By Angie Aspinall
From the highest hill to the deepest valley, the Scottish Borders is an area full of promise. A day out here can be anything you want it to be. Whether you’re nine years old or 90, there’s something here for you to enjoy: exciting wildlife encounters, bracing cliff top walks, sunny sheltered beaches, hills and valleys, historic houses, magnificent castles, romantic ruined abbeys, Roman monuments, and not forgetting the magnificent River Tweed which wends its way from its source at Tweed’s Well in the Southern Uplands, through the county to Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Glentress may be better known for biking trails, but there are also five way-marked walking routes ranging from half a mile to 5¾ miles, with spectacular views including the Tweed Valley, the Caddon Hills and Soonhope Burn in the Scottish Borders. On the south side of the Tweed Valley, with views up to Glentress, is the Cardrona Forest. Horses and riders are welcome here, along with walkers, and birdwatchers. Look out for red squirrels which live in the forest, and bats which live in Cardrona Tower.
Visit the local wildlife in the Cardrona Forest
Horses and riders are welcome here, along with walkers, and birdwatchers. Look out for red squirrels which live in the forest, and bats which live in Cardrona Tower. For many keen walkers, The Border Hotel at Kirk Yetholm is a key destination: it is the finish line for those completing their 268th mile of the Pennine Way. Also passing through Kirk Yetholm is the St Cuthbert’s Way, one of Scotland’s Great Trails; a cross-border route which stretches 62.5 miles from Melrose to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne off the Northumberland coast.
Glentress may be better known for biking trails, but there are also five way-marked walking routes ranging from half a mile to 5¾ miles
Head for heights
While in the Borders, many visitors like to scale at least one of the iconic three peaks of the Eildon Hills, overlooking the pretty town of Melrose and the Eildon Valley. Other popular walks include the trails at Cademuir and Thornielee, and a climb to the top of Caberston, just above Innerleithen, to the site of an iron age hill fort.
Scale one of the iconic three peaks of the Eildon Hills
Waterloo Monument on Peniel Heugh
Another uphill walk which is well-worth the effort, is to the Waterloo Monument on Peniel Heugh (a hill between Ancrum and Nisbet). It is on private land, but walkers are welcome. For anyone wishing to climb the spiral staircase to the balcony at the top of the tower, they must first borrow the key from the Lothian Estates Office in nearby Bonjedward.
While not renowned for its lochs, the Scottish Borders has several, including Alemoor Loch on the Ale Water, Lindean Loch, Portmore Loch, Yetholm Loch, and the picturesque Mire Loch on St Abb’s Head. But if there is one loch you must visit during your stay it is St Mary’s Loch, situated on the A708 between Moffat and Selkirk, in the beautiful Yarrow Valley, the Borders’ largest natural loch. More than three miles long and just over half a mile wide, the loch was created by glacial action during the last ice age. From the loch, visitors can walk part of the Southern Upland Way to Traquair and onwards to Galashiels.
Get back to nature and explore the Mire Loch
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Take a walk on the wild side
Osprey may also be seen at Born in the Borders, near Ancrum. During a successful breeding season, live footage from the nest’s CCTV camera is shown in the restaurant. And, if you head out on a walk by the river, you may be lucky enough to see one of the birds flying overhead. Other attractions at the Born in the Borders Visitor Centre are self-guided microbrewery and gin distillery tours, riverside walks, and grass-sledging.
Why not try an alpaca trek when in the Scottish Borders?
There is also an excellent restaurant and a shop selling local produce. For a truly memorable experience while in the Borders, how about an alpaca trek? For treks from one hour to half a day, visit Velvet Hall, Innerleithen or Beirhope Farm located in the Cheviot Hills, just outside the hamlet of Hownam.
Just off the coast of St Abbs, in Britain’s first voluntary marine reserve, there are several old shipwrecks. Scuba diving enthusiasts come from miles around to explore the wrecks from the Dive Centre at St Abbs Harbour. Dolphins can often be seen swimming in the area. At the coast, there is an amazing array of birdlife to be seen on the circular walk at St Abb’s Head. At the right time of year, migrating birds can be seen in their thousands and, at nesting time, the cliffs are home to guillemots, kittiwakes, fulmars, and shags.
Take a stroll along Coldingham Sands
See if you can spot the wonderful ospreys in the Tweed Valley
South of St Abbs, and accessible via a coastal path, is the pretty, sheltered beach of Coldingham Sands. The beach, which is overlooked by a peppering of pretty beach huts, has a cafe and public conveniences and, during the summer months, lifeguards are stationed there. Between May and September, the highlight of a visit to the Borders may be catching a glimpse of ospreys. You might see these magnificent birds on screen at the two osprey centres near Peebles, which share a live camera feed of the nearby nest: Wild Watch at Glentress, and Osprey Watch at Kailzie Gardens.
Just off the coast of St Abbs, in Britain’s first voluntary marine reserve, scuba diving enthusiasts come from miles around to explore several old shipwrecks
Into the woods
There are seven forests dotted along the Tweed Valley, featuring everything from picnic spots to Tarzan swings. Daredevils will enjoy swinging in the treetop obstacle course at Go Ape in the Glentress Forest, Peebles. As well as rope swings, there are rope ladders, and zip-wires; the highest zip-wire being a knee-trembling 160ft above the ground.
Kids will love Go Ape in the Glentress Forest
Glentress Forest is also home to one of the magnificent 7stanes mountain biking centres, which span the south of Scotland. At each of the 7stanes locations is a unique ‘stane’ (stone) sculpture. The Glentress Stane is accessible on foot, bike or horse, and is a must for Star Trek fans, as it’s a huge Ledmore marble sculpture carved with Klingon text. Mountain bikers of all levels can enjoy the trails, which are graded Green, Blue, Red or Black. Expert riders, and intermediate riders looking for a challenge, may also like to head to nearby Innerleithen, home of the famous Traquair Forest Red Bull down-hill and cross-country trails.
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