Next up in our road trip around Scotland, we go as far south as you can to explore the stunning Borders Historic Route. Less rugged and remote than other Scottish road trips, this one is nevertheless packed to the brim with stunning scenery and offers plenty to do along the way. Join us as we travel along 89 miles (143km) of lovely Scottish countryside through the Borders.
Why drive the Borders Historic Route
This is a Scottish road trip for lovers of truly scenic landscapes. The Borders offer one stunning vista after another. Think rolling hills, lush valleys and occasional woodlands, all crisscrossed with bubbling brooks and rivers and dotted with some of the Scotland’s finest stately homes. And of course, the odd castle.
Sir Walter Scott made this scenery his own so don’t be surprised if you find yourself right at the heart of one of his epic novels as you make your way from Gretna Green to Edinburgh. And along with the landscapes, this road trip comes as something of a voyage of discovery as you uncover a world of textiles, mining and adventures.
Highlights along the way
You’ll be wide-eyed at the lovely countryside along every mile of the way as you travel north to Edinburgh. To add to the natural delights, be sure to stop off at the following attractions:
Say I do
Gretna Green, an infamous spot just inside the Scottish border, needs no introduction. Illicit elopers fled to the Blacksmith Shop for decades to tie the knot in haste thanks to Scotland’s lax marriage laws. Wickham and Lydia’s elopement here in Pride and Prejudice is one of the novel’s highlights, but real life has provided lots of colourful ties of the knot too. Lord Eskine famously popped in to marry his (much younger) housekeeper and legitimise their two children, for example.
You can find out all about the marriage history dating back to 1754 in the Shop museum and touch the Anvil for good luck in love. Or even enjoy a true touch of romance and say “I do” yourselves at your own marriage ceremony. To keep the kids happy there’s a good playpark and a fun Courtship Maze where even those with the best orienteering skills will find themselves challenged to get out.
Textiles, festivals and rugby
Follow the River Teviot as it tumbles its way north towards the coast until you reach Hawick, one of the largest towns on the Borders Historic Route. This historic centre is home to the Borders Textile Towerhouse where you can discover the vast world of Scottish textiles. From humble beginnings to illustrious catwalks – designs by Chanel, Dior and Vivienne Westwood have featured textiles from here – the centre offers a great insight into the area’s cashmere and lambswool creations.
If you’re there in March (22-24 March 2019), be sure to catch the Reivers’ Festival, celebrating over 300 years of feuding and raiding on both sides of the Borders. Or in June, the Common Riding festival commemorates the capture of the English flag in 1514 and the ancient tradition of riding the countryside. If you’re a rugby fan, catch a match played by the local Hawick Rugby Club, one of the best in the Scottish league.
The Borders Historic Route also travels through tartan. Lochcarron of Scotland at historic Selkirk is the home of Scotland’s traditional cloth. Manufacturing over 700 types of colourful plaid, Lochcarron also designs tartan for celebrities – don’t miss Shrek’s! Book your tour of the mills in advance.
If you’re not into textiles, use this Scottish road trip for some outside exercise. The area between Hawick and Selkirk offers dozens of great walking routes – those in the Borders come with stunning vistas but without the exertion required in the Scottish Highlands. Or get in a round or two of golf at one of the top-class courses along the route.
You now move into Scotts’ country proper as the Borders Historic Route meanders north. Don’t miss Scott’s View at the writer’s favourite spot. With the River Tweed below you and literally miles of Scotland before you, it’s easy to see why Scott was so very fond of this outlook.
Nearby, Abbotsford House is a must-see en route. Built in 1817, the historic home features several rooms just as they were in Scott’s lifetime including his study where he penned many of his later novels. The 1,400 acres of the estate are also worth exploring and if you’re there in spring, don’t miss the Tulip Festival with over 8,000 blooms. If you’ve acquired a taste for history in houses, make a side trip to Floors Castle or Traquair House.
Go down deep
As you make your way towards Edinburgh, now on the horizon, stop off at the National Mining Museum. The Lady Victoria Colliery has been preserved just as it was during Victorian times when local miners toiled to bring coal to the surface. Visit the mining shafts and museum to experience life as it really was down deep.
And if you’re a Da Vinci Code fan or simply love a beautiful church, include a visit to Rosslyn Chapel. Crammed full of iconic symbols and carvings, the Chapel packs in the beauty despite its small size.
Treat the kids
They’ve been sitting quietly admiring the views so it’s now time to give the kids a real treat. As you approach Edinburgh and all the city’s delights, stop off at Dalkeith Country Park. Fort Douglas takes adventure to a whole new level with suspension bridges, secret tunnels and turreted treehouses all waiting for children to explore and let off steam.
And if you manage to tear them away from the Fort, there are 1,000 acres to explore on foot or bike. Keep an eye open for the resident deer herds on the way as well as birds of prey up above.
Where to stay on the Borders Historic Route
Add a touch of panache to this Scottish road trip and stay in your very own castle just outside Selkirk. Built in the 16th century, this one simply oozes history. The characteristic tower comes complete with Great Hall, giant stone fireplaces, a vaulted dining room and a Laird’s snug. With a 5-star rating, everything about this Scottish retreat is made fit for kings and queens. Book your reign now.
Not convinced you should take a Scottish road trip? Read more in this series:
- Fife Coastal Route
- Angus Coastal Route
- Argyll Coastal Route
- Clyde Valley Historic Route
- Deeside Tourist Route
- Forth Valley Tourist Route
- Galloway Tourist Route
- 10 reasons to take a Scottish road trip
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