In Sir Walter Scott’s library at Abbotsford, there’s a tiny door in the corner of the mezzanine level that runs around the book-lined room.
It’s not open to the public but features a winding staircase that leads to his dressing chamber.
According to our audio guide on the tour, Scott would sometimes use this to avoid unwanted guests. How great, I thought, to be able to scuttle off through an escape hatch.
In a way, The Railway Carriage, which is a brand new property on the books of luxury self-catering providers, Crabtree & Crabtree, is a temporary version of owning that room. We can scoot away from our city responsibilities for one weekend.
This place is just five minutes drive from Abbotsford and is situated on a private estate of over 500 acres, which you’re free to explore and includes a couple of lochs and plenty of foot paths. Apparently, there are a few other holiday properties on this land, but none were within sight, so it felt very secluded. However, we’re near endless Scottish Borders attractions, including top restaurant, The Hoebridge at Gattonside, Thirlestane Castle and Melrose, where we spent ages admiring the autumn apples in Priorwood Garden orchard.
It turned out that there was to be no rustic glamping on our holiday.
Whenever I told people I was staying in a former railway carriage, they asked, “Was it tiny?”.
Nope. This is much fancier (and bigger) than you might anticipate. We’re its first guests ever, so try not to leave any fingerprints on the pristine interior. It’s only the heart of the property - the living and kitchen space - that’s made from an old Waverley Line train carriage, which had a second life as a shepherd’s hut. It’s been polished up so much that you wouldn’t really know, but for the curved and beamed wooden ceiling. This isn’t a ScotRail carriage.
As with all the properties on Crabtree & Crabtree’s books, it is a stylish space. You will find no dog-eared Danielle Steels or jigsaws with missing pieces. Just lovely coffee table books, dried flowers and textural cushions.
They’ve gone for a decor that they describe as Scandi-minimalist, and it’s neutral enough not to distract from the floor-to-ceiling windows, with a comfy sofa that’s perfectly positioned to take advantage of the soft hillside view and all those long clouds. There seems to be more of them in the Borders - cumulus and stratus - we watched them drift and disperse. One looked like a hare, another was The Luck Dragon from A Never Ending Story.
Beyond the main living area, the space has been extended, so there’s a central annex with sheepskin strewn window seats, a small dining table, and a stove. Through pocket doors, this leads to a bedroom with a telly, hanging space and a very smart en-suite, which includes a freestanding bamboo-clad bath. This room also has folding doors and extends onto the wraparound deck, where there’s a Kamado oven and seating areas, but also a semi-enclosed rain shower, should you want to brave the cold sprint from carriage to hot water. I do, one morning, and understand the endorphin boost experienced by wild swimmers. Invigorating.
Then, for those with a first class ticket only, there’s the piece de resistance of a Norwegian-style wood-burning hot tub.
However, there would be no skinny dipping on our stay, even if there’s no other creature around for miles, apart from the roe deer that we watched leap over a fence. We didn’t want to traumatize the birds and squirrels, who we could hear rustling in the nearby woodland, with its silver birches and firs.
Good things come to those who wait, and the hot tub takes about four to five hours to fill and heat up. You keep chucking a log into the stove, then check the rubber ducky, which has a thermometer attached, to see how you’re getting on.
We ate cheese to kill time, as well as the pear frangipane tart we’d procured from cafe, Apples for Jam, in Melrose.
As soon as the water reached 100°F, we were straight in there, and there was the scent of wood smoke and the cool breeze on our shoulders.
It seems that escape can be found in a very stationary railway carriage.
Seven nights at The Railway Carriage, Faldonside, available through Crabtree & Crabtree costs from £925. To book call 01573 2267111 or visit www.crabtreeandcrabtree.com