The town of Melrose in the Scottish Borders is one of the most picturesque towns, at the foot of the famous Eildon Hills, it’s also where Rugby Sevens originated. It’s one of the busier Scottish Border towns with a town square and centre, an iconic abbey, and some historic landmarks and sites nearby. If you’re visiting the region then it’s absolutely worth spending some time here, so here’s things to do in Melrose Scottish Borders.
At about an hour and a half drive from Newcastle, and an hour from Edinburgh, Melrose is easily visited as either a day trip or as a stopping point on a drive up into Scotland. Unlike some of the other Scottish Border towns like Kelso, Jedburgh and Eyemouth, you do have to pay for parking here as it’s a bigger town, but you can do this using the pay by parking app.
The main feature of the town, Melrose Abbey is very impressive, even if you’re just viewing it from afar rather than going inside. Entry is ticketed and you can buy these on the website here.
As it’s an old ruin they do sometimes limit visitors for safety reasons, but it’s worth knowing that when they are open they do allow dogs in the grounds.
Despite being one of the slightly bigger towns it’s still quite small, but they do have space for some beautiful gardens. Against the backdrop of the abbey and the Eildon Hills, the gardens are a tranquil space to enjoy a walk and some fresh air.
Priorwood Gardens is a National Trust for Scotland site, and it’s beautiful. It was once dedicated to dried flowers, but it’s a lot more than that now. There are wild flower patches, small woodland areas, sculptures and open spaces for picnics with plenty of picnic benches.
The most impressive part of the gardens is the big apple orchard, where they have over 70 different kinds of apples growing here. Enjoy the gardens with views of the abbey in the background. It is free to enter but you can make contributions.
Another garden owned by the National Trust for Scotland, Harmony Garden is a lot more manicured and less wild than Priorwood. It is more landscaped, with well kept flower beds and vegetable patches. There is an old Georgian Manor house in the grounds which can be rented as a group accommodation.
See more on Harmony Garden here.
Melrose Town Centre
The main streets of Melrose lead to the central market square, and it is here you will find the Mercat Cross so you know you’re in the right place, in front of the Bank of Scotland. The cross symbolises where the town folk could come to trade goods in the past. In the center you will also find the old Corn Exhange.
There are some gorgeous little boutique and independent shops in Melrose, including the Gallery, a jewellers and some flower shops. It’s a lovely place to potter around and see what you find.
Where to eat in Melrose?
The Townhouse Hotel and Brasserie is right in the centre of Melrose, and is known for its excellent food. It’s very boutique, and as a family run hotel serving hearty food they favour local seasonal produce. I would personally recommend the burger, it was amazing, followed by local ice cream. If you want to visit make sure you book in advance to avoid disappointment.
The Townhouse Melrose website has more information and details of their seasonal menus here.
There is also Pound Bakehouse and Country Kitchen delicatessen worth visiting, as well as Abbey fine wines.
Things to do near Melrose
As well as the town centre, there are some things to do near Melrose that you can’t afford to miss just a very short drive away.
Not far from Melrose along the River Tweed 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 although descendants still live in some areas of the house, you can visit with a lot of it available for public viewing.
A visit here takes you back in time to life in the 19th Century. Even outside it’s beautiful to see, with its turrets, walled gardens and rose bushes creeping up the walls. There is also a big cafe and gift shop on site.
There are also many walks that you can do that are part of the estate, by the river and through the woodland where you’re bound to see some natural wildlife.
Read more on my visit to Abbotsford House here.
Also over the River Tweed you can find the Leaderfoot Viaduct, which was once a railway bridge in the 19th Century, but it closed for use in 1948. You can see it from the Leaderfoot Viewpoint which is signposted from the main road the A68.
Trimontium Fort & Museum
Trimontium near Melrose was one of the biggest Roman settlements in Scotland, and the fort can be visited as well as the official museum in the town centre. It only opened in 2021 and showcases the history and artefacts from the Roman settlement.
You could easily spend a day here with all the things to do in Melrose filling up the time, especially if you factor in a visit to Abbotsford House and the Priorwood or Harmony Gardens. It’s a beautiful town and area of the Scottish Borders and not somewhere to drive through without stopping.
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