Scottish Borders

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The Scottish Borders (Scots: The Mairches) is a region in southeastern Scotland adjoining the border with England, a fact which has heavily influenced the history of this region. In the days before the British union, this area was frequently fought over, and had a reputation for banditry and lawlessness. At the same time, the Scottish kings were keen to develop and embellish the region—their efforts are probably best seen in the four "Border Abbeys" to be found within the region. Today the Borders is best known for its wonderful landscapes, historic connections, summer festivals and friendly locals, though it is sadly often overlooked by tourists who drive through the area heading for Edinburgh or further north.




The border region was often the scene of battles between England and Scotland, but 1513 marked the beginning of the end. At Flodden Field in Northumberland the Scots suffered a calamitous defeat, and King James IV was killed - the last British monarch to die in battle. In later years they regrouped and came again, but fell to another crushing defeat at Solway Moss in 1542. Scotland could never again pose a serious military threat to England: the Borders still saw banditry and skirmishes, but were no longer the cockpit of war. A quirk of ancestry brought the Scots King James VI to the throne of England, which he much preferred to his cold northern realm, and power, influence and wealth all drained away to the south. And in so far as Scotland has been defined as much by its legends and stories as its terrain, that too drained away. Look to the Greek and Roman classics for your heroes, and forget our own brutish Dark Ages.

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), a lawyer living and working in Edinburgh and Selkirk, led the revival of Scottish lore. He took a great interest in the folk tales of the Borders, began writing them down, and writing his own works. His breakthrough was the 1805 epic poem The Lay of the Last Minstrel. He went on to write The Lady of the Lake, Waverley, Old Mortality, Ivanhoe which relaunched the legend of Robin Hood, and many more. In 1812 he bought a farm cottage near Melrose which he named "Abbotsford" — and it grew, and grew and grew, into an ornate Baronial mansion. In 1822 he scored a PR triumph in stage-managing the visit of King George IV to Scotland, having monarch and bowing subjects all dressed in tartan kilts — "clan tartans" which he'd just invented, but that would adorn Scottish regalia, wedding suits and biscuit tins for ever after.

He earned a real fortune but spent an even bigger one, running up great debts over Abbotsford — the financial crash of 1825 bankrupted his publisher and almost himself. He resolved to write his way out of trouble, and continued to publish prolifically. His health was failing by the 1830s, yet he embarked on a grand celebrity tour of Europe. He died at Abbotsford in September 1832 and was buried at Dryburgh Abbey.




The Scottish Borders are in the eastern part of the Southern Uplands. The region is hilly and largely rural, with the River Tweed flowing west to east through it. The highest hill in the region is Broad Law in the Manor Hills. In the east of the region, the area that borders the River Tweed is flat and is known as 'The Merse'. The Tweed and its tributaries drain the entire region with the river flowing into the North Sea at Berwick-upon-Tweed, and forming the border with England for the last twenty miles or so of its length.

The term Central Borders refers to the area in which the majority of the main towns of Galashiels, Selkirk, Hawick, Jedburgh, Earlston, Kelso, Newtown St. Boswells, St Boswells, Peebles, Melrose and Tweedbank are located.

Two of Scotland's 40 national scenic areas (defined so as to identify areas of exceptional scenery and to ensure their protection from inappropriate development) lie within the region:

The Eildon and Leaderfoot National Scenic Area covers the scenery surrounding Eildon Hill, and extends to include the town of Melrose and Leaderfoot Viaduct.
The Upper Tweeddale National Scenic Area covers the scenery surrounding the upper part of the River Tweed between Broughton and Peebles




  • Galashiels
  • Peebles
  • Selkirk
  • Melrose
  • Kelso
  • Hawick
  • Eyemouth
  • North Berwick
  • Duns
  • Greenlaw
  • Chirnside
  • Abbey St Bathans
  • Jedburgh
  • St Abbs
  • St Boswells



Sights and Activities


  • Jedburgh
  • Kelso - no charge but enough to make it worth seeing.
  • Melrose
  • Dryburgh

Stately Homes

There are many Stately Homes.

  • The Hirsel - Gardens and estate only but they are great and dogs are allowed. This is the home of the Earls of Home, the fourteenth of whom renounced his peerage to become Prime Minister. He was later made a life peer as Lord Ho me of the Hirsel. (Home is pronounced Hume).
  • Traquair House - near Galashiels - dates back to 1107.
  • Floors Castle - Kelso - seat of the Dukes of Roxburghe.
  • Bowhill House - Selkirk - seat of the Dukes of Buccleuch.
  • Paxton House - Selkirk - work by Adam and furniture by Chippendale.
  • Thirlstane Castle - Lauder - built 13th century and redesigned as a home in the 16th.
  • Mellerstain House - Gordon - a Georgian house started in 1725.
  • Abbotsford House - Melrose - Sir Walter Scott's house.


  • St Abbs is a delightful village built to the orders of Lord Usher, a brewing magnate.
  • North Berwick is the home of the Scottish Seabird Centre and the place to get a fine speedboat trip around Bass Rock, nesting place of innumerable gannets.



Getting There

By Plane

Edinburgh Airport is the closest, about an hour's drive, and with good connections across Europe and within UK.

Newcastle has fewer flights and is a little further, but a good choice if you're combining this area with a tour of Northumberland. The airport is on A696 northwest of the city, handy for the A68, A697 or A1 approaches to Scotland.

By Train

The main railway lines swerve past this region. On the east coast, trains from London and the Midlands run via Newcastle and Berwick-upon-Tweed to the border, rushing past along the cliff tops to Dunbar and Edinburgh. The west coast line runs to Carlisle, Motherwell and Glasgow.

The Borders Railway, opened in 2015, runs from Edinburgh Waverley at least hourly via Gorebridge, Stow and Galashiels to Tweedbank. This is the reconstructed northern section of a line that was axed in 1969 as part of the Beeching cuts. It's transformed this area into a commuter belt for Edinburgh, so trains are overcrowded north to the city in the morning and homeward south early evenings. There is a campaign, but there are no plans, to re-construct the southern section to Hawick and Carlisle, and to connect other towns such as Melrose.

By Car

There are three main arterial routes through the Borders—the A1, A68 and A7—plus several minor routes.

The A1 enters Scotland just north of Berwick, a fast route up the east coast into East Lothian. Some bits are even dual carriageway!

The A68 enters Scotland from the south at the top of the Carter Bar, arguably the most spectacular of the border crossings. The road wends its way through Jedburgh, St Boswells, Earlston and Lauder and exits to Midlothian north of Soutra Hill.

The A7 is the scenic route from Carlisle to Edinburgh, starting at Mosspaul in the south and passing through Hawick, Selkirk, Galashiels and Stow before entering Midlothian at Falahill. The A72 for Innerleithen, Peebles and Glasgow branches off in Galashiels.

Worthy of mention are the A708 from Moffat, which passes the spectacular Grey Mares Tail waterfall before journeying past St Marys Loch and following the Yarrow Water into Selkirk and the B6355 from Gifford into Duns, over the Lammermuir Hills.

By Bus

Borders Buses serve the main towns and villages.

Bus X95 runs hourly M-Sa from Carlisle along the A7, via Langholm, Hawick, Selkirk, Galashiels, Stow, Newtongrange and Eskbank to Edinburgh. Sundays it runs hourly from Hawick, with only four buses extending to Carlisle.

Bus 51/52 runs every two hours daily from Edinburgh along the A68, via the Royal Infirmary, Dalkeith, Lauder, Earlston, and St Boswells to Jedburgh/Kelso.

Bus 253 runs every two hours Mon-Sat from Edinburgh along the A1, via Haddington, Dunbar and Eyemouth to Berwick-upon-Tweed; only two buses on Sunday.

Bus 67 runs every two hours daily from Berwick-upon-Tweed west via Coldstream, Kelso, St Boswells and Melrose to Galashiels.

Bus X62 runs every 30 min M-Sa (Su hourly) from Edinburgh via Penicuik to Peebles then down the Tweed valley via Innerleithen and Galashiels to Melrose.

A solitary Bus 131 (run by Peter Hogg) runs M-Sa from Jedburgh along A68/A696 to Otterburn, Newcastle Airport and Newcastle. It runs south to Newcastle in the morning and returns north to Jedburgh early afternoon.

National Express and Megabus coaches between Edinburgh and England cross this region but don't stop anywhere.



Getting Around

You'll do best by car. A bike is great in summer, as the hills between the Cheviots south and the Lammermuirs north aren't too severe.

You can just about get around by bus along radial routes from Edinburgh, Melrose/Galashiels and Berwick-upon-Tweed. As well as those listed in "Get in", you might use:

Bus 20 Hawick - Jedburgh - Kelso
Bus 396 Hawick - Selkirk - Galashiels - Melrose
Bus 81 Kelso - Kirk Yetholm
Bus 68 Jedburgh - St Boswells - Melrose - Galashiels
Bus 235 Berwick-upon-Tweed - Eyemouth - St Abbs
Bus 60 Berwick-upon-Tweed - Chirnside - Duns - Gordon - Earlston - Melrose - Galashiels




The restaurants in the hotels in the various towns will have the best dining; otherwise it's pub grub.




The larger towns have pubs, but the hotel bars may be more comfortable.



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This is version 10. Last edited at 14:08 on Jun 12, 20 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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