|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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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