Living out our Downton dream.
MY wife and I have a guilty pleasure - Downton Abbey. And like so many other keen followers, we can't get enough of it.
So we decided to recreate our very own experience of the stately home lifestyle.
With twins of two and a daughter of six, we needed somewhere that would cater for us all. So we opted for a cottage on the Hopetoun Estate, South Queensferry.
Hopetoun, a place of outstanding natural beauty, hosts Scotland's finest stately home, Hopetoun House. Built more than 300 years ago, it is surrounded by 150 acres of gardens, and it has wonderful walks and trails with perfect picnic spots and stunning views.
Now a five-star visitor attraction, it is an exceptional ancestral home, open for weddings, conferences, gala evenings, intimate dinners and large outdoor events.
Also, just five minutes' drive away is the Hopetoun farm shop offering some of Scotland's finest foods.
On our first morning, Ruby, our six-year-old, and I were off to discover the delights of Hopetoun House.
The interiors date from late Georgian through the Edwardian period, with much of the original decor and a wonderful collection of pictures, furniture and other contents.
Suitably impressed and dreaming of living in such grandeur, we met up with the rest of the clan and retired to the Stables Tearoom.
In the afternoon, we visited the Scottish Owl Centre, between Whitburn and Harthill at the Polkemmet Country Park.
The next day we made our way to Potter Around in Kirknewton. It's a ceramic painting business and craft studio for both adults and children.
Julia and Karen founded the business in 2010, creating a magical studio where anyone, whatever their skill, can be creative, have fun and relax. It is very child-friendly, with baskets full of toys and books, and we were well looked after.
Later we stopped off at Almond Valley Heritage Centre, nestled in a riverside site near Livingston. Mill Farm is home to many farm animals and lots to do, with milking, feeding, talks and handling sessions as well as crafts and games.
Awaking on our last day to beautiful sunshine, I managed to persuade my wife to allow me to play golf. With lots of courses in the area, I opted for the relatively new nine-hole course at Kingsfield Golf Centre. In hindsight, I should have taken the kids along too, as Kingsfield offers a fantastic family orientated golf facility.
Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to our stately home. We will return but not before we have seen the next series of Downton.
Travel facts | Bill stayed courtesy of Hopetoun House. For further details visit www.hopetoun.co.uk | Mid Lodge Cottage, from PS415 per week - www.hopetoun.co.uk/mid-lodge.html | Scottish Owl Centre - www.scottishowlcentre.com | Polkemmet Country Park. EH47 0AD | Potter Around - www.potteraround.co.uk | Overton Farm, Kirknewton, West Lothian. EH27 8DD | Almond Valley Heritage Centre - www.almondvalley.co.uk | Kingsfield Golf Centre - www.kingsfieldgolf.com Adults 9-hole from PS12.50 Children 9-hole (under 18) from PS6.50
HIGH LIFE J Hopetoun House, South Queensferry
STATELY n The grand dining room