4 Towns In The Scottish Borders Worth Visiting
Prior to my Scottish Borders trip I really didnt know very much about the area, which is silly really considering it’s so close to Newcastle. I think like me, many people drive through the area on their way up to Edinburgh, but its well worth a trip of it’s own, or at very least a stop on your journey. I got to explore four of the towns in the Scottish Borders on my trip, all different and all worth visiting.
Disclaimer: I visit each of these places as part of a press trip with Scotland Starts Here.
This was the first town I visit in the Scottish Borders, right on the coast and it was about an hour and a half drive from Newcastle. It was a really easy drive up, and I found the car park no problem. There were about three or four central car parks in Eyemouth, all free of charge which made a nice change, I’m so used to paying for parking or putting locations in the app everywhere we go now.
I parked in the one just up from the harbour, but there is parking right on the harbour too. From here I walked down past the marina and all the little boats bobbing around, the swans lying in the sun, and a few small groups of people enjoying a sunny Sunday walk.
It wasn’t too busy, but it wasn’t quiet either, and I was drawn right to the edge where there was a crowd looking at something in the water. As I got nearer a seal literally leapt out the water in front of me. There were four of them being fed from a little shack on the side of the harbour. It was fascinating watching them for a bit.
From here I walked along the sea front, which again had plenty people about but it wasn’t too busy, and it was a lovely walk overlooking Eyemouth bay which was pretty wild with crashing waves.
Spot the ‘Widows & Bairns’ sculpture, commemorating the families that were tragically torn apart after a fishing disaster in 1881. 189 men were killed in a storm leaving their wives and children behind, and the sculpture shows them looking out to sea.
The town itself isn’t big, but there are plenty of little shops, a gorgeous little ice cream parlour, and a few pubs and restaurants. I ate at Oblo, a really nice bar and bistro by the harbour that had a real seafood themed menu. It was a brilliant menu, with so much choice and I found it really difficult to choose.
I went for the garlic prawns which were enormous, and they came with a dipping sauce that was amazing too. For desert I had the home made berry cheesecake which was just divine. It’s a beautiful little spot, very modern and there were tables in the restaurant, up in the conservatory overlooking the town and harbour, or outside if the weather allows. It’s definitely one to stop by for some lunch even if you aren’t staying in the town.
I didn’t spend a lot of time in the actual town of Kelso, more so in some of the nearby places which I will come on to in a bit. Kelso is a popular market town, and it’s certainly a colourful one as you walk through.
Browse the boutique locally owned shops and businesses, if you’re there on market day once a month that is worth a visit, and of course the Kelso racecourse. You can’t miss Kelso Abbey and what is left of the monastary too.
Just a short drive from the town centre is Floors Castle and Floors Castle Gardens. The castle is the biggest inhabited castle in Scotland, lived in by the Duke of Roxburghe, but is only open to the public in summer. The gardens can be visited year round and they really are worth it, especially if you touch lucky with the weather.
There are plenty of places you can stay, both in and near to Kelso including guest houses, self catering accommodation and hotels. I stayed at Schloss Roxburghe, which was a short drive but absolutely stunning. Read my full review of Schloss Roxburghe here.
Another market town of the Scottish Borders, and another very colourful one, Jedburgh is well worth a visit. For a small place it has some pretty iconic buildings that should draw you to it.
I’ll start with Jedburgh Abbey which sits proudly overlooking the valley below, and it really is pretty impressive. You need a ticket to enter, which should be booked in advance, and you enter through the visitor centre at the bottom of the steps up to the abbey. Visitors are allowed in via timed entry due to the current COVID restrictions.
The Abbey itself is one of four in the Scottish Borders that was built in the 1100’s, and it took over 70 years to build. The ruins that are left are gothic yet beautiful, and the archways provide beautiful frames for the sights beyond the abbey.
There is a one way system in place, and the information signs for each section paint the picture of what the abbey would have been like. Spend some time wandering among the ruins on top of the hill before coming back full circle to the visitor centre.
In the town itself there are some gorgeous little points to take note of. Firstly admire the colourful buildings of Canongate, and the entrance to Bridewell Jail next to the town courthouse. It felt almost like a fairytale with the pink paint and romantic spire.
Up at the far end of the high street, walk up the hill and you will come to Jedburgh Castle Jail. It was closed for me when I was there but the castle is now a museum that gives an insight into what it was like inside an 1820s prison. It has interactive tours telling the stories of prisoners, and showing the cells they were kept in.
On your way back down the street to the centre spot the old little alley ways that lead to courtyards, and the pretty little cottages.
In the opposite direction to the Castle Jail, and down a little side street you will come to the other gem of Jedburgh, Mary Queen of Scots House. Mary spent some time in this tower house in 1566, and it has been preserved to show her life and history including paintings, textiles and other objects. The gardens are lovely to walk around too.
For a more detailed list have a read of my 10 things to do in Jedburgh post here.
Melrose was my favourite of the Scottish Border towns I visited, as it had a bit more going on so felt a bit busier. It was very picturesque with a pretty bakery, shops with a lot of character, and an attractive little square in the centre.
Located by the Eildon Hills which you can see in the distance from the town, they provide a lovely backdrop to the town.
This was the only place in all of the Scottish Borders where I had to pay for parking, but there was plenty of it and it wasn’t expensive. You can use the Pay By Phone Parking app for it.
Melrose Abbey is near to the main town car park, and so are the National Trust for Scotland gardens – Priorwood Gardens and Harmony Gardens. I went into Priorwood, which was just so quaint and beautiful. As well as wild flowers it had quite a big apple orchard, which had many different types grown within it, with views of the Abbey in the background. There is a picnic area and plenty benches dotted about too.
I enjoyed lunch at The Townhouse on the Main Street, which was a brasserie within a small boutique, family run hotel serving hearty British food. I had the burger and it was amazing, followed by local ice cream.
Not far from Melrose is Abbotsford House, the home of famous Scottish writer and poet Sir Walter Scott. The house has been preserved as it was when he died, and a visit there takes you back in time to life in the 19th Century. Read more on my visit to Abbotsford House here.
So those were the four towns I really got to spend time in during my trip to the Scottish Borders, but of course there are many more. One that I was going to be visiting but due to the weather my itinerary changes was St Abbs, a fishing village with rugged coastline a bit further up the coast than Eyemouth.
I was going to be doing one of the Rib Trips, but unfortunately the seas were a bit rough, and if they were anything like they were in Eyemouth that day I’m glad to have remained on dry land, but they look a lot of fun when the weather allows. For more information on St Abbs have a read of the Scotland Starts here information.
Next time you’re heading up to Scotland consider stopping at any of the towns in the Scottish Borders to prolong your trip, or better yet make it a trip of its own.
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