Tartan and tweed
The Scottish Borders has a reputation for producing the finest quality cashmere, wool, tartan and tweed, and visitors are spoilt for choice with the range of mills and outlet stores. Chanel, Pringle, Hawico, and Lyle and Scott each have their manufacturing bases in the area. In Hawick, you can tour the Johnstons of Elgin visitor centre at Eastfield Mills. Johnstons take raw cashmere and lambswool, then spin and dye it before weaving or knitting the finished products. Their range includes menswear, ladieswear, accessories and soft furnishings of the highest quality. They have the Royal Warrant of Appointment as suppliers of Tweed to HRH The Prince of Wales – high praise indeed. Other knitwear and tweed producers and stockists in the Borders include Holland and Sherry in Peebles and Borders Textile Towerhouse, Lovat Mill, William Lockie, Love Cashmere, and Peter Scott, all in Hawick. With all this on offer, even if the weather’s not at its best, there’s no excuse to feel chilly during your stay.
For those trying to track down their clan’s tartan, or for anyone wishing to create their own, a good starting place is Locharron of Scotland in Selkirk, a town which was founded on the back of the textile industry. In addition to their shopping experience, visitors can enjoy a factory tour. And in Jedburgh, the Jedburgh Woollen Mill has over 250 tartans and full Highland Dress. Throughout the Scottish Borders there are truly relaxing retail therapy opportunities, and each of its unique towns boasts a dazzling array of independent producers and retailers, bakers and artists. Most Border towns offer free car parking, which means visitors may meander, at leisure, from characterful shop to quirky gallery, via enticing cafes, tasty teashops and welcoming inns. There are gifts galore, tiny trinkets and sweet treats on sale in a range of gift shops on Jedburgh High Street: Heart of the Borders, Oisin, and Jedburgh Chocolate House. Visitors can also explore the treasure trove of vintage goods and antiques at the Vault of Curiosity.
For both ladies and men’s clothing, David Thomson’s is a must. In the men’s department on the ground floor, there is a vast array of tweed jackets and smart shirts, but the shop is most famous for its made-to-measure suits and formal Highland Wear. On the first floor, the ladieswear department is well-stocked with colourful items from labels such as Seasalt and Joules. To make the most of your visit to Jedburgh, pick up a Town Trail leaflet. Follow in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott, and explore the town’s connections with Mary Queen of Scots who stayed in Jedburgh in 1566 on an official tour. In the heart of the Borders sits Kelso, with its timeless Market Square – as seen in the Marks and Spencer Christmas advert in 2018. With no M&S in sight, Kelso is chock-full of independent shops selling everything from jewellery to fishing tackle. There is a great selection of independent ladieswear shops including Meg Maitland, Zantik, and Bank Street Boutique, which opened in 2018 selling White Stuff, Weird Fish. Also around The Square, you will find A Hume (stockists of Barbour, Dubarry, Le Chameau and Loake), Fat Face and Orvis. Country Corner (opposite Sainsbury’s) stocks riding gear, Joules, Jack Murphy and more.
For those trying to track down their clan’s tartan, or for anyone wishing to create their own, a good starting place is Locharron of Scotland in Selkirk, a town which was founded on the back of the textile industry
Independent shops and markets
As you would imagine, in a town where salmon fishing is at the heart of the tourist trade, in Kelso anglers’ needs are well-catered for at Fin and Game and Orvis, which offer an array of angling apparel. In and amongst the numerous independent gift shops, such as Cloud Nine, Gifted, and The Mole House, are the more practical day-to-day shops you’d expect to find in a thriving local town: butchers, bakers, florists, a cobbler, a fishmonger and a Post Office. There is a good selection of banks too. Beer Craft, on Horsemarket, sells a fine selection of hand-crafted beers and artisan Scottish gins such as Crow Man’s and Elephant made by our very own Kelso Gin Company and locally-produced Lilliard Gin. If you are holidaying in self-catering accommodation, do not miss the fabulous Julian’s Veg shop which is situated alongside the Mayfield Garden Centre – both well worth a visit en route to the riverside walk.
On the fourth Saturday of the month there is a Farmers’ Market on Kelso Square from 9.30am till 1.30pm, where you can buy Cocoaecosse’s lovingly hand-made artisan chocolates, Doddington cheese, Hardiesmill grass-fed beef, and beautiful bunches of locally-grown flowers from Ginger House Garden. On Bridge Street, inside an early 17th-century town house are five galleries featuring works of art including paintings, sculptures, textiles, metalwork, woodwork, glasswork and hand-crafted furniture: welcome to the Tony Huggins-Haig Gallery. Visitors are welcome to peruse the galleries at leisure and the friendly owner is often on hand to chat and share a coffee in the gallery’s own coffee bar. Tony was the brains behind the ‘famous fivers’: the five-pound notes etched with tiny portraits of Jane Austen by micro-engraver, Graham Short. The five special notes were added into circulation starting in Kelso’s own Granny Jean’s baker’s shop.
Foodies and bookworms alike will love a visit to The Main Street Trading Company in St Boswells. The book shop, cafe, deli and homeware shop are all stylish, welcoming, and friendly. The range of books encompasses fiction, biography, cookery, gardening and, thanks to owner, former children’s publishing marketing director, Rosamund de la Hey, there’s an impressive children’s book department. Check out the exciting programme of events and authors’ talks on the website in advance of your visit, you never know who might be there. Previous guest authors include Clare Balding, Margaret Atwood, and Ben Fogle. Guest chefs and cookery demonstrations also feature on the programme. Each week in the cafe, the Head Chef chooses a ‘featured cook book’ from which, a main dish is included on the specials board each day. The cafe and book shop are very child-friendly and dog-friendly. Children will love the two ‘snugs’ where they can hide away with an audio book whilst you browse the extensive collections of biographies and cook books.
On the fourth Saturday of the month there is a Farmers’ Market on Kelso Square from 9.30am till 1.30pm, where you can buy Cocoaecosse’s lovingly hand-made artisan chocolates, Doddington cheese, Hardiesmill grass-fed beef, and beautiful bunches of locally-grown flowers from Ginger House Garden
Delicacies and eateries
A few minutes’ drive from St Boswells lies the picturesque town of Melrose, resting at the foot of the Eildon Hills, whose iconic triple peaks can be seen from much of the Borders. Refined, genteel and full of shops and eateries to tempt travellers and tourists, Melrose is an elegant, timeless classic. One highlight must be Dalgetty Tearooms and family bakery, which spans five generations and one hundred years. There’s always a mouth-watering array of delicate patisseries on display, sure to satisfy the sweetest tooth. Melrose boasts an excellent collection of boutiques featuring gifts, food, furniture, homeware, clothes and books.
On the corner of Morow Gardens, you’ll find Simply Delicious, an ice cream parlour serving Orkney Ice Cream, home-made tablet, Scottish chocolates and traditional sweets. Wander around the block, and you’ll discover Abbey Fine Wines and Rhymers Fayre Café. This shared space is perfect for whiling away an hour or so over coffee or lunch, surrounded by fine wines, whisky and gin.
Alternatively, you can sit outside and indulge in a spot of that very British pastime, ‘people-watching’. With the popularity of gin on the rise in recent years, Abbey Fine Wines’ selection of artisan Scottish gins now rivals that of their single malts. Glasses and bottles of wine are available in the cafe at retail prices so, you might want to leave the car behind and travel to Melrose by train to Tweedbank station and take the shuttle bus to the town centre.
Like Melrose, Duns is another genteel Border town where independent shops thrive: it harks back to an earlier era before high streets were colonised by chain stores, and it’s all the more beautiful and interesting to visit as a result. Peebles is a vibrant, picturesque town, which nestles snuggly in the upper Tweed Valley, is approximately half an hour’s drive from Melrose and 45 minutes from Edinburgh. A mecca for mountain-bikers, golfers, fishing enthusiasts and walkers, Peebles rivals any town, with its magnificent views and array of independent shops and boutiques.
With the popularity of gin on the rise in recent years, Abbey Fine Wines’ selection of artisan Scottish gins now rivals that of their single malts
One not to be missed is the award-winning Cocoa Black Chocolate Boutique on Cuddy Bridge. In addition to the gifts to take away, there’s also a cafe serving hot chocolate drinks, cakes and patisserie – and a cookery school. The salted caramel crispy thins are particularly worth seeking out. Foodies visiting Peebles will love the opportunity to dine at Osso on Innerleithen Road. In addition to Osso featuring in the Michelin Guide, chef Ally McGrath has also featured in the BBC 2 series, ‘Great British Menu’. On Northgate, in her eponymously named gallery, local artist Moy Mackay exhibits her unusual and unique ‘felt paintings’, alongside the works of other artists and makers from the Borders and further afield. Each Thursday, in Peebles, the host of independent shops and high street stores is complemented by a weekly market.
For locally-produced crafts, you would be wise to start your shopping spree at the Hirsel Arts and Crafts Centre, where you will find the Hirsel Gallery and Julia Linstead Glass: contemporary glass vases, perfume bottles and paperweights in a dazzling array of colours. A trip to the Hirsel Estate does not have to be all about shopping: there are walks, a play area, a tea room and a museum too.
On the coast, at St Abbs sits Number Four, a contemporary art and craft gallery established and run by artist, Jenny Brook Martin. On sale is something to suit all budgets: jewellery, prints, paintings and textiles nestle alongside sculptures in wood, metal and ceramic. Near Ancrum, Real Wood is home to some of Scotland’s finest designer-makers, producing bespoke furniture and interiors from sustainably-sourced Scottish hardwoods. And, close to the Real Wood studios, and proving what a haven the Scottish Borders is for artists and makers, is the award-winning gallery at Harestanes Visitor Centre. Here you can watch craftspeople working with wood, glass, metal, and ceramics.
If you prefer a more ‘hands on’ approach to your crafts, you could book a one-day course in glass jewellery-making at the Harestanes Glass Studio. Classes are taught by Rachel Collins, who uses both traditional stained-glass methods and contemporary fused glass. At the studio, you can also purchase jewellery, mirrors, clocks, bowls, and other gifts. Next to the studio is the charming Mary’s Dairy, selling a range of home-made ice creams, and next to the visitor centre is an adventure playground. Just below Langton Village, on the banks of the River Teviot is Born in the Borders, an ideal shopping destination for visitors looking for authentic local produce to take home to friends and family. The beer and gin are produced onsite. The microbrewery uses barley from the surrounding fields, and Lilliard Gin’s uniquely delicate flavour is a result of the careful blending of locally-picked botanicals. For the children, there is grass-sledging in the warmer months, and in winter, there is a Winter Wonderland and ice-rink: a truly year-round destination.
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