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Hydro History

Hydro History

Peebles Hydro has never settled for received wisdom or conventional thinking. A gin distilled with local botanicals, and made with water drawn from a private spring? It’s unheard of – well, almost unheard of.

Our own course

1881 saw the opening of the grand Peebles Hydropathic Establishment.

Set high above the town the hotel offered a vast range of therapeutic water treatments bringing guests from all over Scotland and further afield to avail themselves with these revolutionary treatments.

Since 1881, and to whatever comes next.

The source of these water treatments? Peebles Hydro’s private water source, the Shieldgreen spring. Its purity became legendary for ‘alleviating’ a wide range of ailments. These days we’re a bit more dubious about the extent of these claims, but we still believe in the fresh, mineral-rich spring water that’s been supplying the Hydro for almost 140 years. So much so that it’s not just at the heart of our 1881 Gin and tonics, but also waters some of the local botanicals that may end up in the distilling process.

Game, set and match

The idea for The 1881 Distillery came on a summer day, standing in front of the steps to our tennis pavilion on the front lawn. In the 1920s Peebles Hydro had more tennis courts than Wimbledon, and we hosted many a tournament at that time. Gin and tonic was a popular tipple, served on the lawn to the crowds that gathered to watch.

We quickly discovered that the pavilion did not have enough space to house all of our gin distilling equipment. Undeterred, we decided to move production into the main hotel and so The 1881 Distillery was born – named after the date Peebles Hydropathic Hotel was first completed.


Our story


After three years in construction, Peebles Hydro opens for business and enjoys its first drops of Shieldgreen water.

Original Peebles Hydro building


Sadly, the hotel burns down.


The new Peebles Hydro is rebuilt using reclaimed materials. Architect James Millar designed the new hotel and the cost was £37,000 – £33,000 less than the original!

1920s – 1930s

Tennis became a popular pastime at Peebles Hydro throughout the 1920s with the Lawn Tennis Scottish Championships being hosted at the hotel during the 1930s.

Tennis at Peebles Hydro



The Hydro was requisitioned as a Military General Hospital during World War 1 with the main building housing around 1,200 beds. The hotel didn’t open its doors to guests again until August 1946.


The great gin renaissance. With the increase in gin distilleries popping up all over the country, Peebles Hydro opens its Gin Palace – serving more than 90 varieties of gin.

Our Peebles Hydro Gin Palace


The 1881 Gin Distillery was incorporated.


The gin still is installed and our first run of 1881 Gin is produced.

Copper Still 1881 Gin Distillery

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