A Night at the Roxburghe Hotel, Part 2

by Keith Savage · 7 comments

Behind the Roxburghe Hotel, Kelso, Scottish Borders, Scotland

Last week I took you on a lavish tour of the Roxburghe Hotel, one of the Scottish Borders’s most atmospheric, luxurious, and comfortable accommodations. I explored my massive suite, soaked in the ambience of the library, and warmed up by the massive hearth fire. Oh, and I ate. A lot. The photos I shared were a small sample of the scads I took during my stay.

But it’s not all eating and sleeping at the Roxburghe Hotel – of course you would be well satisfied if that was the extent of your stay. What truly sets it apart from the crowd are the various activities available to guests. The hotel stands amidst 50,000 acres of the Roxburghe Estate (which also includes Floors Castle), and provides everything from golf to shooting to fishing.

I spent an entire day rambling the Roxburghe’s grounds and trying my hand at fly fishing and skeet shooting, both of which were personal firsts. After a huge breakfast (as detailed in Part 1) I threw on my flannel and hiking boots and left the hotel’s cozy interior to explore. The grounds surrounding the hotel are lovingly tended, and even though spring hadn’t quite set in everything was neat and beautiful.

In short order I found a path that led into the woods behind the hotel. An informational placard showed a map of the grounds with the sites of different activities called out, but I intended to get lost. The morning light shining through the woods was a welcome reminder of hiking in Dunkeld a few years back. Scottish forests are the best places to hike simply for the rich atmosphere.

After passing the Roxburghe’s driving range and a small pond, the trail pushed into deeper woods and split multiple times. You could easily lose yourself without fear of getting lost. Along the way, it seems, my intrusion was noticed, for a roe deer (I think) checked my progress through his forest, and I scared more than a couple grouse from their morning business.

Eventually, I exited the woods to find myself overlooking one of the golf course’s holes. The Roxburghe’s course is a par 72 with more than 7,000 yards off the back tees. As the day was wearing on and I had an appointment, I circled back through another stand of woods to the hotel. There, I had the great fortune to meet Alistair Ferguson, the hotel’s ghillie, who was determined to teach me a thing or two about country sporting. We drove his golf cart over to the shooting range where he introduced me to a pair of beautiful shotguns.

The range provides stands for shooting clay pigeons at different distances, to emulate different fowl. After a brief lesson Alistair was jamming the button and I was blasting the small, black disks out of the sky. I think Alistair is something of a poet at heart, for he compared shooting to ballet more than once. The key is to Arabesque: Keep a straight front leg and put your weight on it, bend at the waist, and follow the clay pigeon even after you pull the trigger. If you look up or stop tracking after shooting, your shot will be behind. With Alistair’s insight and experience, I became a pretty damn good shot in no time.

After an hour of being rained on by clay pigeon fragments (that I had created), we moved on to the fishing pond to try our hands at some fly fishing. Alistair assembled the rod and reel and began teaching me the ins and outs. It’s all in the wrist. There’s a fluidity in the casting that emphasizes your timing, not your strength, for you are letting the weight of the line carry itself out. While I was a natural at the skeet shooting, it took me awhile to nail down the fly fishing basics – keep your elbow close to your body, bring the rod up to 90 degrees, and snap your wrist forward. Over the course of an hour and a half neither of us managed to catch anything despite others pulling in trout. Such is the fisherman’s life.

The sun was setting by the time I returned to the hotel for a dram of Macallan 10 and a pipe out on the chilly, windy terrace. What a day it had been! I thanked Alistair for all his guidance and the many hilarious, cheeky stories he told throughout our time together. I couldn’t remember another day in Scotland where I had not left my accommodation and had such a memorable time.

It was a real pleasure staying at the Roxburghe Hotel. I can’t recommend it highly enough for you the next time you’re in the Scottish Borders.

Disclosure: The Roxburghe Hotel provided me with complimentary activities. All thoughts and opinions expressed here, as always, are my own.

Stanford OliverNo Gravatar December 30, 2015 at 6:07 AM


… newbie to your site here, so apologies in advance for any well-intended but possibly badly-executed missteps along the way of your rather astonishing website. Och!

As my surname might indicate, my Scottish roots have been traced back to Roxburgh, a wee hamlet centuries ago where the first Oliver’s were recorded. This wee hamlet consists now of apparently little more than memories, stories & the partial ruins of Roxburgh Castle. As I understand it, Roxburgh Castle was the royal palace of King David (I?). A check of the Roxburghshire 1841 census reveals an abundance of “Olivers” in & nearby. Prolific & … uh … “”feisty” lot of early Scots, it seems.

Having noted all that, what information/details/thoughts would you possibly have on me planning a trip to Roxburgheshire, specifically to uncover more specifics of Clan Oliver there? (No Oliver chieftain apparently, so it isn’t an officially noted clan; however, I have read reference to the Clan Oliver several times. That’s good enough for me.)

In a nutshell, in your most humble opinion, are my efforts to uncover/discover what remains today of Roxburgh & the Oliver in the local history; or would this better make for merely a few hours of ale-soaked, good blether in one of the local pubs nearby? Or at what point would you suggest I consider “hiring” your service(s)? Many thanks in advance. Hoot.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 30, 2015 at 12:22 PM

Hi Stanford,

I help a lot of people plan trips to Scotland that involve genealogical research. I would direct you to this post for an overview of doing this research. Perhaps you’ve already performed some of these forays into your ancestry. However, if you visit Scotland, I would suggest beginning your research in Edinburgh where there are loads of records that could give you a leg up once you head down to the Borders for more in situ research. Ale-soaked blether is always a good tack I’ve found, and the Borders are particularly well-suited for that as they’re soaked in some pretty fine ale.

I’d be more than happy to help you plan your trip. If you decide that’s what you’d like to do, have a look at my services.

Cheers and all the best,

StanfordNo Gravatar January 1, 2016 at 3:10 PM

Thanks for your kind & most informative reply. I have learned already that your website (not to mention all that of your most likely tartan-imprinted grey matter in your Celtic skull) is a virtual embarrassment of riches. Awesome responsibility to live up to there, kind sire.
Re: http://www.ancestry.com — yes, that’s exactly how my brother & I discovered our Scottish heritage, & it was a fortuitous start for us. He had gone to Ancestry.com & had traced our family tree back 350 years or so and then … thud! … hit a brick wall.
At that point, Ancestry.com referred him to a local certified genealogist whom he hired. One lloonngggggg year later, she sent him a 2″-thick ring binder absolutely crammed packed with “maps” of the family tree, birth/death certificates, wedding registries, graveyard & tombstone photographs, emigrant ship passenger manifests back from 1736 … a real treasure trove for us.
Mind you, it was rather … uh … “pricey.” However it was worth every wee penny of the cost just to finally learn our true heritage & family history. And one day, when I have vacated my current earthly stomping grounds here & have gone to meet that Great Kilted Scotsman in the Sky, my children & my children’s children will have a full understand & appreciation for their proud Scottish heritage, their Scottish cultural background & even DNA proof of their Celtic identity. Now THAT’S a priceless gift to leave one’s children, eh?
Yes, I have you pegged, Keith .. & when the time comes that I cross the pond over to Scotland-land I shall have engaged your genealogical investigatory services & recommendations. First, however, I have to get that blasted Texas lottery to co-operate with me. Alas. However, know well that the first round of Borders Region ale shall be on me.
I’m quite sure that heaps of ale-soaked blether will quickly ensue from there. Thanks!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 3, 2016 at 10:17 AM

Cheers, Stanford. Best of luck with the lottery 🙂

NoahNo Gravatar March 7, 2015 at 10:54 PM

Shooting, golfing and fishing … now that’s what I call a man-cation! 🙂

David ReevesNo Gravatar February 19, 2015 at 6:36 AM

I’ve been enjoying your blog since discovering it a few months back while doing some travel research. The Roxburghe Hotel sounds like a great place to visit in Scotland. We are keen hikers and Scotland in general will have to be a destination for us in the future. I noticed an error in your description of the fly fishing process where you say “you are letting the weight of the fly carry the line out”. I think you will find that in fly fishing compared to other forms of fishing you are using a thick fairly weighty line to take the very light fly out some distance, so you are actually using the line weight to cast, not the fly weight. The opposite technique is spin-casting in which the line has very little weight but you are using a heavy lure to get the distance.
Thanks for the informative blog.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 19, 2015 at 8:15 AM

Hi David,

You are, of course, correct. Thanks for pointing out the mix up and for the kind words about the site!


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