We watched spellbound as we greedily tucked into a scrumptious caramel shortbread ice cream.
A crisp October day with not a soul in sight as we enjoyed one of Scotland’s most spectacular beaches.
Carrick is a small, sheltered bay on the beautiful and unspoilt Solway Coast, separated from Fleet Bay by a rocky headland. There are some lovely walks to enjoy and fabulous views of the coastline and mountains. More importantly, it is just a stone’s throw away from the Cream o’ Galloway ice cream parlour, which serves up freshly churned delights such as tablet and whisky, honey and oatmeal.
It’s just one of many reasons to visit South West Scotland, often left unvisited, but a real gem with a treasure trove of attractions and a relatively empty outdoor playground to enjoy.
A 20 minute drive takes you to the Cally Palace Hotel in Gatehouse of Fleet, just the place to relax and recharge.
Set in more than 150 acres of grounds, recognised as some of the country’s finest, this former 18th century mansion, part of the Bespoke Hotels chain, has 56 elegant bedrooms with grand views across the hotel grounds and to Dumfries and Galloway.
Commissioned by James Murray of Broughton, a grandson of the 5th Earl of Galloway and the 9th Earl of Eglinton, Murray inherited the land on the death of his father in 1751 and hired Scottish architect and mason William Adam to design and build the grand house.
Finished in 1763, orchards, pleasure gardens, hothouses and deer parks were added by Murray who served as MP for Wigtownshire from 1762 to 1768, as well as being the receiver general for Scotland in 1783.
His grandson, Alexander Murry added an elegant portico, and the grounds were landscaped by William Dewar. In the early 20th century, the house was let out and the last tenant, the Maharaja of Jind moved out in 1932.
The A grade listed house was eventually sold and converted into a hotel in 1934 and was used as a residential school for evacuees from Glasgow during the Second World War.
It’s selling point is the hotel’s own 18 hole parkland golf course which is well set out and affords fabulous look towards Cardoness Castle, Rutherford’s Monument and the Fleet Estuary.
A grand entrance complete with red carpet greets you and as you enter through the large oak doors into the four star hotel, two huge marble pillars frame the entrance hall and lead to the Bow Lounge with its magnificent gilt cupola ceiling.
Thirty one of the bedrooms are in the main hotel, with the other 25 in the more modern Forest Wing, which also leads to a good sized swimming pool, with a hot tub and sauna.
Luxury oozes in the main bedrooms with ample space and high ceilings, freshly painted décor and comfy beds.
Tea and coffee with tasty biscuits are provided, along with luxury toiletries in the swish bathrooms, ours had a bath as well as a shower, which is a welcome addition to relaxing.
Accompanied by husband Kenny and our children, Ruaridh (16) and Flossie (14), we had great fun exploring the elegant building and trying our hand at table tennis and pitting our skills against each other on the full sized green clothed snooker table.
Old-fashioned grandeur mixes with modern day living and with a lively cocktail bar and well-appointed conservatory which looks out onto well-kept grounds, it’s good to sit back and enjoy.
Fine cuisine is served in a large dining hall, which also doubles up for a full Scottish breakfast and its silver service all the way.
Vegetarians and meat lovers are well catered for, and we enjoyed a tasty three course meal, with starters ranging from beetroot falafels served with chickpea and beetroot salad to pear and blue cheese salad with grape gel or classic prawn cocktail and smoked trout fillet with potato and caper salad for the more traditionalists.
Pan fried duck breast served with braised red cabbage, saffron potato, orange gel and juniper berry jus along with chicken wrapped in bacon, accompanied by turnip puree, stuffed courgette, haggis bon bons, whisky caviar, dauphinoise potatoes and drambuie sauce, are just two of the lovely mains on offer.
Rump of lamb with sweet potato mash, roast silverskins, wild mushrooms, pea purée and tarragon sauce is a delight, as is the chargrilled vegetable stack with pesto oil, new potatoes and rocket leaf.
Light desserts including Cream O’ Galloway ice cream, vanilla crème brülée with white chocolate chip cookies plus fresh raspberries and baked vanilla cheesecake with blueberry compot and champagne sorbet keep the sweet toothed happy.
If you can tear yourself away from the hotel, there is plenty to see and do. Not to miss in nearby Newton Stewart is the Cairn Holy, the site of two Neolithic chambered tombs, built in the 4th millennium BC. Hauntingly beautiful, one is said to contain the body of Galdus, a mythical Scottish king.
The Mill on The Fleet is the place to visit if you are curious about the area’s history. Housed in an 18th century cotton mill, it is filled with fascinating artefacts from the area and is free to visit.
With information on Gatehouse, which was a planned 18th century town and the natural history of the Fleet Valley, one of Dumfries and Galloway’s three designated National Scenic Areas, it is a great wee place to visit, as is the mighty MacLellan’s Castle, which can only be seen from a distance due to structural repairs.
And most importantly, a visit is a good excuse to try out all the flavours of the Cream o’ Galloway ice cream!
The Cally Palace Hotel and Golf Course offer a range of packages including dinner, bed and breakfast deals, golfing holidays and festive fun over Christmas and New Year. For more information, please visit: www.bespokehotels.com, and to find out what to do and see in the Solway Coast area please visit: www.gatehouse-of-fleet.co.uk and www.visitscotland.com.
Rebecca Hay is an experienced travel writer and member of The British Guild of Travel Writers. Follow her adventures with her family on Twitter and Instagram @emojiadventurer and on Facebook via EmojiAdventurers2.