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Scottish Borders


Map of the Scottish Borders

The genius of the Borders lies in its frontier character. Though warfare has long subsided, the monuments to it remain. Hill forts, brochs, castles, peel towers, tower-houses and castles are the evocative reminders of the area's contested past and its role as a national and international boundary.

The Border abbeys were a tempting target and their history is a continuous tale of destruction and rebuilding. The final straw was the "Rough Wooing" of Henry VIII which left the abbeys of Dryburgh, Jedburgh and Melrose in ruins. However, even as ruins, their magnificent architecture bears witness to their spiritual and political power.

The Borders' place-names reflect successive waves of invaders from Celtic to Norman. Its legend contains some of the most graphic accounts in our islands of the emergence of nationhood. It is said to be more sung in ballad than any other place on the face of the earth even Ancient Greece! Stalking the pages of Borders history are epic characters like King Arthur and Merlin, William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and Mary Queen of Scots.

Threading its way through this beautiful land is the River Tweed - the Queen of the salmon rivers - its waters and banks are so rich in flora and fauna that it has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest along its entire length. Follow the great river from its source at Tweed's Well, through some of Scotland's finest walking country to the little town of Broughton. This was familiar territory to the young John Buchan, later Lord Tweedsmuir, the author of The Thirty-Nine-Steps. You can find out about his extraordinary career at the John Buchan Centre in Broughton Village.

Scottish Borders

To the east of Broughton lies Dawyck Botanic Garden, an out-station of Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden. There has been a tree collection at Dawck for more than 300 years, and its vast conifers, unusual rhododendroms and collection of flowering trees provide a magnificent habitat for many wildlife species.

Peebles is the starting point for many enjoyable walks and bike rides in the Glentress Forest or along the River Tweed to imposing Neidpath Castle, but pause in the town itself to stroll round the delightful small shops and try your hand at plastering at the Corrice Museum.

Moving eastwards again, Kailzie Gardens are famed for their laburnum alley and spectacular displays of spring bulbs, whilst at nearby Innerleithen you can explore Robert Small's old printing works, or sample the former spa town's 'health-giving waters' at the St Ronan's Wells Centre. For stronger refreshment, follow in the footsteps of 27 kings to visit Traquair, reputedly the oldest inhabited house in Scotland. Here you can tour the house and grounds, visit the craft workshops, and buy ale made in Traquair's own traditional brewhouse.

Hawick has always been at the heart of the knitwear industry. Trace the history of local textiles in the Wilton Lodge Museum, in the glorious setting of the 107-acre Wilton Lodge Park, and experience the more distant past at the inspiring Drumlanrig's Tower visitor centre.

At Galashiels, the town's oldest building, Old Gala House, is now home to an excellent local museum and gallery. Sir Walter Scott lived a few miles away at Abbotsford House, and his patronage helped to popularise the local 'tweed' cloth. At the Lochcarron of Scotland Cashmere and Wool Centre you can explore the past and present Borders woollens with a fascinating mill tour and a visit to the Centre's museum.

The town of Selkirk was made prosperous by shoe-making - discover some fascinating local history at Halliwell's House and visit Clapperton's Daylight Photographic Studio, where upright Victorian citizens sat for their portraits.

Journey farther back in time to visit the great Border Abbey's of Melrose, Dryburgh, Jedburgh, and Kelso. All four were founded by the pious Scottish king, David 1, and all four came to grief at the hands of English armies. Dryburgh Abbey is close to Scott's View, where the novelist often paused to admire his beloved Eildon Hills, and Smailholm Tower - a typical cattle stronghold from the days of the Border Reivers.

In 1998 a small lead casket believed to contain the heart of Robert the Bruce was re-buried at Melrose Abbey. In the shadow of the Abbey lies Prionwood Garden, specialising in plants for drying and in old apple varieties - a lovely spot for a picnic beneath the ancient trees.

Jedburgh Abbey has an impressive Visitor Centre, and the Town Trail will also take you to the thought-provoking Castle Jail and to the museum at Mary Queen of Scots' House, where you can trace the tragic Queen's dramatic life story. From here she made her desperate journey to Hermitage Castle, the forbidding fortress where her lover Bothwell lay wounded.

A few miles outside Jedburgh you'll find the Harestanes Countryside Visitor Centre, where you can follow one of several easy woodland walks. Families will also enjoy meeting the animals at the Jedforest Deer and Farm Park where there is also a woodland adventure play area plus the chance to see exciting falconary displays.

At the Teviot Smokery, stop to enjoy a riverside stroll through the Water Gardens, on your way to the pretty market town of Kelso - home of the Kelso Races - and the fairytale palace of Floors Castle, with its rich collection of tapestries, paintings, furniture and porcelain.

Travelling from the Abbey towns to the Berwickshire coast, the countryside changes again, with sweeping views across the sun-dappled farmland of the Merse.

Here in the eastern Scottish Borders you'll find an extraordinary concentraction of fine historic houses, each with its own character and its own special treasures, from the marble dairy at Manderston to the Victorian splendour of Ayton Castle.

On the outskirts of Lauder, Thirlestane Castle is amongst the finest stately homes in Scotland, with world famous Restoration plasterwork ceilings and a delightful collection of historic toys. The old kitchens and laundries are fascinating and exhibitions depict domestic, sporting and agricultural life in the Borders over the centuries.

Mellerstain is an outstanding Adam residence where many of the original interior colours have been retained and the walls are hung with paintings by Van Dyke, Gainsborough and many others.

The beautiful Palladian mansion of Paxton House near Berwick boasts gorgeous Adam ceilings and original Chippendale furniture. Its magnificent picture gallery is an outpost of the National Galleries of Scotland.

The museum at Coldstream features the history of the Coldstream Guards. Nearby at the Hirsel you can enjoy lakeside and woodland walks, longer over lunch at lakeside picnic tables and buy high quality craft products direct from the makers.

At Duns Castle there is an outstanding Wildlife Nature Reserve and a large section of the Berwickshire coastline has Voluntary Marine Reserve status. A particularly rewarding way to observe the cliftop bird colonies is to charter a boat from St Abbs.

At Eyemouth the colourful local fishing fleet carries on a traditional industry that has lasted for more than 700 years. The local museum is the home of the magnificent Eyemouth tapestry commemorating the terrible loss of life in the Eyemouth fishing disaster of 1881.

The small towns and villages of the Berwickshire Coastline offer seaside holidays with all you could wish for, from dramatic cliffs to picturesque harbours, and sandy coves - and with the beaches and birdlife of this unspoilt coastline, your Border's journey draws to a close.

But once you have experienced the timeless pleasures of this special corner of Scotland, you'll surely return for more.

Click here to go to the Scottish Borders Tourist Board
Click here for Historic Places to Go

Scottish Borders

Scottish Borders

Scottish Borders

Scottish Borders

Scottish Borders

Scottish Borders

Scottish Borders

Scottish Borders

Scottish Borders

Scottish Borders

Scottish Borders

Scottish Borders

Scottish Borders

Scottish Borders


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