Melrose Scottish Borders Travel and Tourism Information
At the foot of perhaps the Borders most distinctive landmark, the triple peaked Eildon Hills rising dramatically from the Tweed river valley lies Melrose, a town that packs a punch in more ways than one.
For it’s the birthplace of rugby sevens. Founded by one Ned Haig in 1883, this fast and furious game has spread across the globe, and each year the town plays host to the Melrose Sevens, a day-long tournament which attracts sides from as far afield as New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
Melrose takes on a carnival atmosphere and the competition is a huge event in the sporting calendar, promising plenty of thrills and spills for spectators and players alike.
Melrose is an outdoorsy kind of place. The town has recently been awarded ‘Walkers are Welcome’ status, and several long distance routes pass close by, including St Cuthbert’s Way which eventually wends its way into Northumberland.
There are also a plethora of circular walks varying from shortish strolls exploring the local villages to more strenuous excursions into the Eildon Hills.
Cauldshiels Loch, along the banks of the River Tweed, the hills above Gattonside and the Leaderfoot Bridges are all famous beauty spots and offer plenty of opportunity for finding out about this beautiful area on foot.
Melrose itself grew up around the abbey started in 1136 – one of the four great religious establishments founded in the Borders in medieval times.
It’s now a ruin on a grand scale, with lavishly decorated masonry. It also has strong connections with one of Scotland’s most famous sons, Robert the Bruce.
A casket discovered is thought to have contained the medieval king’s heart, and was marked by a re-burial ceremony and commemorative stone plaque within the grounds.
The area around Melrose attracted attention long before the founding of the abbey, however. Iron Age people built a fort in the Eildon Hills, and later the Romans established a large military base called Trimontium (which means ‘place of the three hills’) which formed the hub of their Scottish road network.
They also built a signal station or shrine on the summit of the Eildon Hill North. The Roman Heritage Centre in The Square, Melrose, tells the story of the Mediterranean invaders life in Scotland.
Perhaps Melrose’s most famous citizen is the author Sir Walter Scott. He lived three miles to the west of the town on the banks of the River Tweed in a mansion every bit as romantic as his fiction, Abbotsford.
It was in 1811 that Sir Walter, whose timeless classics include Ivanoe, Waverley, Rob Roy and The Lady of the Lake, bought the property which was to become Abbotsford. The building of the baronial-style home took six years and it is where Sir Walter lived until his death in 1833.
He wrote of it in his Journal on January 7, 1828: “It is a kind of Conundrum Castle to be sure and I have great pleasure in it for while it pleases a fantastic person in the stile [sic] and manner of its architecture and decoration it has all the comforts of a commodious habitation.”
Now open to the public, Abbotsford contains an impressive collection of historic relics, weapons and armour, and a library of more than 9,000 rare books.
A multi-million pound restoration project is currently underway and soon there will be an exciting new way to experience the house as the private family wing is being turned into luxury five-star self-catering accommodation.
Gardens proliferate in this part of Scotland. Two of the finest are both in the hands of the National Trust for Scotland. Priorwood specialises in plants suitable for drying with an apple orchard walk while Harmony Gardens is a walled enclave which enjoys magnificent views over Melrose Abbey and the Eildon Hills.
Where is Melrose?:
See the map on our Scottish Borders maps page.