The Allan Ramsay Hotel, Carlops

The Allan Ramsay Hotel is in a blink-and-you’ll miss it location, on the side of the A720 at Carlops, around 15 minutes from the Edinburgh bypass.

Its cosy atmosphere, steeped in history, make it a joy to escape the biting wind, blowing off the Pentlands behind, and have long made the hotel a favourite meeting place and finishing stop for walkers.

In fact, the hotel is the starting point for a series of trails and walks of differing lengths and muddy-ness and helpfully sells leaflets with well-marked routes from 60 minutes to several hours. Some of the walks pass places of interest mentioned in The Gentle Shepherd, a play written in 1725 by Allan Ramsay, which was highly successful.

And a good walk is made all the better by a drink and meal at the end of it, however, my daughter and I eschewed all exercise and drove directly there (although we did visit The Polish map at Eddleston after – a fascinating map of Scotland with mountains and rivers in miniature).

We turned up hungry all the same, and quickly decided on mozzarella, tomato and pesto salad, followed by a Ramsay burger, with cheese, mayonnaise and hand cut twice cooked chips (very crispy), for my daughter; and pigeon breast, smoked bacon and black pudding salad, followed by roast chicken with all the trimmings for me.

The salads were incredibly fresh and nicely presented – you can’t go too wrong with a salad. A touch more pesto would have injected a bit more flavour to the mozzarella and tomato combo and the bread mentioned on the menu never materialised – to be honest, we didn’t chase it up either.

The pigeon breast was succulent and I thoroughly enjoyed my starter – a classic combination which works every time.

The mains were good honest traditional fare. My daughter devoured most of her burger, but with 8 oz of beef in the hand-made patty, struggled to finish it. The bun was perfectly toasted and stuffed with fresh tomato and rocket.

My roast chicken accompanied by roast potatoes, stuffing, parsnips and red onion was very tasty and the peppery gravy had a good kick.

All in all, a satisfying meal which left us full but not uncomfortably stuffed. We opted for coffee instead of desserts, however these looked varied and what you’d expect from a traditional former coaching inn – sticky toffee pudding, fruit crumble, ice cream sundae.

A visit for lunch or dinner, combined with a walk, or just a nosey around the bar area to read the boards about Allan Ramsay, his portrait artist son, also Allan, is a lovely way to while away a day with the golden colours of autumn as a backdrop. Just remember to check out the “penny bar” when you’re there – made of one penny coins dating back to Queen Victoria’s time.

2 courses £16.00

The Allan Ramsay Hotel, Carlops, Penicuik, EH26 9NF.  Tel. 01968 660 258.

The Allan Ramsay Hotel is hosting the Allan Ramsay Festival on 18-19 October. Music and storytelling workshops, a folk night and dinner accompanied by the music of Burns and Ramsay, will take place over the course of the festival. More information can be found here:


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