The Cairndale Hotel and Leisure Club, Dumfries and Galloway – Review
By Steve Crabtree
Heading to Scotland for a weekend is always fun. You know you’re going to get a pleasant, picturesque journey as you travel through the Lake District, and there’s the sense of excitement when you see THAT Scottish Flag signpost as you leave English land and arrive on the outskirts of Gretna.
This was myself and my fiancee on a Thursday afternoon as we headed to Dumfries and Galloway for a stay at The Cairndale Hotel and Leisure Club.
Dumfries isn’t that far over the Scottish border. You’re no sooner across it than your sat-nav is telling you that there’s only half an hour of your journey left, and when you’ve only left West Yorkshire two and a half hours earlier, that’s nice to hear.
As you pull up to The Cairndale Hotel & Leisure Club you’re welcomed in to a large car-park, and it’s evident you’re right in the town centre. You get a mixture of buildings ranging from the modern commercial to grand Victorian, and it’s quite nice to see them standing side-by-side.
The hotel is one of the Victorian-style buildings, and it’s very much a stand-out structure. It’s a very short walk away from Dumfries rail station, and not there are a few tourist spots that are close-by too. Everything you need on your doorstep? Seemingly so.
When we wandered up to reception, we received a very warm welcome. The smile and the interest in our journey really does mean something when you’re checking into a hotel. I do wish commercial chains would take lessons from places like this! The welcome set a tone for the level of service we were going to receive throughout our stay.
We’d been directed to our room, and as we entered we were welcomed into a large, classic-style space with a four-poster bed, and wood furnishings. Very nice, and very airy.
The room came equipped with a TV, tea and coffee facilities; and we were given the wifi details too. Our robes and towels were nicely laid out for us, and there was also fresh fruit, along with a couple of small bottles of wine.
We had a very clean bathroom, with Noble Isle toiletries, and my favourite bit of the room was the table that let us sit in the large bay window and look outside. We liked that because across the road was Saint Mary’s-Greyfriars’ Parish Church Of Scotland. That stood proud and was of similar ilk to the building we were staying in.
Considering you’re in a town centre, that gave us a really nice view as we kicked back and chilled out over a cup of tea and some tartan chocolate, courtesy of the hotel.
“Steeped in history”
The surrounding area of the hotel in Dumfries and Galloway is steeped in history. National Bard, Robert Burns is buried just round the corner, and there was a large contingent of American tourists staying at the same time as us, who were here to explore the history.
By taking just a few steps from The Cairndale Hotel and Leisure Club you can visit his grave. Then you can walk across the road and visit the house where he lived, which is now a museum. And although we didn’t go in during our visit, it certainly looks special and another part of the local architecture that’s quite impressive round here. Burns spent his last years in this sandstone house, and inside you can view original manuscripts and some of his personal belongings.
It’s a must-visit place for the Burns enthusiast, and we were in awe of his grave in St. Michael’s Churchyard. The way it has been preserved in a stark white mausoleum is quite beautiful, and dotted around the graveyard are many of Robert Burns’ contemporaries who form part of his story.
Some of the other scenic settings you can visit while staying at The Cairndale Hotel and Leisure Club are Caerlaverock Castle (just eight miles away), Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura (just a short walk across the River Nith) and the Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum, which is about three miles away.
We stayed on foot from the hotel though, and took in some lovely sights of the local area, especially by the river. And, much to my other half’s fantastic tolerance, I embarked on a trek to have a browse at the Queen Of the South football stadium too… a personal thing that I love to do when I visit new areas… but, that’s just me!
“Smiles and warm conversation”
We kept ourselves busy over the two days we were in Scotland. So food was something we needed, and we’d worked up quite an appetite on both evenings. We dined at the Reivers Restaurant in the hotel on the Thursday and Friday night, and for both breakfasts whilst we were at The Cairndale Hotel and Leisure Club too. And, as per the trend here, service in the restaurant was full of smiles and warm conversation.
The menu has a good number of options to try across three courses, and on the first night I decided to go for a garlic mushroom starter, with a Katsu Curry main. My fiancee plumped for a well-done steak and chips with peppercorn sauce. She got the good end of the deal here, as her steak was cooked to perfection, served up with lovely presentation and she absolutely loved it. My Garlic mushrooms were very nice, just the right touch of cream in the sauce, and very tasty. The Katsu Curry needed more flavour though, and lacked a little punch.
On the second evening, we both decided to try the roast beef dinner. The cuts of meat were nice and quite tender, but the small selection of veg and the frozen Yorkshire pudding left us a little underwhelmed. The sticky toffee pudding and ice-cream dessert went down well with both of us though.
Overall, we found the food to be a little hit and miss over the course of our stay. And while the warm buffet style Scottish breakfast was constantly topped up, I’d have personally liked to have tried something freshly cooked to start the day.
During conversations with hotel staff, we learned that the menu is constantly reviewed, so perhaps the food offering is something they’re working on.
“A few blips”
We were having a very nice time at The Cairndale Hotel and Leisure Club, it’s well tended-to and very clean. But we did have to contend with a couple of blips where our room was concerned.
Our first impressions of the room were fab, but we also quickly noticed as we put our cases down that an abundance of dog hairs were strewn down the side of the spare mattress that’s in full view from under the bed. I get that it’s a dog-friendly hotel, but you still want those dog hairs cleaned up properly, especially in those spots where our four-legged friends have obviously enjoyed a good night’s sleep.
Later, we noticed that one of the main pieces of wood at the top of the bed frame and was only balanced on top of a horizontal screw, ready to fall on us. Thankfully, when we reported this to reception there was a maintenance person on site who fixed the bed within the hour. A potential danger averted, and we were spared any bruising during the night.
The apologies from reception couldn’t have been any stronger, and they resolved that issue straight away – but these couple of aspects just took a small shine off a room that I should be singing the praises of. Things I would have thought should have been picked up in standard cleaning or room checking routines.
What it didn’t take the shine off was our entire stay though, and there was plenty to enjoy here in Dumfries.
“Enjoying the moment”
When you’re not out and about exploring Dumfries and Galloway, the Cairndale Hotel and Leisure Club has quite a bit to offer the traveller inside the hotel too.
Just off from the reception area is a small bar, which is comfortable and very cosy. We loved the intimacy here, and it went without saying that the bar-staff were friendly and attentive when we decided to take a drink with them.
There’s also a cafe bar, which serves up the most delicious latte, and that joins on to the hotel’s highlight for us – the leisure facilities. One of the big draws to the hotel is the Barracuda Club, which is free to use during your stay. There’s a fully equipped, modern gym, steam room, jacuzzi and sauna, plus a 14m heated pool.
We enjoyed a swim, and were offered a glass of prosseco to relax with in the hot tub. What a lovely touch of pampering that was. We’d done a few miles in the car, and a few miles on foot since leaving home and exploring Dumfries and Galloway, and it was a very nice way to unwind a little during our stay.
The spa had a few people relaxing around it, all of whom seemed to be enjoying the moment.
“Lovely part of Scotland”
After a couple of nights very good sleep, it was time for us to pack our bags and leave. And when it came to leaving The Cairndale Hotel and Leisure Club on Saturday morning, our check-out was as warm as it was when we arrived. We weren’t surprised either. We’d gotten to enjoy the friendly atmosphere that every member of staff that we came across did their part to create.
We were asked where we were heading to next, and we’d earmarked a trip to Powfoot Beach, which is only very slightly off track on the journey home, but wanted to get by some sea. “A good choice!” reception replied, and they weren’t wrong.
Powfoot Beach is delightful part of the Dumfries and Galloway coastline. It’s unspoilt, with barely anything there other than sandunes, sea and sky. There’s a row of white houses behind you, and you treat yourself to a beautiful, peaceful walk along the sand.
For us, it was a fantastic way to end a fantastic few days away in a lovely part of Scotland.
Two-night leisure break from £89.50 per room per night for bed and breakfast based on two sharing a twin/double room). Includes complimentary use of leisure facilities – indoor pool, Jacuzzi, steam room and gym – car parking and wifi. Upgrade to spa King room or suite from £40.00 per night
See cairndalehotel.co.uk or call 01387 254111