Melrose Abbey
Other Stuff
Located in Market Square at the top of High Street, this tells the story of the Romans in Melrose, and there were a heck of a lot of them. The nearby Roman fort of Trimontium was the Roman capital of South Scotland. It was BIG. In this heritage centre you can learn all about it, see lots of Roman objects, and even the face of a Roman soldier, as modelled on the replica of his skull.
This is a National Trust for Scotland property located near the abbey. A ticket here will also allow you into nearby Harmony Garden. The main thing about Priorwood Garden is that it is a demonstration dried flower garden, and everything that you see growing can be preserved by drying. They also have a superb collection of apple and pear trees, including 'Tower of Glamis' and 'Galloway Pippin' apples. There is a special day each year when you are allowed to taste the many varieties of fruit.
Ancient abbeys are wonderful places to wander around. They usually have a fair sprinkling of tall tottery walls that sprout from springy grass and soar upwards to form gothic arches and lofty towers in the sky. There is a fair bit of Melrose Abbey still standing, although it is without question a ruin. I often wonder if there are written rules to allow us to decide at what point a building becomes a ruin. Is it merely the lack of a roof, an uninhabited status, or is there more to it? In and around the abbey there are many interesting bits and bobs. There is, for example, a marked piece of ground where a lead casket is buried. It is believed to contain the heart of Robert the Bruce. There are also excellent examples of medieval floor tiles, still in situ. One of the information panels tells about Piss Pots - 'Cleverly designed to be used in a standing position, these pots could be carried discreetly under the monks' robes.' Over in the abbey's excellent museum there are in fact examples of authentic medieval piss pots. One is inclined to think that the monks must have placed a bit of fabric in the bottom of their pot to allow them to have a clandestine pee without a great echoing waterfall noise to give the game away.
This is the very large house that Sir Walter Scott lived in. I didn't make it here, but I imagine you could possibly spend a whole day here. The house and grounds sit about two miles west of Melrose, on the east of the River Tweed. Once there, you can apparently see Sir Walter Scott's study and other rooms, including what I believe to be an exceptionally fine armoury. The grounds around it will no doubt be stunning. Open mid March to mid September.
Like far too many places in the Scottish Borders, Melrose is not easy to reach. From Edinburgh, it's a bus journey of over two hours, which seems ridiculously long until you realise that the bus embarks on a merry jaunt throughout what seems like the whole of the Scottish Borders. By far the best way to get there from Edinburgh is to get a Kelso bus and get off at Leaderfoot. It's a journey of around an hour-and-a-half. You'll know when you're there as you'll see the magnificent multi-arched structure of Leaderfoot Viaduct on your right. This, you may not be surprised to know, once carried trains. The last train over it was on Friday 16th July 1965.
The walk from Leaderfoot Viaduct to Melrose is around two miles, and a lovely little walk. It's on the old 'B'-class road which passes under the viaduct, and which is fenced off for part of the way to allow a delightful car-free romp. The scenery is outstanding. But there's more. The walk also passes through what was the largest Roman fort in South-West Scotland - Trimontium - and all along the road there are information panels and vantage points to tell you what bits of the fort went where. It is superb.
The route heads downhill through the charming hamlet of Newstead, after which you should take the left branch in the road and pick up a footpath marked 'Eildon Walk'. This will lead you straight to Melrose and its abbey.
There are numerous walks in, around, and through Melrose, and because of the close proximity of the Eildon Hills and the general attractiveness of the local countryside, all are awesome. As well as small paths all over the place, there are routes up onto the Eildon Hills and major long-distance routes like the Southern Upland Way, Borders Abbeys Way and St Cuthbert's Way. These are all exceptionally grand walks that should only be undertaken when one has acquired some hill-walking experience, a good level of fitness, and are familiar with all the kit required by a walker in the Great Outdoors. Do not just venture off after a sign in the hope that there will be an ice-cream van, toilet, and burger-joint at the top of yon hill. (I once met a man in a sports jacket and plimsoles walking up a mountain in a heatwave. He had no hat, no water, and was an accident waiting to happen.)  [CLICK HERE FOR A SPECIAL PAGE WITH AN INTERACTIVE OS MAP OF THE MELROSE AREA, SHOWING THE ST CUTHBERT'S WAY AND OTHER FOOTPATHS.]
The Scottish National Trail - Scotland's end-to-end long-distance walking route, passes through Melrose
Another view of Melrose Abbey
Plaque at entrance to Priorwood Gardens in Melrose
Abbotsford, near Melrose
Leaderfoot Viaduct, near Melrose
View of the Eildon Hills from the road between Leaderfoot and Melrose