Why Scotland is the perfect destination for a wellness holiday - from relaxing experiences to spiritual awakenings

Visitors from around the world were packed into the mysterious Rosslyn Chapel, seeking out its intricate carvings dating back to the 15th century.

Thursday, 5th September 2019, 1:28 pm
Rosslyn Chapel is a fascinating destination

Canadian president Justin Trudeau and TV star Joanna Lumley have been among the most recent celebrity visitors to the attraction in the Scottish Borders – the former even met the chapel’s own cat, William.

But there are still many people much closer to home who are unaware of its charms.

“We’d love to get more people visiting from Yorkshire”, said Ian Gardner, director of the Rosslyn Chapel Trust, as he led us on a tour.

The carvings are incredibly intricate

The chapel – built from 1446 by William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness, apparently to secure his place in heaven – is an architectural wonder.

Master craftsmen from around Europe were brought in to work on the building, which inside and out is covered with hundreds of ornate patterns and carvings.

Many have religious connotations, some are said to be the humorous faces of the craftsmen themselves, and all inspire awe at the raw skill they must have taken to create.

Visitor numbers have exploded since the chapel, complete with crypt, was featured in both the book and film of The Da Vinci Code.

Edinburgh Castle and the Ross Fountain in Princes Street Gardens

While the Holy Grail may not be buried there, despite myths loved by conspiracy theorists, the chapel was just one highlight of a trip taking in Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders.

The borders are the easiest destination in Scotland to reach, with northern England to the south, Edinburgh north, Dumfries and Galloway west.

And we were tasked with exploring its potential for a wellness holiday, as a survey showed almost a third of people believe Scotland is the ideal destination for one.

Start, as so many Scottish trips do, in stunning Edinburgh.Our base was at Nira Caledonia, a luxurious hotel in a fine Georgian townhouse that inspires immediate property envy, but has all modern conveniences.

Enjoy contemporary and seasonal Scottish fare in Edinburgh

It’s just a ten minute walk to the heart of the city, and a stop at the Scottish National Gallery.

Unplugging from everyday life is simple with a stroll around an exhibition. There’s a new reason to visit too, with The Scottish Cafe and Restaurant below reopening after a seven month refurbishment.

It’s the ideal spot to plot your day while enjoying seasonal and contemporary Scottish fare – from fresh lobster toasts to kedgeree packed with seafood. Our fussy teenager was wowed by the epic club sandwich featuring Edinburgh bacon, Isle of Mull cheddar and a buttery, flaky Aberdeen Rowie roll.

The personable staff have perfected that tricky balance of being just attentive enough, too.

A book lovers' paradise lies at Mainstreet Trading Company

A meandering hike up the Royal Mile to catch the view from Edinburgh Castle, poking heads into the many alleyways, walked off full stomachs. People – and seagull – watching is also the real thing at Princes Street Gardens, and we whiled away half an hour there.

Calm on Canning Street is a road or two away, but to arrive is to sink into a sanctuary that feels worlds apart .

The yoga and wellbeing centre's mellow interior immediately soothes the senses, it is welcoming to all.

We had arrived ready to drop and, to be honest, head back to the hotel.

An energising Hatha yoga class changed that in just an hour of breathwork, poses ranging from gentle to more challenging set to an invigorating soundtrack, and a meditation where essential oils were massaged into our foreheads.

It gave us the spirit needed to head back out for dinner in the West End near Nira, and brought a blissful end to Edinburgh.

The stunning Cringletie House hotel

Rosslyn Chapel is easily reached by public transport from the city centre, though we took a car there and then on to Mainstreet Trading Company, St Boswells.

This beautiful venture must cause most customers to dream about giving up their day jobs.

Part bookshop – we bought five titles – part cafe selling excellent cakes, coffee and lunch, there’s also an artisanl deli and home shop. It’s a real destination in its own right.

Our ultimate destination that day was Cringletie House, Peebles.

The journey there passed through quaint villages and every ten minutes there was another tourist sign hailing an abbey, a viewpoint, another stop.

Cringletie is a boutique hotel of the kind romantic weekend breaks were invented for, with looks like a castle, fine dining and traditionally excellent service. There’s even a walled garden, outdoor chess and putting golf.

Its Ardean Cottage is a real home from home, offering privacy, the added bonus of a hot tub, but the ability to call into the main hotel for a cocktail.

A hearty, beautifully served breakfast at the hotel – the Scottish porridge was creamy heaven, spiked with whisky prunes – is enough to set you up for a day of cycling at nearby Glentress Forest.

Serious mountain bikers carrying fat tyred specialist machines will love it there, with extreme trails to try over a vast area that is the definition of a real outdoors experience.

For those with less expertise, the green trails provide fun for all, once you've conquered the hill climb.

For more of a spiritual awakening, try Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre. Hidden in the middle of nowhere, the drive there passes incredible heather covered valleys and the odd pub to dream of getting snowed in at. It’s exactly the scene you pray for when visiting Scotland.

To say the colourful monastery stands out from the isolated surroundings of Eskdalemuir is an understatement – you can see exactly why it was chosen as a place of peace.

Reflect on life with ease in the silent, golden temple room, find out about the founder's journey in an exhibition or take a break in the vibrant tea room for maximum happy vibes.

The centre was the first of its kind in the western world, and it was west we headed for our final stop at Dumfries, home to Scottish poetry icon Robert Burns in his later years, and only forty minutes by train to the city of the Lakes, Carlisle.

Its characterful Cairndale Hotel is also convenient for rail travel – as well as being a hit with golfers and music fans due to its in house entertainment.

It provided us with a final slice of wellness that summed up Scotland’s ever widening appeal, a swim and massage in the leisure centre for me, and a whisky or three in the bar for him.

Dine on Scottish fare with a sublime view at Cringletie House
The countryside in Dumfries and Galloway is deeply relaxing
Cycling in Glentress is a real experience in nature
Inside the Tibetan monastery in Dumries, which was the first to be located in the west