A break in the Borders.

Above Image: Tweed Cottage, Old Melrose estate

People often ask us where do we go to for a weekend or a short break when we live so far up in the north east?  Well, the answer is, the north is our oyster! And no, we’re not going to mention the amazingly quick hop on the plane to Amsterdam or Dublin!

Above Image: Bedroom with a view, Tweed Cottage

Ignoring all the splendours of the Northumberland National Park and coastline on our doorstep, just 90 minutes brings us to the heart of the Lake District which we absolutely love (especially out of season when there are fewer tourists and you can actually park and get about!).  Alternatively, we can head south and in no time find ourselves enjoying the stunning countryside in Teesdale or the North Yorkshire Moors.

For city breaks we hop on a train and step out at York (Durham’s too near home) or we head straight up the East Coast line to one of our all time favourite cities – Edinburgh.  We like to save Edinburgh for a Christmas trip though as the Christmas markets are fabulous, the city looks stunning and remarkably romantic when it’s wearing all its Christmas finery – and who can resist a quick whizz round Harvey Nicks for a little bit of retail therapy or a cocktail overlooking this most atmospheric of cities?

Our very favourite hidden gem though is an area often overlooked or simply undiscovered by the vast majority of people – and that’s the Scottish borders.

Above Image: Scott’s View.  Sir Walter Scott’s favourite view of the Eildon Hills

The heart of this beautiful area south west of Edinburgh is probably only about 20 miles by 20 miles, with the little town of Melrose at its centre.   Melrose has it all; pretty Scottish turrety architecture with winding streets and hidden courtyards, a ruined abbey, two gardens run by Historic Scotland, an impossibly picturesque foot bridge across the river Tweed which runs through town, and a wealth of independent shops and galleries, not to mention oodles of lovely places to eat – and sleep!  And slap bang in the middle of town is a green expanse which turns out to be the rugby pitch – complete with a small museum celebrating this hallowed turf which is also the home of rugby sevens.  As we said, it has it all!  

Above Image: The Chain Bridge at Melrose

It also has a central car park which more often than not has a tourist coach parked up disgorging another load of tourists from all over the world (travellers taking a day trip from their visit to Edinburgh).  If we ever open a Lily Ella shop, Melrose is up there on our list of places to open up in!

Surrounded by pretty, picture postcard hills, Melrose now has a rail connection via Tweedbank station to Edinburgh.  This station is also the gateway to Abbotsford – which is the castellated home that Sir Walter Scott built just outside town, also on the Tweed.  Surrounded by a beautiful walled garden, Abbotsford is a magnet for tourists and Walter Scott pilgrims alike.  Walter Scott was akin to a celebrity superstar back in his day (he died in 1832) and left his mark all over Scotland.  Pilgrims come from far and wide to visit this grand, yet cosy country house.  A wonderful recent addition to the facilities is the stunning contemporary visitor centre which has a highly regarded restaurant with a beautiful outdoor balcony with views over the house and gardens.  It’s usually the French who manage to successfully pull off dropping a piece of modern architecture into an historical setting, but in this case the scots have won out. 

Check it out yourself here: www.scottsabbotsford.co.uk

Above Image: Abbotsford House

North of Melrose you come to the lovely small market town of Lauder and if you happen to stop off for browse and a coffee in our favourite Flat Cat Gallery on the 12th August as we once did, you are liable to run into lots of gamekeepers and country folk dressed in breeches and tweed!

Check it out here: www.flatcatgallery.co.uk

Further to the northwest lies the royal burgh of Peebles with not dissimilar attractions to Melrose in terms of shops, but with a host of spa hotels thrown in.  Our favourite place close to Peebles is Traquair House which hails back to pre-medieval times and has had people living in it continuously for over 900 years – although the current family have only been there since the 1400s!  

Take a look for yourself: www.traquair.co.uk

An annual treat there is the outdoor Shakespeare plays.  The beautiful little café in the corner of the fabulous walled garden plays host to an Elizabethan themed pre theatre supper, then the audience follow the players round the grounds.  

Above Image: Café at Traquair House

Above Image: The walled garden at Traquair House

On a beautiful evening there’s nothing better, as the action moves to the back of the house the actors have to run gauntlet of competing with the two pet pigs and the goats who come running noisily out of their little houses to see what all the fuss is about late on a summer’s evening!

Above Image: The players and audience assembling for outdoor Shakespeare at Traquair House, June 2018

A little to the south of Melrose is one of our favourite villages, St Boswells, not least because on one side of the village green is one of our favourite pubs, the Buccleuch Arms!  We once saw a wonderful Scottish wedding group going into the pub, the women all had heather in their corsages on their tartan sashes and the men were all in kilts. 

Check out one of our favourite pubs in St. Boswells: www.buccleucharms.com

The village green at Saint Boswells is one of those spaces that is genuinely used by the local community for all manner of activities and celebrations – just last week there was Scottish country dancing and a highland pipe band parading there.  St Boswells has two further attractions which are always worth a diversion – firstly the Scottish Borders Donkey Sanctuary (who can resist a donkey?). 

Maybe visit the donkeys at St.Boswells for yourself, check them out here: www.donkeyheaven.org

And secondly the amazing Main Street Trading Company. The latter is a rather famous bookshop, café and gorgeous deli and home store currently celebrating its first 10 years in business.  The bookshop is a destination store for well known authors to give promotional talks, we love receiving their emails to see who is appearing next.  

Visit amazing bookshop and have a browse for yourself: www.mainstreetboooks.co.uk


Back towards the south, before you hit Jedburgh, (short term home to the ill fated Mary Queen of Scots) you must make a detour to Born in the Borders.  This is a wonderful converted farmstead nestled in a hollow in the nook of the river.  Not only is this a craft brewery and gin distillery producing the most mellow and magical gin – Lilliards Gin.

Above Image: Lilliards Gin (Photo Credit: http://www.bornintheborders.com )

Born in the Borders is home to another great café, but this one has a pretty special USP (Unique Selling Point) and that is, the full screen web cam angled on the Osprey nest in the top of a scots pine tree just outside!   

The very keen, resident lady ornithologist is a retired RAF officer and she has her beady eyes and telescope trained on the nest and adjoining tree, visitors can spend as long as they like watching the birds – when we were there the male (called Samson) ate a whole large pike to himself which took him 45 minutes.

Above Image: Osprey watching at Born in the Borders, some people are keener than others!

The River Tweed itself is a large, graceful river that twists and winds across the landscape.  It plays host to incredible fishing pools for salmon, trout and sea trout and during the migratory season there are spectacular flocks of swans and geese to be seen everywhere.  

The Tweed is not just for nature though, during the industrial revolution it brought great wealth (and factories) to the area with the coming of the weaving industry and it was the centre for the production of that favourite Lily Ella fabric – Tweed!  Galashiels, Selkirk and Hawick were all jam full of factories.  Today of course, nearly all production is offshore but there is a still a beating heart of design and fabric production based in the area.  There are various outlet shops and we particularly love the tartan factory at Locharron in Selkirk – it’s great to take a tour and see this traditional fabric still being produced where it belongs.

This is just a quick snapshot of some of our favourite places in the Borders.  We haven’t even mentioned characterful towns like Kelso and the masses of country houses and stately homes that are dotted all over this fertile little land.  Each time we go we discover another wonderful place and we hope have whetted our customers’ appetite to go exploring next time you are in this neck of the woods!

Above Image: A stretch of the River Tweed near Melrose

Above Image: Chilling on the banks of the Tweed

We all throughly enjoyed our time up in the Borders - take a trip up North this Summer we know you'll love it!



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