Take a look around the Stair Arms – a former coaching inn just a short drive outside Edinburgh
Recently I was invited to stay at the Stair Arms, a former coaching inn on the road to Edinburgh which is nearly 200 years old.
I always love visiting Scotland, so I happily headed North for another weekend away.
Despite its traditional exterior, the Stair Arms proved to be a surprisingly modern hotel. But it also has a very traditionally warm Scottish atmosphere, and you can be sure of a friendly welcome from the staff.
So come and take a look around the Stair Arms:
How to get to the Stair Arms
As you might expect for a former coaching inn, the Stair Arms is very easy to find.
It sits on the A68 around 12 miles south-east of Edinburgh, which makes it an ideal resting place if you’re visiting Scotland’s capital city.
In fact, the Sheriffhall Park & Ride is just 10 minutes drive from the Stair Arms, which is a convenient way to travel to Edinburgh.
I arrived at the Stair Arms on a Sunday afternoon, the final stop on a long weekend in Scotland. I was looking forward to a relaxing evening before heading back south to Shropshire.
The hotel’s owner, Carolyn Ramsay was waiting in reception. There are six members of her family working at the hotel at the moment – her daughter, her son and daughter-in-law, and three of Carolyn’s granddaughters. It’s a real family enterprise!
After checking in, we headed upstairs and through the rabbit’s warren of corridors to my room.
A modern bedroom at the Stair Arms
For a hotel that is nearly 200 years old, the interior design of the Stair Arms is surprisingly modern. And that design is continued into the bedrooms.
All of the bedrooms have been remodelled and redecorated within the last four years. The style is fresh and modern with a distinctly Scottish touch.
The room was spacious, with a large comfortable double bed, a dressing table and mirror, and a small seating area.
I would be spending the night in one of the rooms at the rear of the hotel, which overlook the large garden. It was quiet during my visit, but I’m not sure if it would be busier in the warmer months.
As I mentioned, the room has a large comfortable double bed with crisp white bedlinen. There is high speed WiFi throughout the hotel, and the signal in our room was good.
There was also a flat screen TV and a hospitality tray which was generously filled with a selection of tea and coffee plus a range of Borders biscuits.
And the large ensuite bathroom was also sleek and modern in design. There was a shower over the bath and complimentary Cole and Lewis toiletries.
I was surprised to find that the room didn’t have a hairdryer, as this seems like such a standard item in most hotel rooms.
But apart from that than that the room was a perfectly comfortable place to spend the night, and it was spotlessly clean.
My stay was complimentary, but rooms start from around £75. I think that represents very good value for this standard of room.
Once I’d finished taking photographs of the room, I headed downstairs to the hotel’s bar for a drink.
Take a look around the hotel
It’s not just the bedrooms at the Stair Arms which have been refurbished. In the last four years, Carolyn Ramsay has undertaken a complete renovation and redecoration project throughout the hotel.
The reception area, bar and restaurant, and all of the 11 bedrooms have all been decorated in a fresh, modern style, in what must have been a mammoth project to plan.
The hotel’s function room has also been redecorated, but it was being set up for an event when I visited so I didn’t take photographs. The hotel is a great venue for weddings, and the lovely garden behind the hotel is perfect for photographs.
And the hotel’s bar is clearly a popular place to meet up with friends and enjoy a drink or some lunch together.
There are plenty of comfortable chairs dotted around, and this part of the hotel is also dog-friendly so you can take your pooch along with you for lunch.
And if you have a sweet tooth, then you can indulge in some of the hotel’s fabulous home-made cakes. As well as squidgy brownies and cakes, there was even some tablet on offer when I visited!
And the cocktail bar is stocked with a range of beers, wines, spirits and soft drinks. Or you could have a very good cup of Illy coffee – that’s always a winner with me!
And the hotel has a large, airy restaurant where you can enjoy lunch or dinner. There are plenty of places to sit in this sleek, modern space.
I went back to relax in the bedroom for a while before heading back downstairs for dinner.
Dinner at the Stair Arms
When I visited the Stair Arms, the UK was just preparing to move into a period of travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
That meant that the hotel was a little quiet, although there were some people in the bar during the afternoon and a few other guests staying at the hotel as well.
So my guest and I were shown to our table, and looked through the menu. I did love the fact that there were fresh flowers on each of the tables, a lovely little touch of Spring!
The Stair Arms menu showcases the best of local produce, and changes with the seasons.
The menu includes a range of pub favourites, some traditional Scottish dishes with a modern twist, and also some imaginative dishes to try.
We ordered our food and also selected a bottle of Argentinian Malbec, which quickly arrived along with some warm home-made bread and a selection of dips.
The tomato salsa was fresh and slightly piquant, while I loved the creamy, garlicky creme fraiche dip.
Our starters arrived soon afterwards, and I was pleasantly surprised by the generous size of the portions.
Earlier in the afternoon, I had heard someone in the bar order the breaded Brie and it sounded very tempting. So I decided to pick that as my starter.
You can’t go far wrong with gooey, melted cheese and these were delicious. They arrived on a bed of salad, with some redcurrant jelly to cut through the richness of the Brie.
Meanwhile, the second starter we ordered was a twist on traditional Scottish ingredients. A small pile of haggis fritters were served with a rich creamy sauce flavoured with wholegrain mustard and Glenkinchie whisky.
I sampled a bite because I love haggis, and this was a very tasty starter.
By the way, the hotel is only a 10 minute drive away from the Glenkinchie distillery. You can book in for a tour of the premises there if that interests you.
Other starters on the menu when we visited included Cullen Skink, seared scallops served with pea puree and black pudding, and a chicken liver and cognac pate served with oatcakes and cumberland sauce.
And if I thought that the starters were generously sized, then the main courses continued on that theme.
The Uncle Sam chicken comprises a tender breaded chicken breast topped with pulled pork, cheese and crispy bacon. It came with roast cherry tomatoes and coleslaw on the side, as well as a portion of really good chips.
The chicken was cooked beautifully – really moist and full of flavour.
Meanwhile I’d gone for the Stair Arms version of the traditional Sunday roast.
The star of the show was a generous portion of meltingly tender ‘low and slow’ roast beef in a rich meaty gravy. It was accompanied by a selection of vegetables, roast potatoes and an impressively large and fluffy Yorkshire pudding.
Everything on the plate was cooked beautifully and packed full of flavour. It was a very good Sunday lunch, but I have to confess that I couldn’t manage to eat it all.
Other main courses on the menu included a Brie and mushroom Wellington, a ribeye steak served with haggis fritters and whisky sauce, and salmon fillet with a grape, dill, white wine and cream sauce.
We were both so full after our main courses that we couldn’t manage dessert. The choices did sound tempting, however, with options like sticky toffee cheesecake, chocolate brownie with ice cream and a range of ice cream sundaes.
So we just had a cup of coffee before retiring to our room for a very good night’s sleep!
Breakfast at the Stair Arms, Pathhead
After filling up on all of the delicious local produce at dinner, I slept very well. Next morning at breakfast time, I was still fairly full!
We were greeted and shown to our table, and I asked for a cup of coffee. A jug of orange juice and a range of cereals were laid out on the bar.
There’s a good range of options on the menu at the Stair Arms. You can choose to have a full Scottish breakfast, and there are versions available for vegans and vegetarians as well. Or you could go for a hot roll or croissant filled with your choice of bacon, sausage, black pudding and egg.
But I was really feeling very full, so I wanted something lighter, and opted to have poached egg on toast.
The eggs were cooked perfectly, still runny in the middle, and a basket of toast was also brought out to go with the selection of jams and spreads on the table.
And the porridge arrived with a little dish of heather honey and whisky alongside. It was a delicious and warming start to the day, and one that I plan to recreate at home!
After another cup of coffee, it was time to head back upstairs to pack up ready for the drive back to Shropshire.
Things to do near the Stair Arms
As I mentioned earlier, the Stair Arms was originally a coaching inn on the road to Edinburgh.
And the hotel is perfectly located for visiting Scotland’s capital, with all of its gorgeous architecture and fascinating history.
If you like whisky, then you might enjoy a tour of the Glenkinchie distillery, which is just a 10 minutes away.
Lovers of history may wish to visit Rosslyn Chapel, which is around 25 minutes away from the Stair Arms. Or if you don’t mind driving a little further, you could visit the charming Dawyck Botanic Garden. It is just under an hour away from the hotel by car.
The Stair Arms: My Verdict
I really enjoyed my stay at the Stair Arms. It’s a traditional coaching inn with a thoroughly modern outlook, and the quality of the service there was excellent. The hotel is family run, and it really has that kind of atmosphere.
The room was fresh, sleek and modern in design. And although that missing hairdryer did seem to be a strange omission, it was quickly forgotten.
My stay and dinner were complimentary, but the bill for dinner would have come to just under £40 excluding drinks. I think that is great value considering the generous portions and quality of the food.
There’s a good variety of dishes to choose from, and I particularly liked that they use traditional Scottish foods and local produce.
The Stair Arms is a good hotel to break your journey to Edinburgh and beyond, at a price that represents very good value.
The Stair Arms
A68, Pathhead EH37 5TX