A Warm Welcome at the Star Hotel & Restaurant in Twynholm, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland
My host, Linda, greets me as I pull up alongside the pub-restaurant front and apologise for my tardiness. I’m well over an hour later than I first said I’d be, thanks to some traffic along the (mainly) single-carriageway A75.
‘Oh, it’s not a problem at all, I’m only just down the road’ she reassures me.
And with that warm welcome, I began my stay with the Star Hotel and Restaurant in the sweet little Scottish village of Twynholm in Dumfries and Galloway.
I was attending the first European Dark Skies Conference, in the beautiful natural environment of south-western Scotland, and had chosen my accommodation based on three things; firstly, it’s just 6 miles from the conference venue; secondly, at £55 per room per night including breakfast it was good value (prices start from £37.50pp); and finally, its name – yes, really. It seemed serendipitous to find somewhere that suited my needs AND had a name reflecting the purpose of my visit, so how could I resist?
As it turned out, my choice proved to be a delightful little gem, and well worth discovering, and here are my reasons why.
Accommodation & Service
There are just three rooms at the family-run Star, housed in a little annexe to side of the main building, with separate access. My double room was extremely comfortable, and perhaps because of the annexe set-up, felt very homely and private. There was a generous selection of drink sachets and snacks and all expected amenities such as a TV and a hairdryer – the latter isn’t a consideration for some, but it makes my life so much easier when there’s one there!
I can be a bit delicate when it comes to sleeping, not because I’m fussy, but because I have some back problems, so I was particularly impressed with the comfort and quality of the bed and linen. I couldn’t have had a better sleep if I’d been in a luxurious 5-star resort.
The bar and restaurant areas are kitted out in classic style, with clean modern lines edged with warm textiles and furnishings. This is where you’ll get a viable internet connection (and note that the Vodafone mobile network doesn’t yet reach into this area), so bear these things in mind. Linda herself – the only member of the team I met during my stay due to my schedule – took care of every detail, and I was properly looked after. As she explained…..
‘we’re quite happy with just the three rooms – it means we can give a more personal service’.
Food & Drink
I was impressed to discover that the Star Hotel & Restaurant is incredibly celiac-friendly, with a fantastic gluten-free range of dishes. I don’t suffer from this auto-immune condition myself, but with a family member who does, I have become acutely conscious of how challenging it can be to find suitable places to socialise and enjoy a drink and some good food, without paying a premium for the ‘privilege’.
So I was delighted to see that their menu offers most meals with at least a gluten-free option, but many of the choices are gluten-free as standard, including those where they use their own home-made gluten-free batter, such as the fish & chips.
They have even gone the extra mile and stocked a gluten-free beer, Brewdog’s Vagabond American Pale Ale. I bought a bottle to try at home – it’s still in the fridge but I’ve promised myself I’ll down it during the next episode of Strictly…!
But as my main meals were already catered for at the conference, the highlight for me was the delicious made-to-order cooked breakfast. Perfectly poached eggs, crispy bacon and succulent sausages with grilled tomato, tasty mushrooms (for once, not the insipid rubbery type you often get) and a potato scone, simply but cleanly presented, and with not a single drop of excess oil on the plate.
It’s a basic staple of a classic B&B stay, but one which so many places don’t get quite right. This was breakfast perfection, and with the tea and orange juice included, it more than set me up for the day.
Location and Surrounding Area
Twynholm holds more surprises than you’d expect for such a quiet little corner. Although I didn’t get a chance to visit, I discovered there’s a very enticing visitor attraction just down the road – the Cocobean Café & Chocolate Factory. As well as making a wide (and undoubtedly delicious) range of chocolates, there are family workshops, play areas and the café itself, with its varied menu.
If you’re more about speed than sugar, you can nip next door to the David Coulthard Museum. The former racing driver grew up in Twynholm, and in the museum you can experience the exhilaration of riding the tracks in its Formula 1 Racing Car simulator, or enjoy the collection of David’s racing memorabilia.
But beyond the village itself, it was the surrounding area that I fell in love with. An afternoon drive through country lanes took me through pristine landscapes, past idyllic agricultural scenery and onto the renowned coastal town of Kirkcudbright (pronounced ‘kir-coo-bree’), famous for its many galleries, art studios and craftworkers.
To top it all, Twynholm is located within the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a region dedicated to the core function of promoting and demonstrating a balanced relationship between people and nature. The Biosphere contains Galloway Forest Park, one of only a handful of designated Dark Sky Places in the UK. With its impressive environmental credentials, this is a region setting new standards in sustainability, and is well worth exploring.
As a comfortable and friendly base for discovering this often-overlooked part of Scotland, the Star Hotel and Restaurant is perfect. The opening comment in the information pack in my room stated:
‘We are honoured that you have chosen to visit us and we aim to exceed your expectations’
The thing is – I didn’t really have any expectations. But with the wonderful welcome, the relaxing environment, the impressive food & drink options and the exceptional surroundings, I was delighted with my stay.
The Star Hotel sets a sparkling standard, and I wouldn’t hesitate to return.
Disclosure: My stay at the Star Hotel & Restaurant was self-funded and all opinions are my own. For more information on Dark Sky Places and the work being done to curb light pollution, click here. To find out more about the stargazing sessions from Elizabeth Tindal, click here.