A review of country house hotel Cavens on the Solway Firth

Great British boltholes: Inside the Georgian haven tucked away in a beautiful corner of Scotland dubbed the country’s best-kept secret

  • The Mail on Sunday’s Keeba Critchlow checks into country house hotel Cavens, located on the Solway Firth
  • She says the hotel is geared towards ‘peace and relaxation’ and it ‘exudes country comfort and space’  
  • After a restful night’s sleep, she enjoys the full Scottish cooked breakfast featuring haggis (naturally)

‘I spent my early years in her neighbourhood, and among her servants and tenants I know that she was detested with the most heartfelt cordiality.’

So wrote Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, of Mrs Mary Oswald, one of the original owners of Cavens Estate near Dumfries in the 18th Century.

Happily, the bard would surely offer much kinder words about the current proprietors, Angus and Jane Fordyce, who have run Cavens as a boutique country house hotel since 1999. Indeed, so hospitable are they as hosts that many guests have become regulars.

Georgian splendour: Cavens is a boutique country house hotel tucked away on the Solway Firth

The Mail on Sunday’s Keeba Critchlow says at Cavens you ‘feel as if you’re staying with friends,’. Pictured is one of the cosy reception rooms

The whitewashed Georgian haven, tucked away on the Solway Firth, exudes country comfort and space. Two airy reception rooms feature generously stuffed sofas and open fireplaces, and on warm days the adjoining terrace is a quiet spot from which take in the sweep of lawns and mature trees.

Everything at Cavens is geared towards peace and relaxation, and you’ll feel as if you’re staying with friends. Rooms are immaculately decorated and either ‘country’, which overlook the gardens, or ‘estate’, which are impressively large and somewhat more grand.

Guests book on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis and stays of more than one night are encouraged to properly unwind from the stresses of modern life.

Dinner is a three-course set menu, which changes daily using delicious local produce and is simply cooked by Angus to showcase their natural flavours. Expect hot smoked salmon on a bed of leaves from the garden with hollandaise and a poached egg; rib-eye steak with roasted rosemary potatoes and vegetables; and local cheese or lemon creme brulee to follow.

Cavens is a natural base for exploring Dumfries and Galloway, says Keeba. Pictured is the River Nith in Dumfries 

The Solway Firth (above) is just a 30-minute walk from the house. This beautiful corner of Scotland is dubbed the country’s best-kept secret


Keeba Critchlow was a guest of Cavens, Dumfries. Dinner, bed and breakfast from £300 per room per night, based on a two-night stay with two sharing. The house opens on April 1 and closes in November. Cavens can be booked for exclusive use for £1,900 per night for up to ten guests in five bedrooms all year (cavens.com).

Make sure to accompany your meal with one of the impressive selection of wines available – the list far exceeds what you’d expect for such a small establishment, and the 18th Century wine cellar itself is well worth a visit.

After a good night’s rest in one of the six large bedrooms, a full Scottish cooked breakfast, featuring haggis (naturally), is the star of the breakfast menu. Alternative options include locally made granola and porridge, as well as the usual baked goods.

With roe deer and red squirrels among the regular visitors to the gardens and the Solway Firth just a 30-minute walk from the house, there is no need to travel far to experience this beautiful corner of Scotland, dubbed the country’s best-kept secret.

Yet Cavens is also a natural base for exploring Dumfries and Galloway. Twitchers will enjoy the offerings of RSPB Mersehead and WWT Caerlaverock, while the artistic hub of Kirkcudbright is less than an hour away.

Slightly further afield is Dumfries House, a country mansion boasting an unrivalled collection of Chippendale furniture which the Prince of Wales saved for the nation in 2007. 

A visit to the area would not be complete without paying tribute to Robert Burns, who spent his last years in Dumfries in a sandstone house now open to the public (by appointment only). 

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