Mansefield, Greenlaw – Scotland

Tomorrow dawned, and called itself today. The date is 7th September 2013. It’s a Saturday, and Australia’s federal election is in full swing.

Even though it was a lovely sunny day, and we knew this to be rare, we slept in til 10.30 without any guilt whatsoever, even about wasting a sunny day. Phip’s B&B room is spacious and elegant, with sumptuous drapes in front of a huge window overlooking a lovely walled garden. Why go out? It’s very damn nice inside!

But go out we did, to Kelso just down the road, and added to the world total of oohs and aahs all along the way. The hills rolled away from lovely valleys, a patchwork all stitched together with hedges and stone walls. Tiny villages clung to narrow lanes and the smell of fresh-turned earth and cow dung was in the air. The weather was bracing but the sun shone in dapples.

One could never have too much of the sight of the landscape here, it is too beautiful for words.

Then into the world of opulence and, if you will (and I do) excess – Floor Castle, the seat of the Duke of Roxburghe. Only photographs can possibly describe this enormous and magical series of conjoined castellated buildings overlooking a sweeping lawn to the River Tweed, with a backdrop of what seems to look like original Scottish forest, and set in a 58,000 acre estate which includes 241 houses.

greenlawBeautiful, surreal, fabulous, stuffed full of fantastic furniture and carpets, a whole room full floor to ceiling with stuffed birds. It’s fantastic that they open it and certain of the surrounding gardens to the public, even though of course they have to do so to make the estate pay. Inside the castle is, according to Phip’s sister in law (who knows) the best collection of porcelain in the country. The paintings weren’t bad either – Gainsborough’s and Reynolds’s, and huge wall tapestries, and riches beyond my wildest imaginings (or wishes for that matter).

Why people have to accumulate so many possessions is beyond me. But the Roxurghe family lives there, the current Duke (the 10th) in his late fifties and a really good bloke, according to the staff – who nonetheless address him as “your Grace”.

The staff were fantastically well-trained, loyal to their Duke and their castle, friendly, and knowledgeable to a fault. Their being present in each room and available to explain everything we asked really gave us value for our visit (which at £7.50 each was much less than Leeds Castle £15.00 each).

The stone estate walls, at least 8 feet high and capped with rounded stones, went for miles and miles and miles. Yes an experience to see it, that’s for sure – and one to remember. But our evening went one step further ..

©jane grieve

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