Shortly before Christmas, we left Edinburgh for a winter break in the Scottish Borders. Our home for a couple of nights was a cosy cottage in a pretty, rural location just outside Melrose. It was the perfect place to coorie (Scotland’s answer to hygge) over a winter weekend. I adore Edinburgh, but being locked down in the city for weeks on end, had made me stir crazy. This blogging job with Faldonside Escapes couldn’t have come at a better time. It gave us the fix of Scottish countryside we’d been craving.
December is a month of short days and long, dark nights. Yet, despite a lack of daylight hours we fitted loads in on our winter break in the Scottish Borders.
Day 1 – a winter break in the Scottish Borders
As our accommodation was located near Melrose, we decided to spend the weekend, exploring in and around the town. I have a soft spot for Melrose, having spent years making an annual pilgrimage there for the Melrose 7s. The seven aside rugby tournament is world famous.
There’d be no rugby during this visit, but there would be pretty scenery, history, winter walks and good food.
Visit – Scott’s View
Our first stop of the weekend was at Scott’s View (loved by Sir Walter Scott and named after him) a few miles from Melrose. The beauty spot offers a stunning view of the River Tweed and Eildon Hills.
It was misty when we arrived, but beautiful and oh, so peaceful.
Finding himself free in the countryside again, the boy celebrated with some fast running. Once he’d puffed himself out, we hopped back in the car and drove to our next destination.
A winter Walk in the Scottish Borders
A short distance from Scott’s View, we parked the car and set off along a wooded path to visit a towering statue of William Wallace, which was commissioned in 1814 by David Erskine, 11th Earl of Buchan. The statue stands over 31 feet tall and gazes towards the Eildon Hills.
From the statue, a path winds downhill towards the River Tweed. On a grassy mound, by the banks of the river stands a Neoclassical temple, known as the Temple of the Muses. It was also commissioned by the 11th Earl of Buchan. The temple is dedicated to the Borders poet James Thomson (who the Earl greatly admired). There’s a bust of Thomson on top of the temple.
Thomson’s writing was heavily influenced by nature. A bronze statue, depicting the four seasons stands in the centre of the temple. It replaces the original (lost) statue, which featured Apollo and the Muses.
The temple is a nice spot to linger and enjoy views of the surrounding countryside and the shoogly, Dryburgh Suspension Bridge which spans the River Tweed at this point.
A short walk from the Temple of the Muses, stand the impressive ruins of Dryburgh Abbey, where Sir Walter Scott is buried. The abbey was closed during our winter break in the Scottish Borders, but I’ve added a couple of photos from a previous visit, so you can see how magnificent the medieval abbey is.
The Rhymer’s Stone, Melrose
After leaving Dryburgh, we visited The Rhymer’s Stone, which is located just outside Melrose in the shadow of the Eildon Hills. The stone marks the location of a tree that once stood on the spot. The Eildon Tree was linked to a magical tale that influenced the works of Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg.
Sir Thomas of Erceldoune was a Scottish Laird who lived near Melrose in the 13th century. He was also known as Thomas the Rhymer (poet) and was believed to possess the gift of prophesy. He predicted the death of Alexander III (1286), the Battle of Flodden [1513) and James VI sitting on the English throne (1603).
I first learned about Thomas the Rhymer at university and like Scott and Hogg, was captivated. In my favourite tale, Thomas was took a nap beneath the Eildon Tree. When he woke, he was greeted by a beautiful lady on a dappled grey horse – Thomas was entranced. Hardly a surprise, as he was in the presence of the Queen of the Fairies. Thomas went with her to the fairy kingdom, where he stayed for three days – or so he thought. When he returned to the human world, he discovered he’d been gone for seven years.
A couple of ladies on horseback passed us while we were at The Rhymer’s Stone. They were non-magical beings though, so we were able to continue with our Borders break, without getting caught up in otherworldly shenanigans.
The Studio at Faldonside Escapes
We’d enjoyed rambling around in the Scottish countryside again, but now it was a time to coorie. Faldonside Escapes have a holiday let in the centre of Melrose (a chic two bedroom flat known as Number One), their other properties are located a short hop from town on Faldonside Farm – where we’d be staying. It’s a beautiful rural location, with rolling hills, woodland (designed by Sir Walter Scott, who lived nearby) and a small loch (Faldonside Loch). We didn’t stray too close to the loch during our stay, knowing that the neighbouring loch, Cauldshiels Loch was occupied by a kelpie. You can never be too careful with kelpies around.
The Studio at Faldonside Escapes was originally a farm workshop. It’s now a fabulous des res for two, with a bedroom, bathroom and an open plan kitchen/lounge. Patio doors lead from the lounge to an enclosed garden with a wood-fired hot tub.
The Studio is the ultimate place to coorie on a cold winter’s night.
The Scandi decor throughout is stunning. I loved everything about the property, from the tasteful colour scheme, to the gorgeous Scottish prints adorning the walls and the sumptuous fabrics used in the soft furnishings.
The bathroom had a rain shower and bath. A bath is essential for the ultimate coorie experience. Think, soaking in a bubble bath by candlelight as your worries drift away. I was delighted to find toiletries by the Highland Soap Co (one of my Scottish favourites) in the bathroom, along with large fluffy towels.
Dinner and a moonlight stroll by Melrose Abbey
We spent a couple of hours loafing in our stylish weekend abode, then headed back to Melrose to forage for food.
We discovered a great wee fish and chip shop in town and bought takeaway white pudding suppers for dinner. They were great – probably because they came served with Edinburgh chippy sauce.
Once we’d eaten our suppers, we did a loop of Melrose Abbey in a fruitless attempt to burn off some calories.
The abbey illuminated the dark, December night and looked absolutely stunning.
An evening of Christmas coorie
Back at The Studio, we slipped our PJs on, lit the fire and spent a lovely evening drinking hot mulled cider and listening to Christmas music on The Studio’s Bluetooth sound system, which piped our festive playlist through the ceiling.
The boy was in seventh heaven, snoozing by the fire.
Inside The Studio, we were enveloped in a cosy bubble, where the outside world ceased to exist.
Day 2 – a winter break in the Scottish Borders
We slept like babies on out first night at The Studio.
After showering and dressing in our winter woolies, we headed out for breakfast.
Breakfast – The Greenhouse Cafe
The Greenhouse Cafe in Melrose is dog friendly, so we decided to go there for breakfast.
We ordered coffee, orange juice and a hot breakfast each. Mr G had filled breakfast rolls, while I opted for a full Scottish breakfast with toast.
Breakfast was perfect and set us up nicely for the day ahead.
Visit – Melrose Abbey & museum
Our first stop of the day was Melrose Abbey.
We were the first to arrive and got the abbey all to ourselves – much to our delight.
Melrose Abbey was founded by David I in 1136. It was Scotland’s first Cistercian monastery. The abbey is an architectural wonder and one of the finest medieval buildings in Scotland.
Being located in the Scottish Borders, close to Auld Enemy territory, Melrose Abbey saw its fair share of turmoil over the years. Thankfully, enough of it has survived to give us a good idea of how spectacular it would’ve looked in its heyday. The Cistercian monks remained in residence at the abbey until after the Protestant Reformation. The last monk at the abbey died in 1590 and the building fell into disrepair.
The heart of Robert the Bruce is buried in the abbey grounds. Bruce’s body was buried at Dunfermline Abbey, but Sir James Douglas (Black Douglas) took his heart on a holy crusade. His heart didn’t reach the Holy Land though, as Douglas was killed fighting the Moors in Spain. Bruce’s heart was returned to Scotland and buried at Melrose Abbey.
After exploring the abbey, we visited the abbey museum.
En route I stopped to marvel at a well-preserved medieval drain. Once a history geek, always a history geek.
We took it in turns to visit the museum, as dogs aren’t allowed inside. The museum houses fragments of masonry from the abbey and artefacts discovered during excavations at it.
My favourite exhibit was this happy monk, who’d once have adorned the abbey.
A potter round Melrose
After leaving the abbey we went for a potter round town, visiting Greenyards (the home of Melrose Rugby Football Club) the town’s old railway station and the local baker, where we bought some Selkirk Bannock (a fruit bread and local delicacy).
Walk – Leaderfoot Viaduct and Trimontium
Our next stop combined a country walk with more history – this time Roman. The Leaderfoot Viaduct spans the River Tweed at Newstead, just outside Melrose. The viaduct was built in the 19th century to carry the Berwickshire Railway line. Long before the railway existed, the Tweed was spanned by a Roman bridge.
The largest Roman settlement in Scotland once stood at Newstead.
The Romans called the site Trimontium – the place of the three hills. It’s hard to imagine a large Roman settlement, with a fort and amphitheatre in the Scottish Borders, but the Romans occupied Trimontium, on and off between 80AD and 180AD.
Even if Roman history isn’t your thing, Trimontium is a nice place for a walk.
If Roman history is your thing, you can find out more about Trimontium and see some of the artefacts discovered there at the Trimontium Museum in Melrose.
Visit – Abbotsford House
After leaving Trimontium, we drove to Abbotsford House, the magical Borders home of Sir Walter Scott. I love Abbotsford and wanted to see it decorated for Christmas.
When we arrived, I was delighted to discover we were the only people booked to visit, so we’d have the house all to ourselves.
Dogs are welcome in the shop, exhibition, cafe and grounds at Abbotsford, but not inside the house. Mr G and I took it in turns to visit the house, while the other explored the grounds with the boy.
Having Abbotsford to myself was my idea of heaven. I was able to really immerse myself in the visit.
To stand alone, in the room where Scott wrote was an absolute thrill.
I loved the period decorations and a quirky Christmas tree made of books.
Scott was passionate about history and an avid collector, so Abbotsford is a treasure trove of historic gems. These include a piece of fabric from Mary Queen of Scots dress and a lock of The Old Pretender’s hair.
I was hyper when I left the house. It was an amazing visit, and one I’m unlikely to experience again in the post-covid era.
Lunch – Ochiltree’s Cafe, Abbotsford
With Christmas under a week away, we’d booked a table at Abbotsford’s Ochiltree’s Cafe for a festive lunch.
The cafe was busy when we arrived. It was nice to see families, couples and friends out enjoying food and drinks together.
We started with a warming bowl of winter vegetable soup, before tucking into Christmas turkey with all the trimmings.
Sprouts are one trimming I won’t entertain, but the Wee White Dug is a sprout connoisseur. He ate all my sprouts, much to my relief.
We finished with traditional Christmas pudding and custard.
It was a lovely lunch, in a nice a setting with friendly service. We left the Ochiltree’s Cafe fit to burst, but feeling festive.
Another evening of Christmas coorie
We spent a second blissful night, cooried in at The Studio – PJs on, fire lit and Christmas tunes playing. This time we swapped mulled cider for champagne and Christmas cocktails. We had cause to celebrate – it was thirteen years to the day, since we’d met.
It was the perfect way to round off a wonderful weekend.
Our weekend break in the Scottish Borders had been fantastic from start to finish. We left the fabulous Studio at Faldonside Escapes feeling happy, refreshed and optimistic that a return to normality was just around the corner.
We stayed at The Studio Melrose on a complimentary basis, however all opinions are my own.
Until next time …