Circular Route. Melrose to Kelso section is part of the long distance route.
Melrose was occupied by the Roman Empire for about 100 years from 80AD until they eventually established their line of occupation at Hadrians Wall to the south. Prior to this Melrose was an important fort, it housed 1500 Roman infantry and cavalry.
Melrose Abbey: This was occupied for four hundred years, from 1136 to it's destruction about 1544 by the Earl of Hertford. The present town of Melrose grew up around it. The remains are impressive, look for the figure of a pig playing the bagpipes. Marmion's Brasserie, the Abbey Coffee Shop and the Youth Hostel are all near the abbey and there are many excellent hotels and pubs. The nearest bike shop is in Galashiels.
St Cuthbert, the greatest holy man of Northumbria, was a shepherd-boy near Melrose. He eventually became prior of Mailros Abbey. A long distance public walk called St Cuthberts Way has now been established; it stretches from Melrose to Lindsisfarne on Holy Island.
Dryburgh Abbey: one of the most attractive monastic ruins in Scotland, this abbey is looked after by Historic Scotland. Around 1150 Hugo de Morville Constable of Scotland founded the abbey and obtained a charter of confirmation from David I, the King. The monks led a quiet and prosperous life tending lands around Dryburgh for one hundred and seventy years until the wars between Scotland and England. English forces were retreating after Edward II's unsuccessful invasion of Scotland, when they heard the premature ringing of the bells of Melrose and Dryburgh Abbeys. The troops, on hearing them, retraced their steps and burnt both buildings. The Abbey was repaired but fell victim to the constant Border raids until it was finally burnt in 1544 during Henry VIII's Rough Wooing.
Kelso abbey was built around 1128, it was one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture. It was finally finished and dedicated in 1243. It was one of the largest and richest in Scotland, having a important library in medieval times. The abbey's wealth came from its lands, churches, schools and farms in the Cheviot Hills. Two kings, James III and James IV, were crowned in the Abbey. Kelso abbey together with Melrose, Dryburgh and Jedburgh were destroyed by English forces under Hertford. The abbeys went into decline and soon few monks remained. The Abbey and grounds are open every day, entry is free.
To the east of Kelso is the site of the town of Roxburgh with its castle - this was a substantial town but it was totally destroyed by a large army led by James II in 1460, the nearby village of Roxburgh is quite small.
Jedburgh Abbey is an impressive building built by David I in 1138 at the edge of the English border. The church is in the Romanesque and Gothic styles and is quite complete, given the treatment it received over the centuries at the hands of English invaders. The history goes further back than that, it was a Christian site from earlier times. In 850, Bishop Ecgred of Lindisfarne established a church there.
This route would be quite challenging to do in one day, particularly if you want to look round all the abbeys and have time to eat as well! It's probably best to plan for two days at least. There's some wonderful scenery, with fine views of the River Tweed and the Cheviot Hills, The small Border towns are interesting too, and there are many historic castles and stately houses to see.
There's two different ways to get between Melrose and Dryburgh Abbey. Going by Scott's View is is a little further and hillier but with a famous view. Going by Newtown St Boswells isn't entirely flat either. Dryburgh Abbey was founded 1150 and is in a particularly scenic setting in a bend in the River Tweed.
Scotts View Route - leave Melrose going east between the river and the Abbey. After that follow Tweed Cycleway signs keeping near to the river and crossing it on the old bridge near to a railway viaduct.
Newton St Boswells Route - leave Melrose Town Square by the West Port going south and cross the bypass road at a cycle sign.
Between Dryburgh Abbey and Kelso it's a gentle cycle in rolling country passing Smailholm Tower (16th Cent.) which now contains tapestries and Walter Scott figures. Just before Kelso is Floors Castle, an Adam mansion. It has an excellent restaurant (no admission charge for restaurant). Kelso has a particularly elegant town square and the bridge over the River Tweed was the prototype of London's Waterloo Bridge, being designed by the same engineer, John Rennie. To continue on the route you have to pass over this and turn right on to the A699 for a little way. In getting there you'll also pass the bike shop, the abbey and the public park by the river.
Shortly before you turn left off the A699 for Roxburgh you pass a mound on your left - all that remains of Roxburgh Castle. Roxburgh is now a tiny village but in time gone by it was a town; a Royal Burgh which was destroyed along with the castle in 1461. No hint of this though as you ride along in sunshine with views of the river. Along here of course, two miles before Nisbet, is a decision point: are you going to Jedburgh or not? If you are there's some good hills in front of you after you cross the Kalemouth suspension bridge. Cessford Castle, once occupied by the Ker Clan, is another ruin, a remnant of a time when border feuding was a way of life. This is the start of a long climb ending shortly after Crailinghall at which time you are only a mile from Jedburgh and drop 100 metres over this distance. You'll see the abbey at the bottom.
Jedburgh Abbey, though lacking a roof, is still fairly complete and is perhaps the finest surviving medieval building in Scotland. As such it deserves inspection, but perhaps you might fortify yourself first at the tea room immediately adjacent. Jedburgh has a lot of other attractions too, Castle Jail, Mary Queen of Scots House, more tea rooms in the main street. When you leave, start off going north on the A68 but turn right off it. There is a further opportunity for refreshment at Ancrum (pub), but after that there is no source of food or drink until you get to Melrose. Mainly too it's uphill, until you get to the Eildon hills for the final descent.