Saturday, 20 August 2016

Polite Society

James Hogg
This week we learned about James Hogg.  For those of you who aren’t au fait with slightly obscure Scottish poets (really, you should have paid more attention at school!) let me tell you a little about him.  He was a shepherd who had a tough start in life. While he was tending his sheep he penned the odd poem or two which were so good that they caught the eye of Sir Walter Scott, with whom he became great friends.

Sir Walter tried to support his friend and introduced him to the right people in the right circles but, according to the monument we were sat next to, James found “polite society” a bit too much and opted instead to stick to the shepherding with occasional bits of poetry on the side.

The reason this struck a chord as we were sat there pondering life in the beautiful sunshine around St Mary’s Loch is because we knew we were heading up market that evening for dinner and a stay in the utterly fabulous Horsehoe Inn in Eddleston, just north of Peebles (yes we will get to Edinburgh eventually, I told you we weren’t in a hurry!)

There’s a large car park between St Mary’s Loch and Loch of the Lowes where you can pause for a drink or just slouch in the sun and watch the world go by.  We visited on one of the hottest days of the year so I was tempted by a dip until I heard the howls from those braving the chilly waters.  That’s when we took a wander around and instead encountered James Hogg and his poetry.

Loch of the Lowes

St Mary's Loch

I must admit I did feel a little self conscious when we pulled into the carpark of the Horseshoe Inn – Delores is far from inconspicuous and is currently spattered with the blood of a million midges – but we were welcomed warmly and immediately sat down with a huge complimentary pot of tea and a couple of slices of cake.

Becoming concerned that our dusty hiking attire was lowering the standards somewhat we scuttled off for a shower and dug out the nicest clothes we’d bought with us ready for dinner.

Now, here’s the thing – I wish I’d paid more attention to Master Chef because then I’d probably be able to give a review that properly does the food there justice.  We both decided on the taster menu to push us out of our comfort zones and ensure we tried things we wouldn’t normally eat.  The wine list is extensive but the wine waiter (am I meant to call him a sommelier?) was kind and helpful and recommended a bottle that would suit both the meal and our pockets.

The nicest thing about eating in a nice restaurant is the extra space between tables – nothing I hate more than being rammed in so close to every other diner that you could steal a chip from their plate if you wanted.  Not that there were chips here, oh no – here’s a few of the things we were treated to:

  • ·         Cured sea reared trout with cauliflower cous-cous and egg yolk
  • ·         Cured smoked duck with cucumber, beetroot and marinated tofu
  • ·         Mackerel and vegetable Escabeche
  • ·         Beef sirloin with carrot puree, broccoli and wild mushrooms
  • ·         Cashel blue with apricot and ginger chutney and celery
  • ·         Passion fruit and pink peppercorn arctic roll with raspberries

That wasn’t the whole thing – there was plenty more besides, but I do try to keep the blog short and punchy!

To our humble palates the whole thing tasted fabulous – I was particularly impressed by the smoked tofu which I absolutely expected to hate but which turned out to be a mouthful of tangy, smoky yummyness – see, that’s what I mean about pushing yourself to eat stuff you wouldn’t normally bother with, sometimes it can lead to wonderful surprises.

I’m not a puddings person but my favourite was the arctic roll – it was just so very pretty and tasted as good as it looked.  Again, I would never previously have ordered anything that combined ice cream with peppercorns but it really worked.  As Gregg Wallace might say “That’s banging on the door of divine that is

For us The Horseshoe Inn isn’t the sort of place we’d go to for “everyday” dining, but it is the perfect place for a romantic retreat.  It’s just a short drive from Edinburgh, or you can catch the bus, so if you’re visiting the city definitely take a detour out there to spoil yourself, and don’t just stay for food – the rooms are huge, smart, clean and contemporary (though we did consider knocking points off for the lack of bourbon creams in the bedroom, our usual measure of hotel greatness).

Pretty much all of the food is sourced from local farms which is a great way of small businesses supporting other small businesses.  Even the breakfasts were a work of art with local bacon, sausage and homemade blackpudding.

Replete, we headed down into Peebles for a pootle around; like Biggar they have an excellent Town Trail Guide which will tell you all you need to know and, if you’re of a shopping ilk, there are plenty of small interesting shops to nosey around in.

Things to do in Peebles

River Tweed, Peebles

I’d like to tell you we’re off to Edinburgh now, but we’re not.  Next stop is Crail for a bit of peace and quiet and a campsite with a heated outdoor pool.  You can’t say we’re not optimists...

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