Visiting Melrose
Accommodation, things to see / do

What to expect on our Melrose page

  • History
  • Things to see
  • Things to do
  • Eat and drink
  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Shopping
  • Local annual events
  • Local transport links
  • Accommodation

History

Melrose is an ancient settlement on the south side of the River Tweed. The Eildon Hills, a mile to the south, were an important base of the Votadini tribe in the Iron Age. The remains of a huge hill fort around the top of the most easterly of the Eildons acts as a reminder as to their presence: while on their northeastern flank is the Rhymer's Stone, commemorating the location of the fabled Eildon Tree. Not much more than a mile to the east of Melrose, at Newstead, is the site of the large Roman settlement of Trimontium, which was sufficiently important to be named on a map of the world produced by Ptolemy in the second century. This included a fort large enough to house 800 cavalry, and what was probably the most northerly amphitheatre in the Roman Empire.

The name of Melrose, or Mailros, was confusingly applied first to a loop in the River Tweed two miles east of today's town. This was home to a monastery founded by St Aidan from 650AD and destroyed by the Scots in AD839. When King David I asked the Cistercians to set up an abbey at Melrose in 1136 he had in mind the site of St Aidan's earlier monastery. The picturesque town of Melrose is located next to the Eildon Hills and is the birthplace of Rugby Sevens. The triple peaks of the Eildon Hills are the most distinctive single landmark in the Scottish Borders. At their feet in the valley of the Tweed lies Melrose. Ruined Melrose Abbey dates from 1136. A casket discovered believed to contain the heart of Robert the Bruce was marked by a re-burial ceremony and commemorative stone tablet.

The Cistercians preferred a site two miles to the west, and what they built over the following 50 years took the name of Melrose Abbey. Although the existing settlement on this site was called Fordel, it gradually became known as Melrose after its abbey, leaving the original Melrose to be called Old Melrose on modern maps. The town of Melrose suffered, like its abbey, from invading English armies in the 1300s and again in the 1540s, and the abbey's days finally came to an end after the Reformation in 1560. By then the town of Melrose was well established as a centre for wool and linen production, though the textile industry never really took off here as it did in other Borders towns like neighbouring Galashiels.

Things to see

Melrose Abbey - which lies on the northeast side of the centre of the town. Forming part of this is the excellent Commendator's House Museum, which lays claim to having the largest collection of medieval artefacts on display anywhere in Scotland. Close to the abbey is the walled Priorwood Garden, run by the National Trust for Scotland. This specialises in species suitable for drying, and there is a dried flower shop here too. Entry is free at both Priorwood Garden and Harmony Garden. The first offers pristine lawns and scented borders; the second a more rustic feel.

Eildon Hills - Melrose sits at the foot of the triple peaks of the Eildon Hills, one of the most distinctive single landmarks in the Scottish Borders. Whether you choose to walk the Eildons, or simply look up and admire this iconic feature, they offer stunning views and superb photo opportunities. For walkers, the paths are very well marked and maintained and all three peaks can be walked easily in one day starting from the town.

Abbotsford - around 3 miles west of on the banks of the Tweed is Sir Walter Scott's romantic mansion of Abbotsford. Abbotsford House is weird and elaborate and magnificent, and you don’t need to be a Scott fan to marvel at it all.

Things to do

The Roman Heritage Centre - The area around Melrose has been inhabited for thousands of years. The Roman army arrived in AD79 or 80 and built a major fort nearby named Trimontium, 'Place of the Three Hills'. A signal station or shrine was built on the summit of the Eildon Hill North. The Three Hills Roman Heritage Centre houses the Trimontium Museum which is dedicated to Roman life in Scotland. This is the area and the starting point for a four-mile circular walk taking in the key Roman sites including those at Newstead.

Harmony Garden – a National Trust for Scotland garden - visitors of a green-fingered nature can visit one of the two National Trust for Scotland gardens in the area: Priorwood has an apple orchard which cultivates many historic varieties and Scotland’s only dedicated dried flower garden; Harmony Gardens is a beautiful walled garden with magnificent views over the abbey and Eildon Hills.

Golf course - There is world-class fishing on the River Tweed and not to be outdone, golfers can enjoy a round or two at the town’s extremely picturesque 9 hole course situated just below the Eildon Hills or sample many more courses including some challenging championship courses all within easy driving distance.

Eat and drink

The Shipp Inn - Serving traditional pub food with a great selection of tap & bottled beers, whisky and a huge array of gins, there’s something for everyone at Melrose’s local. They are a homely pub, dog, child and husband & wife friendly! Open daily for food, with an award-winning enclosed beer garden for you to enjoy with family, friends or just come along on your todd. There’s always a friendly face to say hello & have a natter.

Provender - This stylish, family-run restaurant is a perfect match for this lovely Borders town. The chef – a local – spent time in London before returning home, and his time with Pierre Koffmann shows through in well-executed, classically based dishes which deliver plenty of flavours and represent great value for money.

The Hoebridge - The Hoebridge is a family-run restaurant in the Scottish Borders opened in 2015. Their focus is on creating a small seasonal menu that changes each month, enabling us to serve our customers the freshest local produce available.  They make everything they can by hand: from bread, pastries and ice creams to pasta, pickles and preserves. What they don't make themselves is sourced from some of the best producers in Scotland – Shaw's and Hardiesmill for our local meats, fish from Campbell Brothers, I.J. Mellis cheese, Luckie Coffee and beer from Tempest Brewery.

Walking

Darnick and Gattonside - An interesting short circular passing through Melrose and two of its neighbouring settlements, Darnick and Gattonside; includes two crossings over the River Tweed on Lowood and Chain Bridges. The Chain Bridge was built in 1826 with a restriction placed on it that only 8 people were allowed on it at any one time; swinging the bridge was an offence.

Housebyres - A moderate circular taking you up to the pretty Byres Loch and returning on the Southern Upland Way along the River Tweed and over the Chain Bridge. The Chain Bridge was built in 1826 with a restriction placed on it that only 8 people were allowed on it at any one time; swinging the bridge was an offence. Gattonside is situated on a south slope so the monks had their orchards here.

Cycling

Melrose is perfect for a relaxing break, but if you want to be a little more active, it has a range of world-class activities right on its doorstep.

4 Abbeys circular cycle route - Cyclists can enjoy the route which links all four Border abbeys. For walkers, the town has plenty to offer. Great views can be had from the top of the nearby Eildon Hills and Scott’s View or a why not wander along the Tweed to Dryburgh.

The town is part of Scotland’s Coast to Coast Route – The Southern Upland Way and also the starting point for St Cuthbert’s Way, a 100km route through the Scottish Borders to Lindisfarne.

Fishing

Salmon - the river Tweed that flows through Melrose is one of the most famous salmon fishing rivers in the world. Fishermen and women travel here from far and wide for the chance to catch a beautiful Atlantic Salmon as they migrate up the river from the sea. Fly-fishing is the main method used but some parts of the river also allow spinning. The river is privately owned by lots of different landowners and anglers must purchase a fishing permit from the landowner. This process is facilitated by the two main websites, Fish Tweed and Tweed Beats, where permits can be purchased and more information on the river can be found. Prices for salmon fishing generally start at around £50 per person per day but can rise to several hundreds of pounds for the most productive stretches at the best time of year. The salmon fishing season is from the beginning of February to the end of November and fish can be caught throughout the season. However, the main runs of Salmon usually occur in March–May for the spring run, August for the Summer run and September – November for the autumn run.

The Eildon Holiday Cottages provide a great base for visiting anglers as we are situated roughly in the middle of the river. All the classic middle river beats are close at hand and the upper and lower river beats are all within an easy scenic drive. There are facilities for drying waders and coats over-night next to our biomass boiler, fishing rods can be stored over-night in our barn to save having to take them down and we have a large chest freezer for any salmon you keep.

Trout and Grayling - Trout and Grayling fishing on the Tweed and its tributaries and local lochs can be excellent and is much more affordable than Salmon fishing. Prices start from £4 per day. Trout and Grayling fishing permits on the Tweed are usually organised by local fishing clubs and are available to buy from various shops and post offices. Have a look at the Fish Tweed website for more details of the different stretches and where to buy permits. Permits for the Melrose Angling Association stretch can be purchased from the Spar shop on the High Street in Melrose.

The best shops in the area for stocking up on your salmon, trout and grayling fishing tackle supplies are the Borders Gunroom in St Boswells and Fin & Game in Kelso.

Shopping

Unique Local Shops - unlike many towns across the UK, Melrose is proud to have a wide range of fabulous independent shops. From local food suppliers including bakers, butchers, fishmonger and greengrocer, selling the best of Borders and Scottish produce, to a range of unique gift and craft shops to treat yourself, family or friends and bespoke boutiques selling clothes (including our world-renowned knitted cashmere) and shoes. After shopping till you drop, Burts or The Townhouse are the ideal places to relax and enjoy good food and award-winning Borders hospitality.

Local annual events

Sport - Melrose is the birthplace of Rugby Sevens and also has a rugby union team, Melrose RFC. Every year on the second Saturday in April the famous Melrose Sevens are held at the Greenyards and is the biggest annual sporting event held in the town. Rugby union has always been the most popular sport in Melrose. Melrose Golf Club is a nine-hole golf course situated on the edge of the town at the foot of the Eildon Hills. Melrose Cricket Club is situated next to Borders General Hospital at Huntlyburn.

Melrose Festival - Every June, the week-long Melrose Festival takes place. This involves appointing a Melrosian who has lived in the town for most of his life; and a queen and her court are appointed from the local primary school, Melrose Primary School (previously named Melrose Grammar School).

Borders Book Festival - Melrose is now the host to the annual Borders Book Festival which also takes place during June. The 2005 festival hosted guests including Michael Palin and Germaine Greer; Ian Rankin and Rory Bremner appeared in 2006

Eildon Two Hills Race - Melrose hosts the annual Eildon Two Hills Race, attracting many runners, and the Melrose Pipe Band Championships, attracting pipers from all over the world.

Melrose Sevens - the town is also the home of rugby sevens and takes on a carnival atmosphere when the Melrose Sevens takes place in spring. The first tournament took place in 1883 and the event is now an action-packed international tournament, which regularly attracts teams from places such as New Zealand, South Africa, England, France and Portugal.

Local transport links

Today's Melrose is a pretty town largely bypassed by the key routes through the Borders. The two main roads, the A7 from Carlisle to Edinburgh and the A68 from Darlington to Edinburgh pass a couple of miles either side of Melrose, while the more recent bypass by the road connecting them, the A6091, means the town is untroubled by heavy through traffic. This is perhaps as well as it is can be a very busy place in its own right. One route that does come right through Melrose is the Southern Upland Way long distance footpath.

Borders Railway (Edinburgh to Tweedbank), the longest railway line to be built in 100 years, was opened officially by the Queen on the 9th of September 2015. Melrose is a short walk (20-25 minutes) from the station at Tweedbank or, if you prefer, we can arrange for a taxi to pick you up and drop you off at our door. We are extremely excited about the opening of the railway which is being promoted by VisitScotland as one of the most scenic train journeys in Scotland.

Accommodation

Elliot Houses - Dignity Luxury Holiday Cottage
Elliot Houses - Time Luxury Holiday Cottage