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Michael Pelham breaks his journey north at
Tillmouth Park Hotel, Northumberland

Tillmouth ParkNB: All prices are shown in pounds sterling. NB this is a rather old review, but we have had very positive emails from readers - August 1999

Only a dyed in the wool Highlander would deny that the Scottish border country is some of the most attractive in the United Kingdom - and even he would probably not object to passing through it on his way further north. If you have been driving up the A1 from London, having passed Newcastle upon Tyne and Morpeth, it makes a pleasant change to switch to the A697 and, skirting the Cheviot Hills and the Northumberland National Park, make your way towards Cornhill-on-Tweed. Just before Cornhill lies Flodden Field, where King James IV of Scotland, aged 40, died in a battle against the English in 1513. There are touching reminders of that sad day in the little church nearby, where they buried the slain of both sides.

There are some good hotels in the Borders and one of them is Tillmouth Park, near Cornhill, a splendid mansion built in the Scottish Baronial style in 1862 by Charles Barry, who was also the architect of the new Palace of Westminster after the old one was destroyed by fire in in 1840. For material, he used the stones from Twizel Castle nearby. The hotel has 15 acres of grounds which run down to the river Till.

There is a real feeling of comfortable Edwardian prosperity about Tillmouth Park. The 14 bedrooms have been individually designed with period furniture and some have marvellous views. Most are large, some enormous, and some have splendid views over the policies and the river. I felt that I should have entered the dining room dressed for dinner in a white tie and a tail coat to find my wife having had her hair endlessly brushed at the dressing table by her faihful lady's maid. The reality, it has to be said, was marginally different!

Like many grand houses, the principal rooms are on the piano nobile, i.e. the first floor, rather than at ground level. And very comfortable they are. There is a large hall on the first floor with a gallery and landing above, and a great fire with a club fender and comfortable chairs around it. From this hall, one goes to a large drawing room, or to the main dining room, or to a smaller dining room, which is good for private parties.

The food is based on good home cooking, using plenty of local produce. It is also reasonably priced. Dinner might start with green pea and ham soup (particularly comforting and full of the taste of new peas); a fish Hors D'Oeuvres; a salad of bacon, avocado and croutons with a lemon dressing. For a main course one might have poached lemon sole; lamb cutlets; pan fried medallions of pork; char grilled entrecote steak or spatchcocked partridge with mustard sauce, if the season is right. The bread is excellent, made in the house and a small selection of cheese wass in fine condition. Desserts might include apple crumble with ice cream; baked chocolate cheesecake; chocolate roulade; Banoffie pie. A two course lunch is 11.50, or 14.50 for three courses. Dinner, including coffee and petits fours, is a very reasonable 23.50.

Downstairs there is a cosy bar, again with a log fire, and unusually, a cheerful bistro with red check table cloths, where you can eat informally: lighter dishes, snacks and salads, or more substantial dishes, are priced lower than in the dining room.

There is plenty to explore in the area. Alnick Castle is the home of the Dukes of Northumberland and was known by the Victorians as "The Windsor of the North". Bamborough Castle, Chillingham Castle and ruined Norham castle, the setting for Sir Walter Scott's "Marmion", are within easy reach. Particularly interesting is Lindisfarne Castle and Priory, founded by St Aidan in the 7th century to convert pagan Northumbria. The ruins of the 11h century Benedictine monastery remain on Holy Island and are an evocative reminder of St Cuthbert and the beautifully illuminated "Lindisfarne Gospels" which can now be seen in the British Museum in London.

Other interesting places to visit are Floors castle, home of the Duke of Roxburgh; Paxton, a splendid Palladian mansion designed by Adam and furnished by Chippendale; Abbotsford, built for Sir Walter Scott, with his library and many memorabilia still in place.

There are many sporting opportunities. The fishing season for salmon and sea trout runs from 1 February to 30 November. The hotel has seven beats from the English side of the river Tweed. Good pheasant and partridge shooting can be arranged on Lord Joycey's estate, at the Hirsel, Minto, Mackertoun, Whitchester and elsewhere. The hotel is a Corporate member of the Goswick Golf Club - perhaps the finest links course in the North East of England. The Scottish Tourist Board also run an excellent "Passport Scheme" for a number of golf courses. You could play a different course every day for a fortnight. Riding, hill walking and bird watching are easily achieved and for antique hunters there are fine antique shops at Melrose, Hawick, Duns, Peebles, Coldstream, Jedburgh, Berwick and elsewhere. And Edinburgh is only an hour away.

Tillmouth Park makes a most comfortable base from which to explore the beautiful Border Country. Fishermen and women should remember, however, the warning given by an anonymous 17th century writer:

Says Tweed to Till "What cars ye rin so still?'
Says Till to Tweed "Though ye rin with speed And I rin slow,
For ae man that ye droon I droon twa."
Don't tell me you need a translation!!

Tillmouth Park, Cornhill-on-Tweed, Nothumberland TD12 4UU. Tel 01890 882255. Fax 01890 882540.
Double rooms start at 105 per room per night, including full breakfast. Dogs are welcome.

Tilmouth Park is a member of Grand Heritage Hotels
International reservations: +44(0) 171 244 6699 Fax 244 7799

Dine Online has reviewed some other Grand Heritage Hotels:

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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