcome from the friendly staff who directed us to our spacious family room, with double bed and bunk beds. The room has a lovely en suite bathroom with shower, thick luxurious towels and bottled toiletries rather than the usual sachets one normally finds in corporate hotels.

There are eleven bedrooms from family sized to double and single. All rooms have digital tv, tea and coffee, hairdryer and free wi-fi. A selection of board games is available for guests to use at their leisure.

The restaurant, which extends to three separate rooms on the ground floor, has a great atmosphere and extensive and varied menu with vegetarian options. Most of the produce is locally sourced. Their meat comes from the local butchers and the ice-cream from ‘Taylors of Biggar’. On our first evening we enjoyed a fabulous three-course dinner along with their excellent house red – a choice of Sauvignon or Merlot. The Merlot was lovely and fruity and an excellent accompaniment to our starters of chicken pakora and crispy haggis.

Our mains were pork and black pudding stack with vegetables and cider cream sauce and succulent rib eye steak with mushroom and onion accompaniment served with thick cut chips. Both dishes were cooked to absolute perfection and the portions were generous. For dessert we just had to try the Taylors ice-cream and the staff were happy to respond to our request and put a drizzle of Amaretto liqueur over it.

Needless to say, we slept very well in our nice comfy bed and the next morning we rose early to have a delicious breakfast of orange juice, cereal, toast and perfectly cooked poached eggs, sausage, black pudding etc.

Feeling heartily well fed and satisfied, we set off to explore the town.

Biggar Kirk is two minutes walk along Kirkstyle; the oldest pre-reformation church in Scotland dating back to 1546. From its elevated position in the town, there are magnificent views of the surrounding hills. The gravestones in the churchyard date back hundreds of years and we spent quite some time browsing the inscriptions. Around 10.30am, Moira appeared to open the doors of the church and invited us in to view the architecture and the fabulous stained glass windows, which date from Pre-Raphaelite (1850’s) era, up to the present day. The church is open to the public during the summer months of July and August and is well worth a visit.

Our mid morning coffee break was spent in the recently upgraded Gillespie Centre in the High Street. Cheap and cheerful but great quality!

Curiously, for its size, Biggar has a fair number of small museums including Moat Park Heritage Centre, Gladstone Court Museum, The Albion Museum and The Greenhill Covenanters’ Museum. The local council in partnership with local businesses are in the process of creating ‘The New museum of Biggar & Upper Clydesdale which will open in the summer of 2015. Worth a visit is the Biggar Gasworks Museum and the Puppet Museum on Broughton Road, near the country park. A walk down this way will lead you to the golf course and the caravan park and a very pleasant stroll past the duck pond with great views of the surrounding country. Follow the tourist signs and you are led back into the High Street.

Biggar is an old market town and its main street has an amazing selection of thriving cafes, gift shops, sandwich bars, fashion boutiques and galleries (including the excellent Corn exchange Art Gallery directly across the road from the Elphinstone Hotel.)

A few yards up the road we met Kieron O’Neill opening his new music shop, Arcadia, in St James’ Square where he stocks a fine array of vintage guitars and other instruments. Across the road there is an interesting poetry garden. Look out for quotes from Norman McCaig, Hugh MacDairmid, Edwin Morgan and Robert Burns amongst others.

We enjoyed our short visit and our stay at the Elphinstone Hotel and left feeling relaxed and re-charged. The proprietors, Robert and Janette Allen, work extremely hard to provide an excellent service and we think it is an absolute treasure waiting to be discovered in the heart of the Lanarkshire countryside.


 

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