Spending a weekend in the Scottish Borders meant that there was history, heritage and fashion destinations that we wanted to explore, plus the kids had to enjoy themselves. There was also the geography of lots of little towns to choose between, so at first I found the amount of choice quite overwhelming, but this is what we whittled it down to!
The region is known for its abbeys, or ‘haunted churches’ as we described them to the kids to get them involved. Boy, this description worked. Our first stop was Melrose Abbey, the burial place of Robert the Bruce’s heart. Our kids seem to strangely enjoy ruined churches as they can run around, look in nooks and crannies, and terrify themselves over various dark cupboards or towers.
It helped that, at the ticket office, the boys were given an A4 treasure hunt. Sometimes these hunts are more trouble than they’re worth, but this one was cool, and very pictorial. First off they were looking for Jesus. Then they found Jesus – a tiny statue on the roof. The hunt carried on like this taking us around the abbey, and often the kids spotted things before we did. Climbing to the top of the tower at Melrose Abbey was another highlight, and the boys claimed they were King of the Castle and that the tourists below were dirty rascals. Abbeys can be fun. [Melrose Abbey is run by Historic Scotland. Literally across the road is the NTS Harmony Garden if you fancy another Melrose experience].
We thought we were chancing our arm taking the boys to a second abbey in the same day, this time the burial site of Sir Walter Scott, but to be fair they just loved running around. Dryburgh Abbey is very calming, and it’s situated in a quiet rural spot. The region also boasts Kelso and Jedburgh abbey, but unless you have a real passion for ecclesiastical buildings we felt two abbeys were ample for one weekend. It gave us a sense of the power, beauty, and wealth of the region and the clergy. Dryburgh is also under the stewardship of Historic Scotland.
We had a pitstop in Selkirk’s Courtroom Café. The children’s menu was good, and the afternoon tea lunch was an absolute bargain at £11 in total for two people, featuring sandwiches, bannocks and tray bakes with a cup of tea and coffee to accompany it. Remember to pick up a Selkirk Bannock whilst in town.
Across the Borders there is a range of 12 free museums. They are quite niche, so ideal for those with particular interests. They include Mary Queen of Scots’ Visitor Centre, the Coldstream Museum and Jedburgh Castle Jail and Museum.
We stuck our heads into Sir Walter Scott’s Courtroom, as I wanted to see where the great writer administered justice. There really isn’t much for kids to do there, but, as it was free, we could nip in, read the display boards swiftly, and head off again.
Hawick & the Borders Textile Towerhouse
Another of the free museums, with more to see and do, is the Borders Textile Towerhouse in Hawick. Hawick is globally famous for its textiles, including cashmere, tweed or tartan. They also do a fine line in lambswool, angora and camel hair! The Towerhouse Museum is a focal point, bringing together the history and businesses of the area, explaining why and how they became world leaders in textiles, working with the likes of Dior, Vivienne Westwood and Gaultier.
There are several hands-on sections where you can touch the fibres, see the tartans, or ‘card’ the wool (basically brush it to clean and untangle it).
Basically, by this point I wanted to go shopping. In the cashmere capital of Scotland I desired just half an hour to myself, so we decided to find a playpark where my husband could spend time with the kids and I’d undergo some retail therapy. We didn’t realise we’d find THE BEST PLAYPARK EVER. The new Wilton Park playground by the river in Hawick is wonderful. So beautiful to look at, so colourful, with symbols of the town cleverly portrayed around the park, and boasting brand new apparatus. The kids were on cloud 9 and my husband was delighted with such a find. What a great stop.
Meanwhile I’d escaped on a cashmere rampage of Hawick. For traditional Scottish quality in a rainbow of colours I nipped into William Lockie where I was tempted by the 50s style cardigans. Then I visited the Johnston’s of Elgin Visitor Centre. They run mill tours for those who want to get up close and personal with the creative process. Their children’s wear was adorable. But my final stop is where I parted with hard earned cash – Hawico. Not only does Hawico have a gallery where you can watch the mill machines working away, it also sells samples and one off pieces at knock down prices. The bonus is you can pick up a bargain. The pieces often come in one size, one colour and that’s your lot, but on the plus side nobody else will be wearing the same as you!
I tried on about five pieces, and I walked away with a rich blue 100% cashmere tank top. This would usually set you back around £200, but this top also featured detailed stitching the shoulders, and it was £70. I’m not saying this is cheap, so don’t expect Primark prices, but for 100% Scottish cashmere Hawico is a value for money outlet. Job done!
Overnight – Cringletie House Hotel
For accommodation we drove to Peebles and settled into Cringeltie House Hotel (read the review here). It’s a wonderful old baronial castle, but with a homely, welcoming air to it, with very attentive staff. A family friendly base not far from Edinburgh.
Dawyck Botanic Garden
Another day dawned in the Scottish Borders. Back in 2017 we’d fallen in love with the Benmore Botanic Garden. Dawyck is part of the same group of celebrated Scottish gardens so we had high expectations, and it delivered. Dawyck is known for its trees, and on a sunny day it was so chilled to wander around the acres and acres of land with the children. We simply spent hours there.
We had a late lunch at the small café at Dawyck Botanic Garden – soup and a sandwich and baked potato style fare.
Our final stop was the small town of Peebles. The high street is still busy, and a highlight was Sugar Mountain. This old style sweet shop oozes charm, as well as fudge, chews, candy cane and liquorice. As the sun was splitting the sky we sat outside with dripping sweet ice cream.
We ended the day at a small playground in Peebles next to the river. On a sunny Saturday it was busy with local children and visitors see-sawing, sliding and going loopy on the swings. A walk along the riverbank concluded our trip.
Other sites to mention in the area – there are a LOT of stately homes in the Scottish Borders, including Abbotsford (the home of Sir Walter Scott). And Stobo Castle is nearby for those who feel a spa coming on!
OUR STORY – We drove from Aberdeen, breaking up the journey with an overnight stay at the Kinross Travelodge on a Thursday night, before heading to the Borders and exploring all day Friday before checking into Cringletie for 2 nights. On the Sunday morning we drove direct from Peebles back to the Granite City.