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  • 7/28/2019 The Tontine, The Scotsman


    ScotsmanMagazine 3113 A 2013

    &TRAVEL 33ottering about eebles

    wALk 34Dollar to Muckhart

    ouTdooRs 35Battle of the bluebells

    Im standing on a small platform madeof logs about the same size as my deskat work. Possibly less. Im not alone.Theres a man standing beside me, sospace is rather limited. And, consid-

    ering we are only one step away froma 100ft drop to sure and certain deathin a lush, tree-lled valley, Im standingrather closer than I might normally feelis appropriate. Weve only just met, yet Ifeel my life depends on this man.

    Look straight out, I keep telling my-self, over and over, not down. What-ever you do, dont look down.

    I dont like heights that much is

    probably obvious. But when I was toldwed be doing some ziplining, thiswasnt quite what I had in mind. I wasthinking playground ying fox. A bit oftame fun. So when our all-terrain vehi-cle nally reaches our destination, highup in Casela nature and leisure park, inthe eastern mountains of Mauritius, I ammomentarily speechless. Once I have re-covered the power of my vocal chords,they go something, squeakily, like this:I dont think I can do that.

    However, its a long way to comeand then chicken out so, as I whispera quick prayer and tell my children

    6,000 miles away that I lovethem, I step out into the voidand prepare for the breath to besucked from my lungs.

    What a rush. What a heart-pounding, mind-blowing, blood-pounding rush. As my harnesstakes my weight I am pulled atspeed towards a tiny speck in thedistance. Thats my destination,

    where my braver, more gung-hocolleagues have arrived and arealready preparing for the nextadrenaline x: zipline parts twoand three. Oh yes, theres more

    each one higher, longer and scarier thanthe last.

    Caselas main claim to fame is thatit is home to the longest zipline in theIndian Ocean 400m to be precise but this is not the only thrill to be had.

    We ride Segways (who knew a gloriedscooter could be so much fun?), and takequad bikes through the safari park. Westroke zebras, encounter giant tortoisesand come a little too close for comfortto an angry ostrich that reminds thischild of the 1970s of Rod Hulls inglori-ous encounter with Michael Parkinson.It takes a sharp peck at the rear end of

    my quad but, thankfully, doesnt quite

    make it as far as the softer, peach-likerear end that joins my legs to the restof my body.

    Picture Mauritius and inevitably youenvisage white sandy beaches, tur-quoise seas and coral reefs. Be honest.

    Youre thinking palm trees swaying in

    the breeze, romantic sunsets and rumcocktails. And, for sure, all those thingsare there in spades. More surprising,perhaps, is the fact that you need neverset swimsuited bottom on a sunloungerfor the entirety of your stay unless you

    want to, of course.Theres a stop-off in the capital, Port

    Louis, where the market tempts with va-nilla pods and aromatic spices and odd-shaped vegetables and fruits I couldnteven begin to guess the names of.

    Mauritius was once home to the dodo that poor, ightless, rather dim bird

    Can dodoattitudeOutdoors


    Caption in here-rasd sadfasdfasd-

    fasdf asdf asdfasdfasdfas df

    Whether youre a thrill seeker or a sunworshipper, Mauritius is paradise on earth

    u k

    he oyal Palm hotelpool; braving the

    zipline, below right

    The markettempts withvanilla pods andaromatic spices

  • 7/28/2019 The Tontine, The Scotsman


    ScotsmanMagazine32 13 A 2013

    that was hunted to extinction in the17th century. They still seem ratherfond of the doomed creature here,and you can nd an insane number ofsouvenirs that pay homage to it. Fluffy

    dodos, fridge magnet dodos and ash-tray dodos. Dodos on teatowels andkeyrings; clocks and T-shirts; desk setsand lighters. The daft old bird may beextinct, but its comical little face withbulbous beak stares out at you fromevery window of every craft shop onthe island. The dodo is dead; long livethe dodo.

    Back at the most prestigious ad-dress in Mauritius the Royal Palm,a member of Leading Hotels of the

    World and a home from home for roy-alty, celebrities and other guests ofdistinction (No, we couldnt possiblyname them, comes the reply when Iask, thats the reason they come herein the rst place discretion) the

    temptation is to nally kick back on thebeach.

    There is no rst-come, rst-servedlounger battle here, however. Eachroom has a reserved spot, with asafari-suited guardian on hand at alltimes to protect it from interlopers.The biggest, softest beach towels inChristendom are here, and the cele-brated Bar Plage wouldbe happy to deliver asmall refreshment tomadams lounger whileshe makes herself com-fortable. Hotel staff out-number guests by threeto one, so they have ahabit of knowing what

    you want before youhave a chance to antici-pate your own desires.

    Yes, chilling on the beach would be atempting prospect indeed.

    But were taking a sunset cruise on acatamaran and the clocks ticking. Notime to sit still. Well, not until were onboard, champagne in hand, skimmingthe waves. If theres a better way to

    watch the sun go down, I dont knowwhat it is.

    The next day were back on the wa-ter, initially at a more leisurely paceon pedaloes, then less so, clinging onto an inatable doughnut for dear lifeas it is pulled behind a speedboat and

    our laughs alternate with screams.Watersports are complimentary butnot compulsory, and there are tenniscourts, a gym, squash court, and kinesisand power plate studios for the tness-inclined (plus a Clarins spa in which torecover afterwards).

    But before we can relax, we have

    one more adventure aboard the RoyalPalms speedboat as it cranks up theknots en route for Ilot Gabriel. Is thisthe most beautiful beach on Mauritius?Some think so, though it has prettytough competition. An islet 20km offthe northern coast, right on the coralreef, it is a nature reserve, home tomany indigenous species and a popu-lar (but not too popular) spot for daycruises and snorkellers.

    My colleagues don their ippers andmasks and I am about to join them when Ihear a tempting pop. Champagne? Hey,I can snorkel anytime, right? Which ishow I nd myself lying on the prowof a speedboat, chilled glass in hand,at 11am on a Sunday morning, gazing

    into the perfectly clear cerulean sky asocks of the native Mauritian bird thegraceful, white-tailed paille en queue dart and soar high above me. The sun ison my skin and the waves are lappinggently at the side of the boat. And justlike that, the terrifying but exhilarat-ing ziplining, an irritable ostrich andmy desk at work all seem very, very far


    THE FACTs Beach-

    comber Tours (01483445 685, is

    offering a seven-nightstay in a junior suiteat the Royal Palm

    on a dinner, bedand breakfast basis,including economy

    class ights with Emirates from Glas-gow, June departure and private ho-tel transfers, from 2,580 per person

    sharing.Royal Palm Mauritius,

    Casela Nature and Leisure Park, en-trance 340 Mauritian rupees (7),segway 1,160r (25), ziplining from

    900r (19), quad biking from 1,750r(37),

    Ive always felt that history shouldbe embraced, not hidden away, andPeebles has done a ne job of pro-tecting its past. One pillar of tradi-tion which has stood the test of time

    in this handsome Borders town is TheTontine hotel, an unmissable presenceon the bustling High Street.

    There is something heartwarmingabout a location where you can imag-

    ine youve been whisked back a fewdecades. To the naked eye, Peeblescertainly falls into that category, but itsalso got everything the modern-day visi-tor desires too and The Tontine clev-erly combines past with present.

    The hotel was already a hive of activ-ity when we arrived just after lunch forour weekend stay. The bar area lookedbusy but relaxed, guests sat immersedin newspapers, and there was an imme-diate warm and welcoming vibe.

    After harping on about the good old

    days, I am a little bit shame-faced toconfess that I was supplied with thinternet wi- code at reception. Modcons are there if you want them.

    As we made out way up to our rooma couple of Fruit Shoot-fuelled nipperexcitedly hurtled downwards past usand I did briey fear that some of thhotels general hubbub might be heardthrough our room door, but once in

    side it was remarkably quiet.The room one of 36 in the recent

    ly refurbished hotel was lovely, buPeebles beckoned, and after a strolaround the shops and an amused perusal of the banned list outside thlocal youth club where tearaways arnamed and shamed for assorted misdemeanours (ying with the crows ancondoning unacceptable behaviour)

    we headed down to Tweed Green foa pleasant, but bracing riverside walk.

    Displaying ridiculous naivete, I remarked that it was nice tsee one or two snowakeuttering in the breezeLittle did I know at thastage, Id still be lookin

    at the pesky stuff weeklater as Scotlands endles

    winter of 2012-13 draggeon. In my defence, thsnowdrops did add to analready picturesque scenedecorated by sweeping forest-lined hills and the fastowing Tweed.

    The River Tweed, popular with anglers, is one o

    c s

    Picturesque Peebles is the perfectplace for fans of a more gracious age



    Thursday, 3pmTea for two at Northumberlands Roxbro House (01665711416). Afternoon tea includes aselection of nger sandwiches,scones, strawberry jam and clot-ted cream and a divine selectionof miniature cakes, 25. 4pmUnpack in the OwnersSuite, tastefully outtted, withne Egyptian cotton sheets anda double-sized shower room. 6pmWalk to the nearby Her-mitage Inn, (01665 711258, and make yourselection from the traditional menu. Fous the standout is the rabbit pie, washedown with a pint of Sneck Lifter ale.9pmReturn to base for a quiet nighin. Select a complimentary DVD t

    48HOURS INWarkworth

    Visit www.holidays.scotsman.

    com for more great holidays



    The luxurious oyal alm hotel can be yourpersonal paradise on Mauritius

  • 7/28/2019 The Tontine, The Scotsman


    ScotsmanMagazine 3313 A 2013

    the many attractions in this neck ofthe woods, and Peebles is also theperfect place to set up base camp for

    golng breaks (there are 21 courses inthe Borders), walking expeditions (the

    John Buchan Way, Southern UplandWay and Tweed Valley are close by)and cycling trips (there are renownedmountain biking trails at Glentress andneighbouring Innerleithen). Or, likeus, you can just be in search of somefresh air, rest and relaxation, and anescape from the city. Peebles is 23miles south of Edin-burgh and despitethe quick journey itreally does feel like adifferent world.

    Lungs nicely lledand with a satisfying

    walk under our belts,

    we were lookingforward to samplingsome food and drink,and the evening meal

    we had back at the hotel was excellent.A varied menu, rich in local produce,was complemented by an extensivewine list and swift and friendly service.The prices on the menu were attrac-tive too, particularly considering thequality of food being served. Perhaps

    the highlight of dinner in The Tontine,however, is the dining rooms elegantsetting. The Georgian Adam Room,

    with a real coal re roaring away as ithas done since the early 19th century,is stunning.

    As my eyes swept the room, I notedthat every table was taken with cheerydiners testament to the hotels pop-ularity not only with guests, but withthe locals too. We retreated to The Cal-lants Lounge for an after-dinner coffee,then tried out the cocktail bar, before

    calling it a night for apeaceful sleep in a snug,comfortable bed. Nextmorning it was back tothe Adam Room for ahale and hearty Scot-tish breakfast. Taking awindow seat, offering

    views over the snow-capped hills, made fora refreshing start to theday.

    Built more than 200 years ago, TheTontine will doubtless have experi-enced its share of ups and downs asit changed hands and moved with thetimes from century to century, butthere is no doubt that in 2013 it is inrude health and very much on the up

    under the ownership of Gordon andKate Innes. And a special pat on theback to them for making this historybores stay particularly special.

    THEFACTs Prices start at 60 for a

    single room including B&B, and 110for a double room including B&B. TheTontine is currently offering a spring

    break package: book two nights din-ner, B&B and get a third night free.Offer based on two sharing a stand-

    ard twin or double room. (119 perperson per stay, Monday to Fridayand 129 ppps Saturday). Tel: 01721

    720 892, visit www.tontinehotel.comor email [email protected]

    watch from the comfort of your roll-topbath. Enjoy your pre-ordered Movie

    Boxcontaining fresh popcorn, ice-cream and chocolate raisins or Mal-

    tesers, 10. Friday, 9am Breakfast, andthe hardest thing will be de-ciding between Full English orCraster Kipper. 11amWalk for miles along

    Warkworth beach, taking in thestunning views.

    1pmA simple lunch of toasties atthe Black Bull Inn (01665 711367).

    3pmStroll along river Coquet to theMedieval Hermitage. Accessible by boat,

    you can explore the home of knight SirBertram, who became a hermit after kill-ing his lover and his brother.

    7pm Dress for dinner at WarkworthHouse Hotel (01665 711276, www. For meat-eaters the steak and ale pie served withhorseradish mash is the only choice intown. Veggies will enjoy pumpkin ravio-li. Main courses from 9.95. Saturday, 10amExplore the village. 11amMake sure to visit WarkworthCastle. An adult ticket costs 4.90(

    worth-castle-and-hermitage/). 2pmHead home.

    c Ms

    THEFACTsOne night at Roxbro Housecosts 99 per room Sunday-Thursday

    inclusive until 31 May. Tel: 01665711416, visit


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    Book by 30 April.Call 08448 488 488 or

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    eebles; a room at theTontine, below right; exteriorof the hotel, below left