Round Up : Scottish Borders
Often missed in the rush to reach Edinburgh, Glasgow and beyond, the Borders have a quiet joy of their own. It’s now easier to access the Borders with the Borders Railway running to Tweedbank from Edinburgh.
On the coast, one past the disputed town of Berwick (surely as it’s to the north of the Tweed, it should be in Scotland), there are lovely old harbours to explore.
Inland there is rich agricultural land, prime fishing rivers and hills hinting at why these lands were coveted by both Scotland and England. The picturesque ruins of several abbeys bear witness to the turbulence of centuries of Border wars and religious strife focusing attention on a tapestry of history, heritage, culture and recreation, and this is a region rich with fine houses, castles and museums to visit.
The core Borders towns of Galashiels, Melrose and Hawick make a great base while you spend several days exploring.
The coast has a wealth of small harbours. Of particular note is Eyemouth whose Museum documents the fishing and social heritage of Eyemouth, brought to life in its exhibits and through stories from local people. Central to the museum is the famous Eyemouth Tapestry that commemorates the Great East Coast Fishing Disaster of 1881, known as Black Friday, when 129 Eyemouth men lost their lives at sea.
Further up the coast at St Abbs is the RSPB Nature Reserve, a great place to see and learn about our sea birds. Boat trips out are available all along the coast.
A small gem is this unusual bridge over the Tweed http://www.unionbridgefriends.com/
Mellerstain House and Gardens are one of Scotland’s finest stately homes, this outstanding Georgian mansion house is a unique example of Adam design, begun in 1725 by Scottish architect William Adam and completed in 1778 by his more famous son, Robert. Some say this is one of Robert Adam’s finest works, complemented by the fine art, period furniture, china and embroidery collections within.
Floors Castle, home of the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe, is perhaps the largest inhabited castle in Scotland. Abbotsford, near Melrose, was built and lived in by Sir Walter Scott where the library holds over 9,000 rare volumes.
Melrose, Kelso and Jedburgh Abbeys are all worth a visit and while I Jedburgh you will want to visit the Castle Jail and Museum, and the Mary Queen of Scots Visitor Centre housed in an impressive fortified house would have been nearly new when Mary visited the town in 1566.
This is a place of small gems and lovely scenery: the twin valleys of Ettrick and Yarrow contain some of the most glorious scenery in the Scottish Borders, with St. Mary’s Loch, southern Scotland’s largest stretch of water. The area’s rich heritage provided inspiration for such writers as Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg.
Halliwells House, the town’s oldest dwelling , houses the town’smuseum, where you can see an authentic Victorian Ironmongers Shop. The Flodden Flag on display was captured at Flodden by the men, or ‘Souters’, of Selkirk; the name means shoemakers, referring to the fact that Selkirk was once a shoe making town.
The Robert Clapperton Daylight Photographic Studio is an original daylight photographic studio dating from 1867.
Nearby is Aikwood Tower, a 16th century tower, the legendary home of Michael Scott the wizard. There is an exhibition of the life and work of James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, and also Art and Sculpture Exhibitions. Visitors have access to the tower and to the newly created medieval style garden.
The grand house, owned by the Buccleuch’s is Bowhill, dating mainly from 1812 and greatly expanded during the 19th century by architects including William Atkinson, William Burn and David Bryce.
A leaflet of walks around the town of Selkirk is here https://www.scotborders.gov.uk/downloads/file/682/selkirk
Neidpath Castle and Traquir House are the undoubted top attractions with Traquir holding the record as the oldest continuously inhabited house. It’s brewery produces good ales too!
The Grey Mare’s Waterfall makes for a stunning walk http://www.nts.org.uk/Visit/Grey-Mares-Tail/
Trace the source of the River Tweed http://www.bridgesonthetyne.co.uk/twdsrce.html
As well as hosting some premier (and in some case VERY exclusive golf courses). Dunbar hosts a museum celebrating John Muir, based at his birthplace. Tantallon, Dirlton and Hailes Castles are each impressive in their own way but there are plenty of grand houses and gardens to explore. Visit Athelstaneford to discover more about the origins of Scotland’s flag, the Saltire.
The lovely town of North Berwick hosts the Scottish Sea Bird Centre, a busy place during the nesting season. Zooming telescopes help you see all the action without disturbing the birds and boat trips to the Bass Rock and its enormous gannet colony are available.
Rosslyn Chapel is the attraction everyone has heard of but do visit the nearby castle and its worth extending those to Armiston House, the Cousland Smiddy, Crichton Castle. etc.
The National Mining Museum is at Newbattle. This enormous site preserves a significant portion of the mining heritage of central Scotland. Newbattle Abbey with its extensive grounds is s stark contrast.
We will leave you to discover what Hawick Balls and Selkirk Bannocks are for yourselves.
Leaflets for walks around the Borders Council area are here https://www.scotborders.gov.uk/downloads/download/352/paths_around_walks