We think that if only more people knew about all the things the Scottish Borders have to offer, the vast majority would decide to spend part of their holiday in this region of southern Scotland. This post is a guide to things you can do in Melrose – a great hub to explore the Scottish Borders from – as well as ideas for day trips to the surrounding areas.
Melrose is a small town approximately one hour south of Edinburgh, right in the middle of the Scottish Borders. It is quick and easy to get to from Edinburgh airport and only a short drive away from some of the region’s most interesting and beautiful places to see and visit. That makes it a perfect home base for a few days in the Borders!
This blog highlight the perks of including Melrose to your Scotland Itinerary.
Melrose is home to one of four majestic abbeys in the Scottish Borders. All four – Melrose, Dryburgh, Jedburgh and Kelso – were founded in the 12th century and are symbols of medieval Christian monasticism in Scotland. They were built, attacked and re-built over the centuries, but today, they lie in ruins.
Melrose Abbey is not only the best-known abbey in the Borders but also the best-preserved one. It is a fine example of Scottish architecture and features well-preserved figure sculptures in particular. The abbey was badly damaged multiple times in history, but after a raid by the English armies in 1544, it was never fully repaired.
The abbey is probably best known for being the final resting place of the embalmed heart of Rober the Bruce. The burial site is marked by a round stone with a carving of a heart and the Scottish saltire. The inscription reads “A noble hart may have nane ease, gif freedom failye” (= a noble heart can know no ease without freedom).
Visitors can roam the abbey grounds, wander among the remaining walls and arches and even climb to a viewpoint up on the roof. Signs around the site explain which parts of the historic abbey you are standing on and what parts of monastic life would have taken place centuries ago.
Melrose Abbey is managed by Historic Scotland and is open year-round.
Entrance to Melrose, Dryburgh and Jedburgh Abbey is included in a Historic Scotland membership pass – as well as over 70 other heritage sites in Scotland!
Regardless of what you might think about Scottish flora and landscapes, the country features a plethora of beautiful gardens – and Melrose is no exception.
Priorwood Garden is a rustic walled garden located next to the abbey. You can find over 90 kinds of apple trees in the garden’s orchard, a woodland area and a herb garden.
Harmony Garden lies just a stone’s throw away from Priorwood and offers panoramic views of the Abbey and the Eildon Hills. The garden is filled with beautiful flowers as well as fruit and vegetable beds. The Georgian manor house on the grounds is available as self-catering holiday accommodation – just in case a quick visit to the garden is not enough!
If you are into historic Scottish literature, you simply cannot leave Scotland without visiting Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott. Scott was a novelist, historian and historical novelist who contributes significantly to the genre of historical fiction. As such his novels Rob Roy (1817), The Heart of Midlothian (1818) and Ivanhoe (1820) are partly responsible for the romanticised image of Scottish identity popular since the 19th century.
After spending a few years near Selkirk, Scott eventually bought a property on the banks of the River Tweed near Melrose. He turned an old farmhouse into a family cottage – known as Abbotsford. Over the years, the cottage took on a Baronial style and was expanded several times to offer more space to Scott and his family.
The ground floor has been beautifully restored and is open to the public as a museum. You can tour the stately rooms as well as Scott’s library and writing room with an interactive audio guide, and wander the many trails crisscrossing the grounds of Abbotsford at your own pace. Our favourite and most recommended place is the walled flower garden which is breath-taking in full bloom!