1. Scott’s View, Bemersyde
There really is no escaping Sir Walter Scott in the Borders – and when you get to this spot you simply won’t want to. You take the B6356 road – signposted Dryburgh Abbey – off the B6404 to get to the viewpoint with a sensational panorama. It’s a lot easier and quicker in a car than it was when the horse pulling Sir Walter’s hearse to the Abbey is said to have paused here, just as it did on their daily outings. If that is indeed what happened, the horse had good taste as the River Tweed below loops round what was once the site of the original Melrose Abbey.
Where: Scott’s View, Bemersyde near Earlston TD4 6DB
2. 7Stanes Glentress Forest, Tweed Valley
Go on, get on your bike! If you love cycling – with a bit of a thrill – then the 7stanes are the place to head. They are a network of mountain biking centres with a world-class reputation. Riders from all over come to pit their wits against the Green, Blue, Red or Black graded trails at Glentress, and there is even a great free-ride area too. If you need more excitement, Innerleithen’s famous downhill and cross-country trails aren’t too far. Just remember to check your brakes first!
Where: 7Stanes Glentress Forest, Peebles, EH45 8NB
Tel: 0300 067 6156
3. Coldstream Museum
Sometimes a place becomes synonymous with one thing – and hearing Coldstream makes many think of the Guards. The area has the richest of military histories and the fascinating story is well told at this museum right in the centre of town. Arterfact-packed, it’s on the site of General Monck’s 17th Century HQ.
Where: Coldstream Museum, 12 Market Square, Coldstream TD12 4BD
Tel: 01890 882630
4. Jedburgh Castle Jail
Do you cower behind the couch when there’s a scary movie on? OK, then Jedburgh Castle Jail Museum’s novel attraction may well not be for you. Paranormal investigation groups and ghost tour outfits can hire it out for spooky overnight visits. If that specialist option doesn’t appeal, the everyday story of an 1820s prison is of wider interest.
Where: Jedburgh Castle Jail, Castlegate, Jedburgh, TD8 6AS
Tel: 01835 864750
5. Traquair House, Innerleithen
There’s a lot to be amazed at on a visit to Traquair House – which opens for the season again on April 1. Dating back to 1107 and originally a royal hunting lodge, it’s Scotland’s oldest inhabited house. Banqueting was key back then and Traquair now has its own brewery. Most amazing of all, though, is the largest hedged maze in the country – best not stepped into after over-sampling the brewery!
Where: Traquair House Innerleithen Peeblesshire EH44 6PW
Tel: 01896 830323
6. Three Hills Centre, Melrose
This intriguing Roman heritage centre tells the story of a Roman frontier post and those who lived there. The Trimontium Exhibition, in this small and friendly centre, tells of the massive Roman complex nearby. Even then the River Tweed was pivotal and this was the Empire’s outpost to guard the crossing point.
Where: The Ormiston, Market Square, Melrose, TD6 9PN
Tel: 01896 822651
7. Dryburgh Abbey
Lots of places can claim to have nice abbeys – but the Borders surely has the trump card with a magnificent four. Melrose, Kelso and Jedburgh are the other three, but Dryburgh might just be the most stunning of all. It dates from the 12th Century and, boy, has it aged well. Take a particular look at the paintwork in the chapter house which, remarkably, survived three separate fires. You’ll find some of the best Gothic architecture anywhere in Scotland and it was so fine it was the burial place of Sir Walter Scott. The ruins aren’t just graceful and commanding, they are wonderfully peaceful and a lovely place to while away an hour or two. The good news for anyone with walking difficulties is that access is pretty easy.
Where: Dryburgh Abbey, St Boswells, Roxburghshire, TD6 6RQ
Tel: 01835 822381
8. Selkirk Common Riding
There’s history, there’s colour, there’s spectacle – and then there’s Selkirk Common Riding with more than 400 riders taking part. The dates to put in the diary this year are from June 12 to 16. It’s become much more than a Borders tradition, dating back as it does at least 400 years to the Battle of Flodden. Everyone gets up early on the first day to follow the band and see the bussing of the Burgh Flag. The Riding of the Marches takes a good few hours. It all continues on with horse riding and so much more to witness.
Where: Selkirk, TD7 4BL
9. Floors Castle, Kelso
We’re not short of a castle or two in Scotland but Floors has a boast to set it apart – it’s the nation’s largest inhabited castle. If you ever wanted to see how the other half live, this is where to do it as you’re stepping into a duke’s home. There are quite marvellous collections of fine art, porcelain and tapestries in some very grand rooms indeed. But the landed gentry liked the outdoors, too, and the gardens are a match for the splendours of the house. There are Victorian kitchen gardens, a wonderful walled garden and the millennium one, too.
Where: Floors Castle, Kelso, TD5 7RW
Tel: 01573 223333
10. Abbotsford House, Melrose
The Borders Railway has given a much-deserved boost to the visitor numbers at Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford House. If you take the train from Edinburgh to the end of the line at Tweedbank, this true treasure of Scotland’s past is just a mile or so away. You sense the Scottish Baronial style the minute you step into the entrance hall, all black oak panelling and covered in suits of armour and lines of shields. It leads through to Scott’s study – a wonderful, atmospheric space with bookshelves on two levels where Scott worked right up to his death in 1832. In all, he wrote 23 bestsellers from the release of Waverly in 1814 and you can almost feel him there, stooped over his desk with pen in hand, under the new-fangled gas lighting installed in 1823. The house has stunning views down to the River Tweed, over beautiful formal gardens – designed by the great man himself. And once you’ve had your fill of history and literature, don’t miss the visitor centre, where you can have your fill of some top-class cakes too!
Where: Abbotsford Melrose, Roxburghshire TD6 9BQ
Tel: 01896 752043
11. St Abb’s Head, Berwickshire
It’s a birwatcher’s paradise, but even if you can’t tell a robin from a golden eagle then St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve is well worth a visit. The craggy landscape was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions and it’s a haven for all kinds of seabirds. It’s just a wonderful place to take in the sea air and spectacle while stretching the legs.
Where: St Abbs, Eyemouth, Borders TD14 5QF
Tel: 01890 771443
12. Dawyck Botanic Gardens, Stobo near Peebles
Flowers and plants can brighten up any day – and Dawyck aims to do that all year round. Under the auspices of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, it is hailed as being one of the finest arboreta anywhere in the world. It’s all quite spectacular, but if you wanted to get your camera out then the Azalea Terrace is the place to head and gasp in late spring especially.
Where: Dawyck Botanic Garden, Stobo near Peebles, EH45 9JU
Tel: 01721 760 254
13. Heart of Hawick
Textiles have long been at the heart of the Scottish Borders and you can find out just why in this great-value attraction. A derelict spinning mill and a neighbouring building have been brought back to life as this arts and heritage centre. There’s a lively hands-on museum as well as a cinema and theatre, cafe and so much more packed in.
Where: Heart of Hawick, 1 Tower Knowe, Hawick, TD9 9BZ
Tel: 01450 377615