Melrose Abbey

Travel Guide: The Scottish Borders Best Kept Secrets

With local businesses taking such a dramatic hit during the pandemic, small rural places like the Borders, really benefit from tourism. It is a common myth that there is not much to do in the countryside, however, this is simply not the case for the Borders. This is the perfect place for a family visit with much to do and see.

Maddy Hume


Map of the Scottish Borders

Can’t quite decide on whether to visit Scotland or England? The Scottish Borders is the best location for you.

Situated in the south of Scotland, the Borders is filled with a rich history and stunning views. Having grown up here, my eyes had never truly been open to the magic of this little county. When I spent 2 years living in Glasgow, I understood the true serenity of the Scottish Borders.

The Borders is a small county made up of 12 larger towns and plenty of villages. It is a perfect spot for a staycation with easy access to major cities such as Edinburgh and Newcastle.



The River Teviot,_Hawick,_Roxburghshire.jpg

Mill Industry Influences

Hawick is the second largest town in the Borders, with a population of just over 14,000. Hawick was previously known to be a hub of excellence in the mill industry.

With the River Teviot running directly through the heart of Hawick, it was well supplied with enough water to run the mills. The woolen industry saw a surge in interest in 1771 when the stocking frame was introduced. Hawick was the center of this industry at its peak, creating a huge amount of wealth and opportunity for the people who lived here.

In 1934 after introducing the railway, the town was at the pinnacle of modern technology. Hawick’s knitwear success followed through to the world of Haute Couture. It started establishing relationships with some of fashion’s biggest names (Coco Channel, Christian Dior, and Vivienne Westwood, to name a few!)

In 1989, things took a turn for the worst. With the closure of the railway, cheap production overseas, and little money left to cover overheads, the mills collapsed. The people of Hawick were left devasted. Hundreds of weavers had lost their jobs as well as their passion.

Where To Visit In Hawick

Johnstones Of Elgin

The industry has picked up recently, which is exciting news for the people who live here. There are multiple factors to the increase in demand of these mills (Brexit being the main one.) Leaving the European Union has created a higher import tax on garments made abroad, meaning it is actually cheaper to produce items locally. Consumers are quickly becoming more eco-friendly and strive to have sustainably made garments and brands lower their carbon footprint. Johnstones of Elgin and Barries Knitwear are two of Hawick’s largest mills which have been around since the start and are thriving currently.

The mill industry is something that defines Hawicks heritage; which you can learn about at the Borders Textile Towerhouse situated on the town’s high street. This is an interactive experience and a great way to make use of your time in the borders.

This 500-year-old building is the oldest building in Hawick. Here you will get a unique perspective into the past and present of the fashion industry in Hawick. With displays such as collaborations with Channel, fabric samples, photographs, and films, it brings to life the defining tradition of the industry.

Jedburgh, Scottish Borders

An Overview Of Jedburgh Town in the Scottish Borders

Jedburgh is just 10 miles east of Hawick, and a great spot to visit. It will not be a drive you forget with the beautiful backdrop of the green countryside. Jedburgh is an idyllic and historical town, with much to do and see.

It is dominated by its substantial ruins of Jedburgh Abbey and its notorious tribute to Mary Queen of Scots, who spent a considerable amount of time there.

A Turning Point For Mary Queen Of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots came into power in 1542 at just six days old when her farther passed. She came into rule in a turbulent time, during an ongoing battle between the Protestants and the Catholics.

Mary was born into a catholic family with close ties to the English monarchy. When Mary came to rule the official Protestant Scotland later, it was her ties with England that made her suspicious.

Here in Jedburgh, Mary Queen of Scots faced a close call from death. Mary undertook a 30-mile journey from Innerleithen to Jedburgh by horse and carriage. Things in the borders had been going awry, with crime records rocketing. This crime stemmed from civilians rejecting Mary as their ruler.

 Mary Queen Of Scots

Therefore, she made the journey to hold a justice court in Jedburgh, ‘for the trial and punishment of all loose, disorderly, and traitorous persons’.

In Jedburgh, Mary was accompanied by James Hepburn (Earl of Bothwell.) James was sent to Hermitage castle during the trip, roughly around 25 miles away from Jedburgh. When James exerted his authority from the Queen, he got into a fatal fight with a thief.

The Queen rushed to his side, sparking allegations of a relationship between the two. This 60 mile trip during harsh conditions caused her to fall ill whilst residing in Jedburgh.

At the young age of 23, it was a mystery to her friends and family why she had fallen so ill. However, this year had been one of extreme personal stress; her monarchy was collapsing. Her companion James was in a bad way, and she was considering taking refuge from her kingdom.

Mary Queen Of Scots Visitor Centre

The Mary Queen of Scots Visitor Center is set in the 16th century townhouse the Queen visited way back in 1566.

Preserving the medieval feel of the building has created an immersive experience of living through history for tourists. Here you discover the trials and tribulations of Mary’s life, exploring the culture of the society she grew up in.

The visitor center displays a large number of traditional paintings, textiles, and objects which descend from Mary’s time.

This experience is one you won’t want to miss!

Mary Queen of Scots Visitor Center In the Scottish Borders

Kelso, Scottish Borders

Kelsos Town Square in the Scottish Borders

Kelso is a small town, just 11 miles from Jedburgh. It is a town of great historical importance and was at one point the most important and largest location in Scotland.

The town hit devastation in the middle ages when war broke out between Scotland and England. Since Kelso was inhabited by King David I and was so close to the border; it was the first town to be raided. His castle was destroyed and the town was abandoned.

In 1545 during the “rough wooing” – the ongoing war between Scotland and England – the restored town was facing tragedy again.

Kelso Abbey was brutally blown up by the English, invasions took place every month, and several houses were set on fire.

In 1559, Kelso prevailed, and although they lost the Abbey, the inhabitants didn’t lose their spirits.

Years later during the mid 18th century, the towns luck had turned. It was a center for agricultural industry – to this day, this holds true! Kelso’s main square became the location of weekly markets; supplying the needs of civilians in a 30 mile radius, from shoes to meat.

It became an attractive people for wealthy people to visit. From the beautiful countryside, the town square, and the booming industry; wealthy tourists realised this was an idyllic place to live.

Floors Castle – Home of the Duke Of Roxburghe

Floors Castle In The Scottish Borders

Floors Castle is the largest inhabited castle in Scotland; built in 1721 it is an architectural masterpiece.

The castle is the inheritance of the Duke of Roxburghe; and passed down to future generations. Floors Castle is currently inhabited by the 11th Duke of Roxburghe.

This is not just a family home, but also one of the main tourist attractions of Kelso. Filled with grand rooms, walled gardens, a cafe, and cycle trails, there is so much to do and see here.

The gardens are the best part of floors castle. They range from Victorian style, to French parterre, and beautiful woodlands.

Floors Castle Gardens In the Scottish Borders

The castle’s interiors are filled with traditional paintings, furniture, and porcelain. The interior extenuates the fairy tale aspect of the castle, which people of all ages can enjoy.

Set on the banks of the River Tweed, fishing is one of the Duke’s favorite hobbies. Fishing is one of Kelso’s biggest industry’s, especially during Salmon Season.

Medieval Melrose

Melrose is the home of rugby, the Eildon hills, and the heart of Robert the Bruce.

Located at the north of the borders, this is a small but exciting town. First inhibited in AD 79 by the Roman Army, Melrose is a place of historical significance.

Melrose Abbey – Ruins of The Past

Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders

King David I (who you may remember from the past of Kelso) founded the first Cistercian Abbey in Scotland, Melrose Abbey.

The Abbey was built in just 10 years and quickly became the mother church of order in Scotland.

The gothic church according to legend is said to have a demonic connection. The wizard Micheal Scott is allegedly buried within the abbey with his books of magic. His greatest work is at the peak of melrose – the Eildon Hills. He was said to have split the hills into the three peaks which we see to this day.

Because Melrose is so close to the border of England, the abbey was frequently at the hands of the English army. In 1322 Edward II burnt the abbey down in a bid to win the war. The Abbey was later to be restored by King Robert the Bruce only 4 years later but was destroyed later by the King of England again.

On Robert Bruce’s death, his heart was sent on a journey to the Holyland, accompanied by ‘Good Sir James Douglas’. Sir James, confronted by a huge army Moors whilst traveling through Spain with his crusaders, gallantly charged into battle, throwing Bruce’s heart before him and shouting: ‘Lead on brave heart, I’ll follow thee.’ The heart was discovered the next day by another Scottish Knight, who brought it back to Abbey Melrose, where it was buried.

The ruins of Melrose Abbey are still standing and in a good condition. This is the perfect place to visit to get a visual aid into the history of the Scottish Borders.

Eildon Hills; Iconic Borders Landmark

The Eildon Hills are the iconic representation of the Borders geographical past. The hills are roughly 350 million years old and are in distinctive volcanic shape. The underlying rocks of the hills are igneous rocks – meaning the hill was many, many, years ago a small volcano.

The Eildon Hills In The Scottish Borders

The hills are home to various different walks such as St Cutherburts way, which leads you through the north and mid hill.

If you are a keen walker, the eildon hills are legendary in the Borders walking world.

Melrose Rugby Sevens

Melrose is home of rugby tournament; “The Sevens”. This tradition first started in 1833, and has grown to become an international tournament taking place in the spring. It attracts teams from across the globe such as New Zealand, Australia and France.

The day has a carnival atmosphere, which many Borders people consider a highlight of their year.

Unfortunately due to covid, the event has been postponed for the second year in a row. However, hopes are high for 2022, when covid restrictions are far from sight.

This is a great day out for a tourist. Get a drink, watch some skillful rugby, and meet the friendly people of the Borders.

Visit Local, Visit the Borders.

Although I have only mentioned 4 of the towns in the Borders, there are plenty to visit. This small, friendly feel of the county will make you feel welcomed and make your trip that little bit more special.

With local businesses taking such a dramatic hit during the pandemic, small rural places like the Borders, really benefit from tourism. It is a common myth that there is not much to do in the countryside, however, this is simply not the case for the Borders. This is the perfect place for a family visit with much to do and see.

There are plenty places to stay such as self catering farmhouses, country house hotels, or spa resorts.

On the other hand, you can bring your car for a stunning roadtrip around the Borders Route. With accessible parking in each town, it is a really easy drive. Take your tent and set up, for a no fuss, no fees holiday.

If you don’t fancy driving, travel round the Borders in style with a Borders Explorer Pass. This is an all in one ticket including rail and bus travel to all towns within the Borders as well as Edinburgh Waverley.

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