Together with the rest of the Scotlanders and partners, we were visiting the Scottish Borders as part of a bigger Visit Scotland campaign, to further promote and create awareness of this somewhat unexplored part of Scotland with the new Borders Railway opening up in September of 2015. We are aware that the majority of visitors fly into Edinburgh or Glasgow and then head north, which really is a shame as this part of Scotland has so much to offer. During my last 10 years in Scotland, I have visited various locations in the Scottish Borders and thoroughly enjoy this part of Scotland and was delighted when we had this opportunity to visit the region as a tourist for the weekend. My visit was very much focused on the historic houses, Gardens and beautiful Abbey’s that could be found in the Scottish Borders. The visit also tied in with following in Sir Walter Scott’s footsteps.
We arrived after work on Friday night to stay at the Abbotsford House, Hope Scott Wing, the home of Sir Walter Scott and where he wrote a lot of his work and spent much of his later life when he was not travelling. The Hope Scott Wing has recently been refurbished and along with the main house are now open to the public not only for tours, but also to stay within this magnificent property which compromises so much history. Abbotsford House is set in such an idyllic location with its own walled garden and by the banks of the River Tweed.
We had a lovely room overlooking the back of the house towards the River Tweed and back garden. The room was spacious with an even more impressive bathroom, with a beautiful free standing bath, his and her sink and a very large walk-in shower. All the public areas and guest rooms came with free Wi-Fi, which is often expected everywhere, but this was a pleasant surprise in such a historic building.
On our first evening we all met up and dined at the new Hoebridge Inn Restaurant a very modern and contemporary style, in what looks like an old converted farm barn. The atmosphere was very good and a true hidden gem in the Scottish Borders. The staff were all very attentive and professional with great manners and knowledge about their products on offer. I enjoyed a beautifully cooked ravioli, then to follow I have a lovely cooked confit Chicken. As the restaurant was not too big I would high recommend you called in advance or visited www.thehoebridge.com to book.
On our first morning we had an early start and had a nice breakfast in the breakfast room, although this to me would be a large dining room, with lovely cut fresh fruit and good selection of continental breakfast.
Scott’s View and William Wallace Monument
After breakfast we made our way to the morning’s first stop at the Scott’s View which is about a 13 minutes’ drive from Abbotsford and 15 minutes’ from Galashiels. This was believed to be one of the locations that Scott often came to get inspired and creative, it was very obvious why he liked this location so much. There is splendid views across the Scottish Borders towards the three Eildon Hills and I took this opportunity to get several shots.
After spending a little time there we drove a short drive to visit the Wallace Monument. The Wallace Monument was unveiled in 1814, which was the anniversary of Wallace’s victory in the battle at Stirling Bridge back in 1297 and created by a local man John Smith. On the path at the foot of the statue you will find a poem by the eighteen century poet James Thomson and if you stand beside or underneath the statue, you will also enjoy beautiful views across the Scottish Borders.
From there we went to visit what must be one of the most idyllic Abbey’s in Scotland or so I think. Dryburgh Abbey which is managed by Historic Scotland and has been on this site since 1150 when it was founded. As the village of Dryburgh no longer exists, it is very quiet and peaceful around the Abbey and in the area. This is also the location in which Sir Walter Scott was buried in 1832 and was until around 1550’s home to a peaceful religious community, but due to several English attacks declined severely. The Abbey is now often used for wedding ceremonies and they were in fact setting up for one when we were there. We had also been suggested by our host Marianne to visit the Smailholm Tower, so made our way there after taking in the sights at Dryburgh Abbey.
We arrived at the Smailholm Tower, which is also managed by Historic Scotland. At a young age Scott moved to live here with his grandfather and uncle on the Sandyknowe farm nearby. This is where they told him the old tales of the Scottish Borders and many of his tales and stories are created. Smailholm Tower had a few levels with small costume figures on display of the old Scottish Folk stories that Scott had been told about. At the top off the building there was a small platform, from which you almost enjoyed as much of a view across the countryside as we did from Scott’s View. On departure I ended up speaking to the local guide from Historic Scotland and it was great to get such a personal insight into not only the history, but also the local region and what else I was recommended to visit of the many beautiful houses and gardens.
For lunch we decided to visit the prestigious Floors Castle, which is the home to the Duke of Roxburghe and his family. On the Estate you have two options for refreshments, either the Terrace Café by the Garden centre, which is more family friendly and relaxed. The other option is the Courtyard Café, which is located within the Castle and offers a really good selection of local produce and homemade soups. When we first arrived to Floors Castle, we parked up by the Garden Centre and Terrace Cafe and walked through the garden to the Castle. This was a lovely and very peaceful walk and what an impressive sight when we arrived to the Castle driveway and entrance. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch outside by the cafe before starting our tour.
We tried out the new ‘Tour Me Guide’ App Guide Me Tour – Floors Castle which has recently been implemented. You can either purchase the App online or hire small tablets at the ticket office. The commentary on the App / device has In fact been recorded by the Duke himself and it was a pleasure listening to him. His passion for the history of the Estate and family was obvious through his genuine knowledge and enthusiasm. When we walked through this magnificent castle it was wonderful to see the large collections of beautiful art and old furniture. We were not allowed to photograph around the Castle, so you’ll have to visit to see it for yourself!
Borders Book Festival
After our tour at Floors Castle, we made our way back to Melrose for the Borders Book Festival www.bordersbookfestival.org which is housed at the beautiful Georgian Harmony House, which is managed by the National Trust for Scotland and the Book Festival has been staged there since 2004. We arrived later on and browsed the area many local food producers which where ideally placed in between the Harmony Garden and Food village. This was my first time attending the Borders Book Festival and I would definitely go back. There was a really good line up and attendance throughout the weekend including Alex Salmon, Gordon Brown, Andrew Marr, Patricia Hodge and many more. There were many great local producers, including the Borders Brewery, of which we never had time to visit on this occasion in the Scottish Borders, we just need to go back next year!
On our second evening we went to the Burt’s Hotel in Melrose. This had two offerings of restaurants, the more relaxed and informal at the front of the hotel and the Garden Restaurant at the back of the hotel overlooking their private garden with white table cloths and silver wear. We were booked into the Garden Restaurant and had a nice table at the back of the restaurant. We chose our meal from the evenings Al a carte menu. I enjoyed a beautiful Chicken liver parfait, to follow was a lovely sorbet pallet cleanser. For main I had chosen the Highland Venison as I don’t have this too much. I was delighted with the choice and it came perfectly cooked rare enough (as I like it) with a nice and simple garnish a juniper berry sauce. To finish I had chosen the Chocolate Fondant and wow this was good. You cut into the Fondant and the warm chocolate came flowing out! After a splendid meal and a great catch up with the other Scotlanders, we all made our way back to Abbotsford House for our last evening in the Scottish Borders.
On Our tour of Abbotsford House on the Sunday after check out was done by Julie. It was such a wow-factor when you first arrived into the entrance hall and saw his large armour collection, all of these with a story of their own. Sir Walter Scott had such a enormous collection of both armoury and thousands of books and these could all be found throughout the house in several of the rooms. I in particular liked his private library, which was such an astonishing space and could be found just after the entrance hall. It included a small work desk in the middle of the room where Scott would sit and write most of his work. He also had a small balcony installed, with direct access to his bedroom, so that he could come directly to work without having to wake up anyone else in the house.
We also tried out the new ‘Tour Me Guide’ App Guide Me Tour – Abbotsford House which has recently been implemented here too and a really good way to get further in-depth stories about Scott’s. You can either purchase the App online or hire small tablets at the ticket office.
On our last day in the Scottish Borders we made our way after our Abbotsford House tour. We headed for Kelso to visit their Abbey and also explore the town. The town sits on the River Tweed and is this river spot is the Holy Grail for Scottish Salmon as this one of the locations where they rest upstream. This makes the fishing easier and for that reason it has made it world famous.
We paid a visit to the Kelso Abbey which sits only a few moments’ walk from the town centre. This is managed by Historic Scotland and is free entry to explore.
For lunch we headed to what looked like the old cinema of Kelso, Contented Vine Restaurant which is about 5 minutes’ walk along from the town square. The Restaurant was fairly quiet, which a lot of the town seemed to be on this Sunday afternoon. So we managed to get a table no problem. They had a nice offering for lunch meals and very reasonably priced.
Teviot Smokery and Water Garden Centre
As we left Kelso we went for a drive to further explore the countryside and made a short stop at the Teviot Smokery and Water Garden. The garden centre was busy both in the restaurant and also throughout the shop. The sun had come out and as we walked around the water garden we could really taking in the peaceful and tranquil feel of the soothing sounds of the flowing waters. As we walked by the water swallows were skimming the river and by then then sun were really showing off the garden’s colours.
From there we drove to around a little to further explore the area and passed yet more beautiful scenery and we made a quick stop at the Monteviot House and Gardens. During our drive we also spotted several large buzzards circling the fields, but unfortunately never managed to photograph them before they were gone.
We then headed back to Melrose to finish off our weekend at the Borders Book Festival. We made a stop at Melrose’s old Train Station for a few photos, just to remind us of what these use to be like. This will be very different with the new Borders Railway opening up in September of this year 2015, which has been redundant or about 40 years and it’s the longest stretch of railway to open up in the UK for a 100 years.
We spent the last remaining hours of our visit browsing the Borders Book Festival and taking in the lovely feeling which there was around Melrose.
When we left Melrose to return back home, we made a brief stop at the Leaderfoot Viaduct View which sits across the River Tweed and carries the Berwick Railway. This was a very scenic spot and I would love to return there for a few sunset photos later in the year as the sun would be setting right behind the viaduct at certain times of the year.
I would like to thank all of the Historic Houses for having us this weekend and everyone has been so welcoming and delighted to see us all. Especially a big thank you to the team at Abbotsford House for having us and I really hope to see this house being used a lot more for visits as it’s true luxury is ideal with the beautiful setting and easy reach of the Scottish central belt.
If you wish to see more about our Scotlanders visit to the Borders and Abbotsford House, please visit www.thescotlanders.com or follow us on twitter @scotlanders Also, if you wish to learn more about or even book a tour or a luxurious stay at Abbotsford House, I would highly recommend you visit Hope Scott Wing
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed and please note all views are my own and any questions you may regarding this or any other of my visits around Scotland, please feel free to get in touch directly or via the Scotlanders email on firstname.lastname@example.org