The Stair Arms, Pathhead

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a home from home, and dinner and an overnight stay at the friendly and comfortable Stair Arms, certainly felt like a mini holiday.

I knew it was a good sign when I phoned the day before to ask for directions (I’m very bad at directions, and when you’re arriving by bus from Edinburgh and the address is ‘A68, Pathhead’ I’m asking for trouble) and the person on the other end – Amanda – was kind and patient and sounded as if she really was looking forward to us visiting.

The Stair Arms Hotel and Bar is a charming stone building, owned by the Ramsay family for 27 years, and refurbished within the last couple. With their mother, Carolyn, Amanda is front of house, her brother, Grant, head chef, and they have a team of very pleasant staff behind them.

The nine year old and I were in Room 11 at the back of the house. We weren’t sure what to expect, making our way through the narrow corridor and unmarked doors – I love the quirks of old places; the 9 year old imagines all hotels as Travel Lodges – but the room was beautiful. Spacious, furnished in neutral taupe shades, with a comfy bed, and the adjoining bathroom looked new and luxurious.

Overlooking the garden, the sun poured in (yes, really!) through the original windows, and you’d have been hard pressed to remember you were anywhere near a main road. In the morning, all we heard outside were birds singing.

The bar and restaurant are homely and comfortable, with a very varied menu. Food is served all days, and there are extensive daily specials plus a la carte, with dishes from fish and chips to burgers and steaks to roasts.

When the nine year old found pizza and chips on the Kids Menus, he was sold – despite my attempts to encourage him, in the name of research, to the main menu. But he was happy, and even more so with the two very generous scoops of Lucas ice cream he had to follow.

I had a starter of scallops with bacon, black pudding and pea puree. It was a gamble: I’m ambivalent about scallops and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten black pudding…but the gamble paid off. It was beautifully presented and tasted delicious. That, and the homemade bread and dips, was easily enough for a light meal.

My main course was a far more traditional roast lamb and gravy. It was tasty, generous, and though I wasn’t sure about the mingling of the gravy and the cheese sauce from the vegetables, that’s purely a matter of personal preference.

Even when encouraged by Carolyn, I couldn’t manage a dessert, which means I missed out on things like…. and seeing them go past to other diners with more staying power, they looked good.

After a peaceful night’s sleep, the nine year old chose his favourites from the traditional Scottish breakfast (and demolished the lot; he didn’t eat for the rest of the day) and I enjoyed poached eggs, cooked perfectly and without a soggy puddle of water on the plate – this hardly ever happens!

The Stair Arms is clearly popular for its food; the restaurant was full that Sunday evening, and is a great place to rest overnight if you’re en route between Edinburgh and the Borders – exactly as you’d imagine for a coaching inn dating back to 1831. It also has a function room for weddings and events. It’s not a fancy place, but it’s charming and homely, and high on old-fashioned hospitality. Therein lies its charm.

Most double/twin rooms are £80.00 per night, including breakfast. For information on rates and booking:

Go to: or phone: 01875 320277


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