Ian Walker is a Tour Guide based in Melrose with his own business, Borders Journeys. After a career of 27 years in the Civil Service, Ian decided that he wanted to fulfil his dream of setting up his own tourism business. This dream was influenced by spending special time with his paternal grandfather on the family farm in Dumfriesshire and happy family visits and holidays to his maternal grandparents in Borders.
Having spent most of his career working in London, Edinburgh and Glasgow, he was ready to return to his Borders roots. Ian’s hobbies include travelling, theatre, cinema, concerts, music, cooking, reading, history and genealogy. Socially he loves spending time with his family and friends, especially spoiling his nephew and niece. Here Ian reveals some best-kept secrets from this part of the world/
Briefly outline what your business/organisation is: Borders Journeys was launched in May 2012 providing friendly, organised and private guided tours of the Scottish Borders, Dumfriesshire and Northumberland. Our range of luxury escorted tours are a wonderful way to experience the beauty, history and culture of these unspoilt regions. We go off the beaten track and provide real local knowledge. We pride ourself on our flexibility as all of our tours can be tailored to meet the individual needs of our visitors. If a visitor doesn’t see a tour organised for a day that they’d like to travel, they simply ask us to organise or design a tour specifically for them.
How long have you lived/worked/visited in Northumberland or The Scottish Borders?: I have only been living and working in the Scottish Borders since March 2012 since I relocated to Melrose to start-up Borders Journeys.
What is it about the county that appeals to you?: I was born and raised on the family farm in Dumfriesshire; therefore the countryside is in my blood. Having spent most of my adult life living in cities, it’s wonderful to return to the countryside and my roots. The Scottish Borders are such a beautiful and unspoilt region offering peace and tranquillity for day to day life but still close enough to Edinburgh when a ‘fix’ of city life is needed.
What’s your favourite Northumberland/Borders beauty spot?: St. Mary’s Loch in the stunning Yarrow Valley. I describe the area surrounding St. Mary’s Loch as the Highlands in miniature. I like to climb up to St. Mary’s Kirkyard which overlooks the loch, from there you can appreciate the breathtaking scenery and unspoilt beauty of the valley.
Tell us about your favourite view/walk/cycle route/town/nightspot?: There are many wonderful riverside walks along the Tweed. I like to walk along part of St. Cuthbert’s Way from St. Boswells to Dryburgh then up to Scott’s View to admire the view towards the Eildon Hills.
The list of places to visit is endless. But some are more special than others. A trip to Northumberland/the Borders wouldn’t be complete without….: There are so many wonderful historical properties and stunning scenery in the region that all merit a visit. A firm favourite with Borders Journeys’ visitors is Traquair House as it’s Scotland’s oldest inhabited house plus its romantic association with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite cause. A visit to Traquair House can also be combined with a visit to St. Mary’s Loch.
Why is locally produced Northumbrian/Borders food the best?: Locally produced food is always best as it’s fresher and hasn’t travelled for days before it reaches the shop. The region has wonderful independent producers who take so much pride in producing their products. Where possible I like to support local businesses and produce.
Do you have a preferred place to eat out in the county and why?: There are simply too many to name. The region is fortunate to have such a varied selection of hotels, restaurants, tea rooms and cafés. There’s something for everyone whether it’s tea with a scone or fine dining; you’ll find it in here.
Northumbrians and people from The Scottish Borders are renowned for the warm welcome they offer holidaymakers and day trippers alike. What do you think is the secret ingredient for this friendliness?: Pride in what they do, an interest in people and a genuine desire to showcase the region as a great place to visit.
Coast or country, and specifically which part?: Both! There is equal pleasure to walking along a beach at Bamburgh or a country walk .
Your favourite market town and why? It has to be Melrose as it’s a typical unspoilt Borders Market Town. A majority of the shops, hotels, restaurants and cafés are independent and owned by locals. Tourists flock to the town because of its beauty, history and local shops.
Your favourite historical site?: There are too many to single one out. If ‘pushed’ I’d say Stobo and Ettrick Churches as they are strongly associated with my ancestry. Both churches are typical Border country churches and set in beautiful locations and well worth visiting.
And the best road to take a leisurely and scenic drive along?: It has to be the Yarrow Valley ‘the Highlands in miniature’ – beautiful, peaceful and tranquil.
What would be your perfect day out in Northumberland and The Scottish Borders?: I have the best job as I get to have a perfect day out every time I take visitors for a tour of the region. It’s a fantastic opportunity to explore and ‘show off’ the region to visitors.
Category: Northumberland Best Kept Secrets