If you are visiting Edinburgh and want to get out in the countryside for a day, then catch a train in Edinburgh Waverley Station and within an hour you are in the heart of the Scottish Borders, one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland. This is a new route which runs to Tweedbank, a small village due south of Edinburgh, surrounded by hills. From here you can catch a bus to the lovely village of Melrose and visit Melrose Abbey and Priorwood Garden. Or walk to Abbotsford house and garden, once the home of Sir Walter Scott, the romantic novelist (about a mile). You can also follow one of the long-distance walks or stroll to the Gun Knowe Loch for lunch in Herges Restaurant (about halfway to Abbotsford).
Tweedbank is a small village due south of Edinburgh, surrounded by hills. The railway was closed in the 1960s, but the local people won a long battle with bureaucracy to bring it to life again and you can take advantage of their victory. The standard return fare is about £10 depending on the exact time of your travel. There will also be a steam train, but only running for about six weeks in September/October. My tip is to take the train at 0930hrs or 1000hrs and catch the bus from Tweedbank to Melrose to visit the Abbey and Priorwood Garden and have lunch, then a taxi to Abbotsford and walk back to Tweedbank. It is possible to walk from Melrose to Abbotsford, but that is 2.5 miles.
The journey takes an hour. The first part is through the suburbs of Edinburgh, but then the scenery changes to hills and woods, fields surrounded by dykes (the Scottish name for a stone wall) and lots of sheep and ponies. Trains depart every 30 minutes from Edinburgh and Tweedbank from early morning to late evening. As well as a day out, you can make this the start of a walking tour. The Borders Abbey Way is a walking and cycle pathway, 109 km long, but you can choose to walk only part of it and catch a bus back to Tweedbank or to Edinburgh. There are shorter walks available from Tweedbank. In 2017 the legendary ‚Great Tapestry of Scotland‘ will be housed in a new building at Tweedbank.
On your way you can visit Abbotsford House, a historic house full of artefacts collected by Sir Walter Scott, the 19th century novelist. There is also a large walled garden and it is about a mile from Tweedbank, but please check opening times, before you go! Melrose is an attractive village where you can visit the Abbey, now a ruin, dating from the 12th century, one of the most imposing in Scotland. It is open all year and just across the street you will find the National Trust for Scotland’s Priorwood Garden. I suggest to walk from Tweedbank and catch the bus back.
-Rail Travel Expert
Fotocredits: Udo Haafke / Flickr