The Best Things to Do in the Scottish Borders
Read all about our favourite things to do in the Scottish Borders that you're sure to love too
Ah, the bonny land. There is much to be explored in Scotland with droves of visitors heading to the shining lights of Edinburgh and the Highlands. A lesser-known secret is that of the Scottish Borders, perfectly placed for day trips. Looking for things to do in Borders? Explore the rugged beauty of the Berwickshire coastline, dally amongst sprawling countryside and get to know real Scottish history. There is more to this delightful place than haggis, kilts and people doing impressions of William Wallace (recommended by the way), we promise. When it comes to travel, we here at Plum Guide know more than a thing or two, so trust our expert advice and enjoy the trip of a lifetime. Here's our official list of things to do in Borders.
If there is anywhere to learn about the life and times of the great Walter Scott, it’s Abbotsford. Immerse yourself in the space and objects that inspired his great poems and novels - you can even peruse his personal library. The beautiful, formal Regency gardens are straight out of a romance novel and the layout harks back to Scott’s original design. Decadent, sumptuous and fragrant, the grounds provide all the inspiration you need for your
tiny, expensive garden back home. Learn ‘Lady of the Lake’ in advance to scare impress your friends.
Visit Scott’s View
More Walter Scott fodder; lovely. Scott's View is an hour's drive from Edinburgh - perfect to factor in to your three day Edinburgh itinerary. This famed viewpoint overlooks the valley of the River Tweed, and was a frequent spot of the Scottish Borders' favourite child (Sir Walter Scott if you didn’t get the memo). Legend has it the famed writer stopped here so often it became a habit of his horses; when his funeral procession passed the spot his steed dutifully paused again, giving him one final look at his favourite view. Poetic, right? The three peaks of Eildon Hills can be spotted amongst the rolling farmland and woodlands. Do take a flask of hot tea and your favourite biscuit. Don’t take speakers playing really loud Europop.
Explore St Abbs Head National Nature Reserve
Home to thousands of seabirds nesting among the rugged cliffs, St Abbs Head National Nature Reserve is one of the fantastic things to do in Borders. While away the hours watching the birds from cliff-top vantage points and slurping in that fresh sea air. Head inland to Mire Loch and search for the habitats of swans, geese, damselflies and butterflies. The Nature Centre is brimming with information on the geology and conservation of the area; one for the nature heads.
Stop off in Melrose
Not to be confused with Melrose Avenue, LA (though we’ve got some beautiful homes there too), the ancient town of Melrose is a scenic stop off in Borders. Just over an hour from Edinburgh, it makes for a perfect day trip from your award-winning Plum Guide home. As to be expected, the trails and walks around the town are nothing short of picturesque, and the hardy can start the 62-mile St Cuthbert’s Way trail that starts at the abbey. Regardless of whether you’re braving a mighty big walk or not, a visit to the abbey should be made; head there and doff your cap at the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce buried here.
Marvel at Tantallon Castle
Fun fact: there were once 3000 castles In Scotland; one for every 100 square miles. They really like a castle up here. You’re spoilt for choice really but the impressive ruins of Tantallon, perched on a rocky headland, are a good place to start. Explore the stairways, passages and rooms, and imagine a life without supermarket queues. The brave can ascend the mid-tower for the best views. Rumour has it the spiral staircase is haunted, and theorists claim to have photographic evidence (you’ve been warned).
Take a trip to Traquair House and Brewery
Spanning nearly a thousand years of Scottish history, the Traquair house has seen a lot in its time. Discover fascinating accounts of visits from royalty (27 monarchs have entered their gates) and the Catholic priests that sought refuge here as you explore the rooms. Alongside beautiful gardens, a gift shop and onsite cafe, there’s a brewery in the basement. Our kind of house. This one is perfect for the little ones, with a maze to explore and a miniature adventure playground. If you do have the whole family in tow, we know exactly where to stay in Edinburgh with family.
Wander round Kailzie Gardens
Blankets of snowdrops, bluebells as far as the eye can see, and daffodils dancing into the distance. Pick your season depending on your favourite bloom and Kailzie Garden will provide. Wander the woodland trails, peruse the huge greenhouse, and admire the roses and herbaceous borders of the walled gardens. Finish things off in the cafe with great coffee and a slab of cake. (And bring another slab back to your wonderful home-from-home for the day after as well.)
Go ghost hunting at Hermitage Castle
If being scared out of your wits and
crying screaming in front of strangers is your jam, look no further. Hermitage Castle is rich with ancient stories of mysterious deaths, unspeakable crimes, and over friendly ghosts. Celebrity ghosts, no less. Mary, Queen of Scots and Scotland’s most infamous serial killer Lord Desoulis are said to roam the grounds. Keep your eyes peeled for ghostly apparitions and things that go bump in the night.