Border Delights

by Sara Barton, 21st September 2022
Borders Insider | Iain Gourlay | Cringletie House Hotel
Border Delights

Iain Gourlay is the head chef at Cringletie House Hotel near Peebles and has been living in the Borders for the past seven years. He joined the hotel four years ago with new owners taking over a year later and really focusing on the quality of food.

“We’ve really developed what we’re doing and the team have now got 2 AA rosettes. We do a daily changing menu and use our local suppliers and as much as we can get from our own garden.” This provides customers with “really top notch catering” he believes.

Working with local suppliers is vital, supporting not only the businesses but also the area as a whole. Gourlay buys from Tweed Valley Venison, who in turn work closely with Forestry and Land Scotland in controlling the wild deer population.

Walled Garden delights

Cringletie as an estate dates back to 1666, although the current building was originally constructed in 1863. Of particular interest has been the development of its Walled Garden, known for many years for its herbaceous and vegetable offerings. Gourlay has great respect for team in charge of the grounds and works closely with the head gardener.

“I have meetings with them at the beginning of the season to discuss what we can grow. As a chef, there’s nothing better than when the gardener brings you in fresh herbs, lettuces, potatoes, carrots – we do use the very best suppliers but nothing compares to pulling carrots out of the ground in your own garden, cooking it and putting on a plate for the customer. The flavor, the texture, it’s just so much better,” he enthuses.

Seasonal produce grown in the walled gardens is vital to give the flavours Gourlay is seeking to create.

Walking delights

The Borders was new territory for him but he fondly remembers camping trips with his parents in Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries and Galloway. “I’ve always had a connection to the South of Scotland. Since moving here, and especially since the first lockdown, I feel how blessed we are for the beautiful scenery and lovely walks around us.”

Cademuir Hill at the back of Peebles became a firm favourite during that first lockdown, enabling him to see the ‘breathtaking’ view, while hiking Jenny’s Brae “the forest [Glentress] opens up and you feel like you are in another world’.

He loves the smell of the fresh gorse when its in flower – “I’ve been calling them pina colada bushes cause I think they smell like a pina colada!” he laughes.

The landscapes around Cringletie inspires Gourlay when he heads out for walks in his down time. Credit: DICE Imaging

Foodie delights

He is impressed at the food and drink offering in the area. “There’s so many artisan producers from The Fat Batard Bakery and the beautiful sourdough breads that they make, to Tweed Valley Venison and the fantastic game they provide us.“

He points out each town has its own character and its own artisan producers – Caldwell’s ice cream is another favourite. And his enthusiasm isn’t contained to Peebles – he is equally enthusiastic about Melrose.

”I just think it’s an absolutely beautiful Royal borough with fantastic food and it really accommodates everything you want to do. If you want history Melrose Abbey is right there too.”

Gourlay is keen to promote the excellent food and drink from producers and at local restaurants.

Indeed, Chef Iain is keen to spread the word about how many fantastic foodie options there are across the Borders from small artisan producers from cheesemonger to ice cream parlours to bread makers, and of course, the fantastic restaurants. He feels the food and drink operators in and around Peebles have really upped their game.

As key examples he points to the boutique hotel Windlestraw in Walkerburn, the 16th century Barony Castle and naturally his own domain, Cringletie House Hotel. Indeed, diners in Peebles are further spoilt for choice with excellent restaurants such as his former workplace Coltman’s Kitchen & Deli and Osso, where Ally McGrath is chef – known to some for his participation in the Great British Menu. 

“We’re not a million miles away from Edinburgh and we get visitors coming to sample the food we do but in a more relaxed setting – it adds something extra.”

Growing up in the west of Scotland towards Glasgow, Gourlay was not used to the community feeling of the small towns of the Borders.  “You get that community feeling – you get to know everybody and you get local recognition and regional recognition for what we’re doing.  That’s fantastic.”

Iain’s Picks for Peebles

Iain suggests a hike before making the tough choice of where to eat in Peebles.
  • Glentress Forest: Hike up Jenny’s Brae for an other worldly experience and the pungent scent of the gorse bushes when in flower
  • The Fat Batard Bakery: Sample the sourdough or their pastry delights
  • Coltman’s Kitchen, Deli & Bar: Great for a light lunch or an evening meal
  • Osso: relaxed, sharing style menu
  • Caldwell’s Ice Cream Café, Innerleithen: Cool off with one of their 24 flavours.