I’M high in the air atop half a ton of muscle, and I’m nervous. I haven’t been on a horse since I was five years old, on holiday in 1960s Wales, when I was led around some fields imagining I was a knight in armour.

This time my imagination only gets as far as the consequences of falling off, so I uncharacteristically obey all instructions, sit up straight and clutch fast to the reins which I reckon are key to my continuing existence.

The practice paddock at the Kailzie equestrian centre near Peebles is thankfully padded with shredded rubber, and I shouldn’t fret – I and my placid steed Hector are in the capable charge of stable-hand Leah, who has been riding since she was three.

After a gentle walk we try a trot, and I realise immediately the importance of rising with the horse, getting into a rhythm to save myself a painful battering on sensitive areas. The trot may be easy for experienced riders, but it brings an unexpected adrenaline rush.

Next we’re led out into a green lane, pad gently along, make a turn, and walk back to the paddock. I’m getting the hang of it, but I’m clearly not up to a longer trip along the public road, so I dismount and my partner Helen, who has experience of pony trekking, is taken in a little train of horses along the road to Cardrona Woods.

As enthusiasts for adventurous Highland holidays, we’re on a weekend in the Borders instead to try out the delights on offer. Sampling the classic local activity of riding is a must, and this taster is ideal despite the pouring rain.

Helen returns with a big grin and a decision to come back another time, well impressed with the competence and confidence of the young staff, and we head back to Cringletie House Hotel, near Peebles, where we have been staying for the weekend.

The evening we first arrive we’re awe-struck as the great red sandstone bastion of Cringletie sweeps into view from the driveway. The autumn colours of the Borders woodlands glow despite the downpour of Storm Callum, and manager Jeremy Osborne is straight out with umbrellas and a hand with luggage.

The Scottish Baronial pile was built in 1860s and has been comfortably converted into a boutique hotel with 12 bedrooms and impressive but welcoming public rooms.

We have a junior suite with a bay window giving great views of the grounds, super-sized four-poster and plenty of room to spread out. Osborne’s staff, like him, are quietly helpful, chatting just long enough to make you feel welcome and connected before getting on about their business.

We relax in the snug bar with a drink before dinner and then head into the grand but distinctly unstuffy dining room for our first sample of the Cringletie kitchen.

The food is everything you would expect of a hotel of this standard, presented well and tasting delicious without any fussiness. Starters are pink duck and small sweet scallops, mains are tender venison and a pork selection with a fine rich pigginess to it, and puddings are light and fruity.

They’re good at breakfasts too, and over two mornings we enjoy a really good full Scottish, substantial without overwhelming, a selection from a smoked fish platter, and a grilled Arbroath smokie that is a savoury, nutty delight.

Our riding trip was arranged by the hotel, which has its own paddock and stables for any guests who arrive with a horse – it’s not uncommon – and has close ties with Kailzie.

Susanne McIntosh, who runs Kailzie, makes me a cuppa while Helen is off trekking and explains that she and Cringletie are cooking up a plan to provide equestrian holidays based at the hotel. It’s another idea to boost tourism in an area she says hasn’t seen the recent boom which has left Highland spots trampled to death.

Her stable provides many of the horses for the Commons Ridings which crop up at Borders towns and villages across the summer, and she passes crowd-hardened animals on to Police Scotland and the Yorkshire force. The horses are bought from Ireland: mentioning Brexit produces a grimace.

Back at Cringletie after our ride we clean up and dry off before splitting an afternoon tea – fluffy light scones, sandwiches and cakes – then strolling through the grounds, where the damp October weather has brought out a mass of beefy, colourful fungi among the woodland leaves.

The 28-acre estate has a history and nature trail, and explanatory signs crop up at sites such as the old dovecot, and a ha-ha – a curious sunken wall, a bit like an infinity pool, which can’t be seen from the house, keeping the laird’s view of his domain clear and sheep out of the garden. A note tells us the former house gasworks used calcium carbide, just like my old caving lamp.

The walled garden is the highlight, with a vast old greenhouse. The garden still provides flowers and produce for the hotel, plus a sense of shelter, calm and mellow fruitfulness for visitors.

We retire for an afternoon nap, but decline the easy option of staying in the cocoon of Cringletie later in favour of researching the Peebles high-street offering for eating.

The place clearly has money, with plenty of upmarket shops and eateries. We head instead for Jim Jack’s fish-and-chip cafe. It couldn’t be more different to the hotel, but the food is equally excellent, which explains why it’s still packed at 7.30pm, and we squeeze into a cosy dining room for fish suppers.

Back at the hotel it’s a drink in front of the fire and a lively chat to other guests – the clientele ranges from wealthy Germans touring in a vintage Jag to ordinary Glasgow folk who’ve bagged a deal – before retiring to our four-poster, a ridiculous film on the big-screen telly, and another good night’s sleep in the deep darkness this countryside offers.

Before we leave the next morning I chat to Osborne, who is keen to boost business among visitors and local people alike: he says the locals use it for functions but have yet to twig properly to the great restaurant, teas, and bar.

Among efforts to pull in new visitors are an Outlander-themed event for the start of the TV series’s new season. The author of the original books, Diana Gabaldon, has stayed at the hotel, and while we were there its mock-castle splendour encouraged one couple to dress Outlander-style for dinner.

Osborne suggests they might expand on their one self-catering cottage, a sensible idea, but when he says they may branch out into spa treatments – nearby Stobo and Peebles Hydro major on this – I’m not sure. Cringletie is offering laid back country-house charm and individuality, and has no need to ape the hotel giants.

We finish our trip with a three-hour walk which takes us from Peebles across the hills and down through more woods to the Glentress mountain bike centre. I’ve tried the bike trails before, and having sampled a few other Scottish MTB hotspots, this is the best.

Our route takes us back along the banks of the Tweed in clear autumn sunlight, the rains of the past few days dramatically swelling the river, and we round off our slightly greedy trip with very good soup-and-sandwiches at high street deli and restaurant Coltman’s.

It’s been an easy, stress-free short break. The short journey to and from Glasgow, the scenery, the superb hotel and service, and the opportunities for exercise will bring us back. Who knows, I might even get back up on a horse again.

Need to know

Cringletie House Hotel has a range of rooms from straightforward doubles to suites, plus a self-catering cottage.

A classic room for two with breakfast in the winter season is £135; a junior suite will set you back £215. Prices rise across the summer months.

Cringletie is about two miles north of Peebles on the A703 Edinburgh road.

Riding lessons at Kailzie Equestrian Centre start at £15 for small children and £20 for adults.