The picturesque Scottish Borders are renowned for their historic houses and abbeys, but the landscape and history have also proved inspirational for generations of literary and artistic figures.
Discover the fascinating literary connections to Sir Walter Scott, and visit the gardens at Abbotsford in Melrose. Though the main house won't reopen until 2013 due to refurbishments, you can visit its new visitor centre and cafe. You can also embark on the Sir Walter Scott Way, between Moffat and Cocksburnpath. This beautiful trail passes through the countryside that fired Scott’s imagination in his popular novels.
Scott is buried in the ruins of the stunning Dryburgh Abbey, one of four beautiful displays of architecture and historically significant buildings which date from the 12th century and form the Borders Abbey Way. Kelso, Jedburgh and the Melrose Abbey complete the trail, and Melrose Abbey is believed to be the final resting place of Robert the Bruce’s heart.
The Scottish Borders is also famed for some of the most significant historic houses in the country, including the impressive Floors Castle near Kelso, home to the Duke of Roxburghe. Scotland’s oldest inhabited house, Traquair House lies on the outskirts of Innerleithen and has links to Mary Queen of Scots.
Other stunning properties across the Scottish Borders, each with their own unique story and family history, include the Bowhill House and Country Estate, home to the Scotts of Buccleuch. Learn more about the well established family names that hail from the Scottish Borders. At the estate near Selkirk you might hear the calls of skylarks amongst the high heather moors or spot an adorable red squirrel as you explore mixed woodland and loch-side walks.
But the region’s past was not without its troubles. It was at the forefront of the Scottish Wars for Independence and there were bloody battles along the Scotland/England border as the Border Reivers fiercely tried to defend their land. The importance of this part of the Scottish Borders’ history lives on today with the annual Common Ridings.
History and folklore continue into the Eildon Hills where the 13th century prophet Thomas the Rhymer is said to have roamed. Born in 1220, Thomas the Rhymer was considered a powerful wizard who foresaw the union of Scotland and England. At the foot of the Eildon Hills near Melrose, you can visit Rhymer’s Stone Viewpoint, where Thomas is fabled to have met the Faerie Queen who granted him the supernatural gift of prophecy.
The great River Tweed and its tributary rivers run amongst the hills and through the region and are renowned for their excellent fishing conditions, especially when it comes to salmon. Along the Tweed near Peebles, Kailzie Gardens offers fishing as well as displaying beautiful flowers in its walled, wild and greenhouse gardens. Spot kingfishers, herons, oyster catchers by the water and ensure that you visit the live Osprey Watch which captures intimate views of Tweed Valley Forest Park’s population on camera for you to watch.
Further south you can meet some other well known Scottish animals at Jedforest Deer and Farm Park, where red deer, highland cows and falconry can be met as part of a wonderful family day out.
Wherever you are in the Scotland, the land which inspired Disney•Pixar’s Brave, you’re never far from fascinating history, landscapes and wildlife.