Family weekend break

Playing on the River Tweed

The Tweed Valley is a brilliant area for affordable family fun, with a range of attractions and activities to suit every family member. Here are some suggestions for how a family of four can get to grips with the area without breaking the bank

Friday morning

Arrive early to make the most of the weekend and book into a spacious caravan at Tweedside Caravan Park (£90 per night if staying for two nights or more). With views over gorgeous rolling countryside and plenty of wide open spaces for kids to run around in, it makes an excellent base for the weekend. The park also offers special camping pods (£40.00/night) for budget-conscious families who don’t mind getting cosy together. 

Fine views from above St Ronan’s Wood

Head into Innerleithen to explore this lovely Borders town, perhaps taking a stroll up into St Ronan’s Wood for wonderful views along the Tweed Valley. Aim for the mast on top of Caerlee Hill for some of the very best views, although the really energetic might like to continue to the summit of Lee Pen – at 502m, one of the highest hills in the immediate area. It’s far from a walk in the park, with the final push to the summit one to get the blood pumping.

Be sure to drop in to the delightful St Ronan’s Wells Visitor (open 1 April to 31 October), which is housed in an historic spa. Inside, there are exhibitions that tell the story of Innerleithen and St Ronan's Wells, describing their connections with the great Scottish writers Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg. The origins of the unique Cleikum ceremonies held in July are also explained. The adjoining gardens, which featured in the BBC’s Beechgrove Garden programme a few years ago, are also well worth exploring.

Cleikum Ceremonies at St Ronan’s Wells Visitor Centre

Back on the High Street, youngsters and parents alike will be fascinated by the inner workings of Robert Smail’s Printing Works (open 1 April to 31 Oct, plus special events ahead of Christmas). This National Trust for Scotland property, which this year celebrates its 150th anniversary, is home to a fully operational letterpress printers that dates back to 1866. A fascinating visitor experience, all are encouraged to try handsetting for themselves and, if time allows, the compositor will proof your efforts to see who has (or hasn’t) passed their apprenticeships!

Heidelberg Press at Robert Smail’s Printing Works

By now, attention might be turning to food, so choose from one of Innerleithen’s informal eateries – try the Whistlestop Café or Number 1 Peebles Road Coffee Shop at either end of the High Street – or else perhaps grab some goodies for cooking up yourself later. There is an excellent greengrocer (The Allotment) close to Robert Smail’s, while the nearby Shaw’s butcher is one of the best in the Borders. And for curry-fiends, don’t forget Saffron (again on the High Street) which offers an acclaimed selection of Indian cuisine (both sit in and take-away).  

Saturday

So many options for today. You could head east towards Selkirk and the Philiphaugh Salmon Viewing Centre to learn all about the life-cycle of the majestic salmon – including the dangers faced as they migrate between the sea and the Ettrick River. Watch the salmon live on the interactive video screen and choose from different camera positions posted around the river. You might even get lucky and see salmon working their way up the fish ladder in the middle of the nearby cauld.

There is more outdoor fun to be had at nearby Bowhill Estate (open Easter to end of September), home to a brilliant adventure playground, plus great walks and cycles. The magnificent country home of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleugh, Bowhill House itself is pretty special, too. 

Adventure playground at Bowhill

The Tweed Valley is of course renowned for its mountain biking, with enough trails to satisfy even the most energetic of riders. There are fantastic trails to enjoy throughout the Tweed Valley Forest Park, although it’s the famed and extremely family-friendly trail centre at Glentress that will be most people’s first port of call.

Family trail time at Glentress

Another very different option is to check out the electric bikes on offer from Cardrona-based E-Motion Bikes – a fantastic way to explore some of the less gnarly trails, including the excellent Tweed Valley Railway Path that runs alongside the river between Innerleithen and Peebles. The bikes are pedal-assist, meaning you get help when you need it, so ensuring an effortless ride even when going up hills! Bikes can be rented for a half- or full-day and are delivered to several hire points across the Tweed Valley, including the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel, Peebles Hydro Hotel and Tontine Hotel.

Enjoying the Tweed Valley Railway Path

Later, maybe catch a family show at the Eastgate Theatre, Peebles. There’s always plenty on to appeal to all ages, including family films every other Sunday. 

Family fun at the Eastgate Theatre

Sunday

You could slow down a little today and potter along Peebles’ award winning High Street – a hotspot for funky little independent shops – or else keep the activities coming. On your final day, we’d heartily recommend heading back to Glentress to try the Go Ape Tree Top Adventure course (probably the most fun you can have high up in the trees); go trekking with alpacas at Velvet Hall Alpacas; brave the giant maze at Traquair House (with an onsite brewery for grown-ups!); ride ponies at Kailzie Stables; or head to beautiful Kailzie Gardens to enjoy fishing, pitch and putt, an adventure playground, fabulous gardens, and the fascinating Osprey Watch (April to September).

Monkeying around at Go Ape Peebles

You can then head home and start planning when to return to try all the things you didn’t quite manage to do on your initial visit!

 

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