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The most popular places to visit in the Scottish Borders

By Angie Aspinall

Whether on holiday with the family or just you and your other half there are plenty of places to put on your to do list, from leisurely strolls along the Tweed to discovering historic Scottish houses while enjoying the odd tipple along the way.

History lesson

For history devotees, the Scottish Borders has a wealth of places to visit like castles, historic homes and grand estates, including Abbotsford, former home to the famous writer and poet, Sir Walter Scott where today, visitors can enjoy the splendour of the house and gardens and take a stroll through the woodland and riverside. At the visitor centre, you can learn about Scott’s life, works and achievements, and enjoy a meal at the lovely Ochiltree cafe.

In Melrose sits the picturesque ruin of the 12th-century Melrose Abbey. Adjacent to the Abbey is a National Trust for Scotland garden, Priorwood, which includes an orchard of heritage apple trees and a small, wooded area. A short stroll away is Harmony Garden which is particularly beautiful in spring.

Dating back to 1107 and lived in by the Stuart family since 1491, Scotland’s oldest inhabited house, Traquair House was originally built as a royal hunting lodge and it famously played host to Mary Queen of Scots. Traquair hosts many exhibitions and events and is also available as a wedding venue.

Read more: History and heritage of the Scottish Borders 

Grand houses

Paxton House is an attraction full of treasures including a nationally significant collection of Chippendale furniture and masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland. Nearby sits Manderston House, with its 56 acres of formal and informal gardens.

Mellerstain House in the Scottish Borders

Mellerstain House is surrounded by impressive gardens

A short drive from Kelso is Mellerstain House, one of Scotland’s great Georgian houses. Begun in 1725 by Scottish architect William Adam and completed in 1778 by his son, Robert, Mellerstain House is an outstanding example of 18th-century Scottish architecture, and some say one of Robert Adam’s finest works. The house stands in beautiful parkland which is perhaps best viewed from the Italian-style terraced garden overlooking the sweeping lawn and ornamental lake.

Land of castles

Also close to Kelso, overlooking the Tweed, sits the impressive Floors Castle, the largest inhabited castle in Scotland. The castle and grounds are open to the public from Easter to the end of October. The Terrace Café in the walled garden is open all-year-round. Events, garden talks, and tours are hosted throughout the summer months.

Floors Castle in the Scottish Borders, with daffodils in the foreground

With a 300-year history, Floors Castle is one of the oldest castles in the country

Thirlestane Castle, near Lauder, is one of the oldest castles in Scotland. It is a magnificent 16th-century castle set in a quiet meadow landscape and home to the Duke of Lauderdale and the Maitland family. During the summer, the castle is open to the public, while the grounds provide a spectacular venue for a whole host of events including family picnics and classic car rallies.

Close to Kelso, overlooking the Tweed, sits the impressive Floors Castle, the largest inhabited castle in Scotland

Museums and more

Opened by Formula One motor racing legend, Sir John Young ‘Jackie’ Stewart OBE in 2019, the Jim Clark Motorsport Museum is a must-see attraction for all motor sports enthusiasts. Dedicated to the life and achievements of Jim Clark – one of the greatest racing drivers of all time – the newly-refurbished museum in Duns features racing cars, trophies, photographs, audio visual displays, and a driving simulator. The museum shop includes great collectables and mementoes.

Harestanes Countryside Visitor Centre near Ancrum is the perfect destination for a family day out. It features one of the most accessible play parks in Scotland, with a Jedburgh Abbey-inspired centre feature, pyramid tower, an all-inclusive sensory boardwalk, the region’s only wheelchair swings, a picnic area, a toddlers’ play area, an agility trail, more than over 50 pieces of innovative and accessible play equipment. Since opening in 2019, the play park has become one of the most popular children’s attractions in the Borders. Harestanes also has a recently refurbished cafe serving high-quality local produce, a range of retail outlets, a gin distillery, and a variety of walking trails.

Visitors to Hawick can enjoy a walk in Wilton Lodge Park, the 107-acre estate which straddles the River Teviot and features walks, play areas, a refurbished walled garden, and the Hawick Museum and Scott Art Gallery.

Finally, a visit to Borders Distillery is a must. Here you can learn how they make whisky, gin, and vodka. The building is an award-winning conversion of Hawick’s former electrical works, and the tour is fascinating – guided by the people who make the spirit and finishing in the distillery bar with a tasty dram.

Read more

The top 10 things to do in the Scottish Borders

Out and about in the stunning Scottish Borders 

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Image credits: ©Drhfoto/; Floors Castle; Keith Hunter/The Borders Distillery; Phil Wilkinson/Live Borders;

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