As befits an area with such a rich and varied history, the Tweed Valley is home to a variety of historic houses, often with outstanding grounds and gardens. Here are five houses and gardens that you really must visit this summer
The Scottish Borders home of the Duke of Buccleuch displays an outstanding art collection, with works by Canaletto, Claude, Raeburn, Reynolds, Gainsborough and Ruysdael, while the wider, heavily-wooded estate offers a variety of peaceful walks for all ages and abilities. And if walking is not enough, visitors can always try the recently upgraded adventure playground, while the Bowhill ranger service also offers a series of fun activities for children and families. Look out too for the attractive Courtyard, which includes everything from a Victorian kitchen to a gift shop, tearoom and soft play for wee ones.
Situated on the banks of the River Tweed near Melrose, Abbotsford was the home of Sir Walter Scott, the prolific 19th century novelist. Scott created a style of romanticism that would heavily influence the development of the novel in world literature. And nowhere else in the world can evoke the power of this romanticism than Abbotsford which, uniquely, was designed by Scott himself. When you touch the bricks and mortar of Abbotsford, you are touching the mind of Sir Walter Scott. This beautiful house and its grounds provide a way in which visitors can understand and interpret Scott’s philosophy. Facilities include an award-winning visitor centre, restaurant, gift shop, children's playtrail, walled garden and lovely woodland and riverside walks.
Dating back to 1107, the remarkable Traquair House was originally a hunting lodge for the kings and queens of Scotland. Later a refuge for Catholic priests in times of terror, the Stuarts of Traquair supported Mary Queen of Scots and the Jacobite cause without counting the cost. Today, Traquair is a unique piece of living history welcoming visitors from all over the world, providing a magical setting for weddings, hosting a wide range of summer events and a superb venue for corporate groups. Oh and don't forget the brewery, animals, play areas, walled garden and HUGE hedged maze!
Occupying a delightful position on the banks of the River Tweed close to Peebles, the gardens at Kailzie are planted with a wide variety of mature specimen trees. Within the walled garden, meanwhile, are greenhouses, herbaceous borders, many unusual species of shrubs, laburnum arches and an enchanting rose garden. A further 15 acres of wild garden features wonderful woodland and burnside walks – with views to the surrounding hills. And if that’s not enough, also on site is one of two Tweed Valley Osprey Project viewing centres (the other one being at Glentress), bait- and fly-fishing ponds, a putting green, children’s corner, plant sales, plus the excellent Garden Cafe and gift shop.
Set in a secluded Peeblesshire valley, close to the River Tweed, Dawyck Botanic Garden has a history of planting that goes back more than 300 years, with today’s visitors able to admire some of the oldest and tallest trees in Europe. Now one of the world’s finest arboreta, the 65-acre Dawyck is one of the four Gardens of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh – an internationally-renowned scientific research organisation which has been concerned with the worldwide study of plants and their diversity since it was founded as a physic garden in the 17th century. There's also a lovely visitor centre, gift shop and cafe, as well as plant sales.