Driving or cycling along the minor roads of the Scottish Borders you can’t fail to notice the many a set of impressive looking gates on display. More often than not, these gates stand at the entrance of a long driveway, which you just know will have an suitably impressive stately home at the end of it. If you look carefully as you pass, you’ll see there is always a little lodge house tucked away, which would have once been home to the Gatekeeper, whose duties included guarding the entrance gates to the House, and other jobs such as gardening.
At Mellerstain House, which is close to both Kelso and Galashiels, you can rent their Gate House (known as West Lodge) for a short break or family holiday. It turns out to be a great location if you’ve got young children who want somewhere to practice pedalling, and is also within a stones throw of the Tweed Run, and a number of other routes if you’re looking for family cycling holiday in the Scottish Borders with older kids.
Review of the family friendly accommodation at West Lodge Mellerstain House
West Lodge is a two bedroom bungalow (one double and one twin) suitable for families. It’s comfortable, spacious, warm and clean, but without those luxurious (aka expensive) touches that mean you spend your entire holiday on edge, worrying that you kids will cause untold damage.
It also comes with a highchair and travel cot if you need them. There is a fireplace (and fireguard) with an endless supply of logs in the outside store, but West Lodge was more than warm enough during our October trip, so we didn’t need to use this.
It always annoys me when we arrive at a holiday cottage we have paid good money for and there is no hand soap, washing up liquid or tea towels, and hardly any toilet paper!
Mellerstain House gets full marks for equipping West Lodge not just with decent amounts of the above, but also kitchen roll, a bit of cooking oil plus tea, coffee and sugar. Little things they may be, but it’s such details that help you to settle in immediately.
West Lodge still retains some of its original features, such as cupboards, cornices and a serving hatch which remind you of the age and history of the building.
The incredible view from the kitchen sink, towards the Cheviot Hills, makes washing up a pleasure rather than a chore!
During the summer months the enclosed garden will be ideal for both playing and relaxing. It has a picnic table, a couple of bird feeders and plenty of space for little ones to run around, while you enjoy the wonderful view.
Pretend you’re an aristocrat living at Mellerstain House
The best part about staying at West Lodge is you are free to roam the grounds of Mellerstain House. You can take one of three different trails around the estate and discover an ornamental lake, an old laundry and a dog’s graveyard amongst other things. Oh yes – there’s a great kids playground too!
All of this is against the magnificent backdrop of Mellerstain House itself, which is an imposing Georgian property built between 1725 and 1778. The east and west wings were designed by William Adam, with Robert Adam commissioned to design and build the main mansion house, possibly the only complete Robert Adam building in existence.
The house and gardens are open to the public between May and September (Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon) and also four days over Easter.
Cycling for young children at Mellerstain House
If you stay at West Lodge out of season, or midweek, there are no visitors and you have the estate to yourself. We were able to let our boys out on their bikes, and they pedalled up and down the drive outside West Lodge. This was brilliant for 5 year old T, who had only recently learnt to ride his bike, and is was that point where he needed time in the saddle to build up his confidence. He started out close to the lodge, and then ventured further down the drive as his confidence increased. It would be great place for little ones on balance bikes too.
During the summer months there will be days that the house is busy with visitors, so you’d need to wait until they’ve left the grounds before giving young cyclists free reign of the driveway – I’m thinking that could be a good way to tire them out ready for a sound night’s sleep!
One morning we cycled down the drive to Mellerstain House itself, and the boys loved riding round and round the ornamental fountain feature in front of the house. This was no easy task as the smooth tarmac drive gives way to rather large pebbles, and it becomes quite difficult to control the bike – more like riding on a pebble beach that a driveway.
The boys spent ages practicing their controlled riding, and then suddenly the Grand Prix racing started – round and round at top speed, with both claiming victory at various points.
Bike storage at West Lodge, Mellerstain House
Whilst there is no formal bike storage, there is a garage, a log store and a shed which could all be used to store bikes. We opted for the log store, which was plenty big enough for all 4 bikes and gave adequate shelter from a couple of downpours.
Family cycling beyond Mellerstain House
Whilst we stayed at West Lodge, we enjoyed a great family bike ride on the nearby bridleways, riding through the estate to the East Gate entrance, and turning down the track that runs between the Lodge and the local cottages.
The next day we put the bikes back on the car, and drove south for and hour or so for a great family cycle ride at Kielder Forest. Admittedly this is just over the border into England (I know this blog is entitled “Family cycling holiday in the Scottish Borders”, but we were suffering from heavy rain to the north and west that day).
I’d advise against taking young children on much of the road based National Cycle Network route in the area – whilst we saw lot of signs, there was very little evidence of any form of cycle path, either on road or off road, and the traffic tends to be fast moving.
If weather and time had permitted, we’d also have gone to Penicuik, and ridden along Sustrans Route 196, which is a mainly off road route along an old railway line. However the route is noted as being muddy in wet weather, and there had been flooding the day we arrived.
Unfortunately we only had 3 days, or we would have made a day trip west to the Mountain Biking paradise that is 7stanes where there are plenty of green and blue routes for young riders.
Mellerstain House is also only about an hour’s drive from Edinburgh, where there are a lot of off road paths to the south and east of the city. See the Weans on Wheels website for more information.
There is plenty of-off road cycling in the Scottish Borders for serious and experienced cyclists. There are a number of long distance trails (we’re talking some of 100 miles plus) in the area, so if your kids are older and you’re looking for a challenging riding with them, you could plan various day routes, using West Lodge as a base. The Cycle Scottish Borders website has a lot more information.
Other family friendly activities near Mellerstain House
There’s plenty to keep the kids entertained in the local area:
- Nearby Jedburgh has a county jail and an impressive Abbey
- The Northumbria and Scottish Coast to the East is stunning – our boys enjoyed walking round the ramparts and along the pier to the light house at Berwick upon Tweed, where we also tried Berwick Cockles for the first time (a minty sweet, not seafood!)
- In Edinburgh there’s a wealth of family friendly attractions, including the Castle, lots of Museums, cinemas and everything else you’d expect from a capital city. At the other end of the spectrum Biggar has a puppet theatre.
We also drove for about an hour to visit the Scottish Museum of Flight, which is in East Fortune, East Lothian – highly recommended if you have plane mad kids. The highlight of the trip was definitely getting to go on board Concorde, but the Spitfire and Puss Moth also got them very excited. The hands on exhibits in the three Fantastic Flight galleries kept us all entertained for hours, and you can even get some pedalling in as you try to get a propeller up to speed!
Other holiday accommodation at Mellerstain House
We stayed at West Lodge, but there are two other holiday cottages at Mellerstain House – the Clock House Cottage (which sleeps 4) and the Courtyard Cottage (which sleeps 6, with 3 ensuite bedrooms). Both are located in the courtyard next to the House, which also houses the coffee shop and toilets.
As the House is sometimes open to visitors in the afternoon the two courtyard cottages will have less privacy than West Lodge, but they do have the advantage of having no passing traffic. However, if you’re out and about during the day then you wouldn’t even notice there were any visitors!
As for the standard of accommodation I can’t really comment, although the images on the website suggest they are of a similar standard to West Lodge which was perfect for our needs.
Please check all details of cycle routes and attraction opening times before you plan a trip.
If you’ve enjoyed this post you may also like these other articles:
- Heady fun during a family cycle ride at Kielder Forest
- Family cycle tour of the Outer Hebrides
- Scottish Island Hopping – a family cycling holiday
Please note this is in no way a sponsored post – we had no contact with anyone at Mellerstain House and we paid for our own holiday at West Lodge, Mellerstain House, which took place in October 2013.
This article was first published in November 2013 and updated in March 2017 to update the links