Begin your quest for Scotland’s castles and gardens in the Scottish Borders. Spend a great historic day out exploring the region's castles and see what intriguing tales you can uncover amongst the centuries-old stone walls. Ponder what life was like for the people who lived here and take gentle strolls around beautiful gardens.
Departing from Edinburgh, head south for Lauder and visit one of the seven ‘Great Houses of Scotland’, Thirlestane Castle. Dating as far back as the 13th century, it boasts a beautiful fairytale-like exterior. Admire the splendour of its turreted roof and its elegant proportions, and take a lovely woodland walk through the small formal garden planted with roses. Although the castle is not open to visitors in 2013 due to remedial works, the grounds are open as usual.
Continue further south to the town of Kelso, the home of the stunning Floors Castle. Situated in the heart of the Scottish Borders and overlooking the River Tweed and Cheviot Hills, Floors Castle is the largest inhabited castle in Scotland and is home to the Duke and Duchess of Roxburgh and their family. Filled to the brim with fine works of art, timeless tapestries and a beautiful collection of antiques, Floors Castle is unique in that it still retains the comfortable, welcoming atmosphere of a family home.
Spend the afternoon exploring the gardens of Melrose. Harmony Garden, set around an early 19th century house, is a beautiful walled garden run by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS). Pop into its sister garden of Priorwood, Scotland’s only dedicated dried flower garden, which is overlooked by the impressive ruins of Melrose Abbey.
Time depending, you could follow the valley of the River Tweed westwards and visit Kailzie Gardens, situated on the south side of the river between Innerleithen and Peebles, close to Traquair House. Alternatively, take an extra day to explore the area. There is Neidpath Castle, an imposing 14th century L-plan tower house on a commanding riverside site just west of Peebles, while Dawyck Botanic Garden nearby offers great walks alongside rare plants and flowers.