A Tour of the Scottish Borders
- Country Mansions, Sir Walter Scott & The Great Outdoors
The Border country is home to numerous grand and impressive stately mansions, many of which have been owned by the same aristocratic family for generations. The classic architecture, beautiful furniture, paintings and porcelain of these great houses each with its own family history, as well as magnificent gardens, offers an entertaining and enjoyable day out.
Even if you have never read a word of Sir Walter Scott, this should not preclude a visit to his grand mansion, three miles from Melrose. Browse around his library of 9,000 books and see his collection of armoury - including Rob Roy's gun - Bonnie Prince Charlie's drinking cup, portraits and beautiful antique furniture. The gardens too are delightful with peacocks strutting around, just as they did in Scott's time. It is a mecca for international students, academics and general readers of his work. Everything is preserved just as it was when he died in 1832 aged just 61.
For more on Abbotsford, see Places to Visit - Abbotsford
Home of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry, this 18th & 19th century house in beautiful countryside has an outstanding collection of paintings, superb silverware, porcelain and French furniture and relics of Duke of Monmouth, Queen Victoria and Sir Walter Scott. Exhibition of life of James Hogg. Refresh yourself with home baking in the Minstrel Tearoom. Relaxing walks in the extensive grounds (which include the ruins of Newark castle) or tire out the kids in an adventure playground.
Situated near Duns, Berwickshire is the home of Lord and Lady Palmer and described as "the swansong of the great classical house". This is a perfectly preserved masterpiece with elegant staterooms and a unique silver staircase. Due to the period authenticity, the house has been used many times as the location for feature films and documentaries to depict life 'upstairs and downstairs' with the kitchens and domestic quarters preserved as they were in Edwardian times. The family is descended from the Huntly and Palmer biscuit company and there is a Biscuit tin museum on show. Graphic © Lisa Jarvis via Wikimedia Commons.
The estate at Kailzie was originally known as West Kellock and the first historical mention of the place was in 1296. A garden was established at Kailzie as far back as 1812, but in 1962 an old Georgian House was demolished and the owner - Lady Angela Buchan-Hepburn began to develop the then wild garden into the cultivated gardens we see today. One great advantage of the design of the walled garden at Kailzie is that it is divided up into different areas by hedging. That no doubt helps to protect the plants but it can also have the benefit of making you feel that you are on your own in the garden, even if there are other people around. There are also 15 acres of less formal gardens to wander through, with a duck pond and great views of the rolling hills of the Southern Uplands. There are also woodland walks beside a burn amongst spring bulbs, rhododendrons and azaleas. This part of the garden has many fine old trees including an old larch planted in 1725, gifted by a friend of the then Laird of Kailzie. It is the oldest specimen of larch in Scotland. In addition, there is a stocked trout pond, an 18 hole putting green, children's play area and gift shop.
This is one of Scotland's great Georgian houses begun in 1725 by William Adam and completed by his son, Robert. The interior decoration features the original design and colours. There is an excellent collection of paintings by Gainsborough, Ramsay and Van Dyck.
Floors Castle, Kelso
This is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe. There is a priceless collection of French furniture, tapestries, porcelain and paintings. There are extensive grounds, woodland and river walks on the banks of the Tweed.
For more on Floors Castle see Places to Visit - Floors Castle.
Traquair House, Innerleithen
This is the oldest inhabited house in Scotland and still owned by the Maxwell Stuarts who have lived here since 1491 although parts of the house go back to the 12th century. Traquair has been visited by 27 monarchs including Mary Queen of Scots who stayed here with her husband Darnley in 1566. The place is steeped in Jacobite history but the family suffered due to their Catholic faith with imprisonment for the fifth earl for supporting Bonnie Prince Charlie. There are some excellent memorabilia and relics including a cradle used by baby James VI and important letters. One gate and drive to the house has been locked for centuries and will never be opened or used until the "rightful" Stuart King is back on the Scottish throne. Traquair manufactures its own ale and during the summer there is a music and craft festival.
The Great Outdoors
The Scottish Borders is known as Scotland's Horse Country due to the centuries old tradition of horse-riding across the land. The Riding of the Marches, and Common Riding festivals taking place through the summer months in many towns and villages. The ancient ritual dates back to the Middle Ages when young men - Callants - would ride out to check the boundaries of common lands owned to the town. Each town has its own unique celebration with concerts, balls and pageants lasting several days.
Today the old drover roads and reiver tracks provide perfect and safe riding routes away from the traffic on the main roads. There is every opportunity for the horse lover from horse races, spectator events to pony trekking with several schools and stables. During the spring months there are point-to-point races. The Borders Festival of the Horse takes place from 18-29 May 2002 as a showcase of equestrian skills, activities and entertainment including horse trials at Floors Castle and a race meeting at Kelso. Other equestrian events take place throughout the year.
The Borders region offers around 20 golf courses, with a special visitor's Golf pass to allow you to tour around the greens. Fishing of course is very popular with the magnificent Tweed and other rivers offering the perfect setting for the angler. There are no public rights to fish in inland waters but permits are easily available. Salmon fishing on the Tweed is very popular due to its international reputation when certain beats are busy during the Autumn months but often a day's permit for the visitor is available. There's also an exciting range of salmon, trout, coarse fishing and sea angling opportunities.
"Where the pools are bright and deep,
Where the grey trout lies asleep
Up the river and o'er the lea,
That `s the way for Billy and me."
James Hogg - A Boy's song
Some Places to Stay
Burts Hotel, Melrose
Traditional white-washed townhouse in Market Square with high standard of comfort and cuisine.
Philipburn Country House Hotel, Selkirk
Most comfortable hotel with friendly service and excellent choice of home-cooked food in the restaurant or bistro.
Roxburghe Hotel, Kelso
Grand country mansion with beautiful furnishings, Spa and own golf course.
Carfraemill Lodge, Lauder
Set within its own farmland, which supplies the best beef and produce to the restaurant, this is a charming place to stop to eat or stay the night.
The Wheatsheaf, Swinton, Berwickshire
Family run pub and restaurant with 6 rooms. AA restaurant of the year, , and Taste of Scotland award winner specialising in seafood and game.
Macdonald Cardrona Hotel, Cardrona, Peebles
This new Golf and Country club will open in Spring 2003. A luxury hotel with a Spa, golf course and restaurant is a £11.7 million development and will be a significant and vital project for the Borders, offering a modern luxury place to stay.
Lauderdale Hotel, Scottish Borders>
A country house hotel in an imposing Edwardian building in its own extensive grounds with fishing and shooting opportunities, at the northern end of the picturesque Royal Burgh of Lauder. Award winning cuisine, fine wines and malts.
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