The Nutcracker at the Eastgate Theatre


With its magical festive setting, there can be few ballets that put audiences more in the mood for Christmas than The Nutcracker. And that will certainly be the case when The Royal Opera Ballet’s exquisite production of this all-time favourite classical ballet is screened live at the Eastgate Theatre on Thursday 8 December.

This much-loved production by Peter Wright tells a story familiar to many: when the young Clara creeps downstairs on Christmas Eve to play with her favourite present – a Nutcracker – the mysterious magician Drosselmeyer is waiting to sweep her off on a magical adventure.

Having defeated the Mouse King, the Nutcracker and Clara travel through the Land of Snow to the Kingdom of Sweets, where the Sugar Plum Fairy treats them to a beautiful display of dances. Once back home, Clara thinks she must have been dreaming … but perhaps not?

Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker score was commissioned by the director of the Russian Imperial Theatres following the resounding success of The Sleeping Beauty in 1890. First performed in 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, The Nutcracker was initially poorly received, but its combination of delightful choreography and unforgettable music has since made it one of the best loved of all ballets.

In Peter Wright’s classic production for The Royal Ballet, the stage sparkles with theatrical magic – a Christmas tree grows before the audience’s eyes, toy soldiers come to life, while Clara and the Nutcracker are whisked away to the Kingdom of Sweets on a golden sleigh.

Tchaikovsky’s score also contains some of ballet’s best-known melodies, from the flurrying Waltz of the Snowflakes to the dream-like Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy – all brilliantly set in Wright’s choreography. And with Julia Trevelyan Oman’s designs drawing upon 19th-century images of Christmas, this magical production is tailor-made for the festive season.

Further info

The Royal Opera Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker will screen live at the Eastgate Theatre on Thursday 8 December, 7.15pm. Tickets available now from Box Office on 01721 725777 or online, £17, £10 schoolchildren.


Abbotsford welcomes all on St Andrew's Day


As a way of highlighting Sir Walter Scott’s home as an accessible and intriguing destination amidst some of the most beautiful countryside in Scotland, Abbotsford welcomes all to its annual free family day this St Andrew’s Day (Mon 28 Nov).

Simply turn up and have fun and give the family a memorable day out with lots of drop in activities, fabulous food, free ice cream, a magician, a shield-making activity, birds of prey and family tours to delight and inspire this St Andrew’s Day holiday.

The day is being held as a thank you to the local and wider community for the on-going support and patronage of Sir Walter Scott’s home and legacy.

Abbotsford has run these free community days for the past four years with the aim of encouraging future visits, and also to celebrate the end of the season before the house closes for the season.

The free family fun day will take place from 10-4pm on Mon 28 November. 



Halloween high jinks at Traquair

There are opportunities galore to get into the spirit of Halloween at Traquair House this year with the chance to join spooky, night-time Jacobite Ghost Tours, plus a day of Halloween fun and games for all ages.

The special Jacobite Ghost Tours (Fri 28 & Sat 29 Oct, 7pm & 9pm) promise to bring history alive, with characters from Traquair’s past retelling tales of extraordinary bravery as they supported the Jacobite cause at enormous personal cost.

Visitors are warned to be on their guard for the odd unexpected surprise and even descending into the dungeons of the Tower of London before relaxing in the comfort of the 18th century dining room with a Jacobite toast to the ‘King o’er the water’.

Then, on Sunday 30 October, it’s the turn of the annual Halloween Fun Day – a firm favourite for families with children of all ages. This year’s fun day features magic shows, creepy crawly animal handling sessions, the famous spooky passage experience, Tarot readings, ghost stories, a witches and wizards workshop, scavenger hunts, spooky face painting and, of course, traditional Halloween games.

This year also sees not only a Dressed to Kill fancy dress competition, but also Halloween Hounds – a chance for dogs to put on their best Halloween costumes.

Throughout the weekend, the 1745 Cottage Restaurant will serve Halloween suppers on the nights of the ghost tours as well as delicious lunches and teas every day until the end of October.

Further info

Ghost tour prices (Fri 28 & Sat 29 Oct, 7pm & 9pm), £12.00, children £8.00. Tours suitable for 8yrs and over. Combined tour and supper ticket £24.50. Tickets should be booked in advance as numbers limited.

Halloween Fun Day (Sun 30 Oct, 11-4pm), £8.50, children/concessions £4.50, family ticket £22.00. Tickets on the gate only for this event. For more, visit

Look out too for spectacularly spooky goings on at nearby Bowhill Estate and Abbotsford House this coming weekend.



Two Sarahs bring stunning exhibition to Dawyck

Light in the Garden, Sarah Knox


Dawyck Botanic Garden, one of the Scottish Borders' leading visitor attractions, was the inspiration for a new exhibition of work by two enterprising teachers. The exhibition, entitled Light in the Garden, features a variety of stunning works by Edinburgh-based artists Sarah Knox and Sarah Robinson. The exhibition runs in The Studio at Dawyck until 30 November (admission free).

Light in the Garden is the first joint exhibition by the two women. Sarah Knox teaches art at St. George’s School for Girls in Edinburgh, while Sarah Robinson is a former teacher at St George's and now teaches Modern Studies at Edinburgh’s George Watson’s College.

“We both love the Garden at Dawyck and have visited with our families over many years,” explained Sarah Knox. “The opportunity to work in the arboretum, talk to the gardening team and sketch on location, soaking in the atmosphere was irresistible. Our works are a creative response to viewing the world through the garden. This collaboration is a reflection of this enchanting place.’’ 

Reflecting how the artists immersed themselves making studies of the paths, vistas, hidden corners and trees, the pair have produced complementary artworks for the exhibition. Sarah Knox works in multi-layered oils and mixed media, and she has also displayed a series of finely-drawn and harmonious botanical prints. In contrast, Sarah Robinson has made hand-finished monoprints, lino cuts and acrylic paintings of trees in a heightened palette.

“The artists have made a wonderful visual representation of the changing light and landscapes through the seasons,” added Graham Stuart, Garden Curator. “Their interpretation in vivid colours brings the garden to life.”

Further info

Light in the Garden is on display at the Studio, Dawyck until 30 November. Dawyck Botanic Garden is part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The garden is open to the public daily from 1 February to 30 November. 

Image: Light in the Garden, Sarah Knox


Big doggie day out at Traquair

Dog's day out you say? I'm in ...


It seems that Traquair House’s love of dogs knows no bounds. Hot on the heels of hosting its inaugural Ruff Dugger adventure race in May, this grand old house and estate is preparing for the first ever Dog’s Day Out – a brand new event for dogs and their owners this Sunday (17 July).

The day sees a variety of fun-filled events for dogs and their two-legged companions. The main avenue at Traquair will see sheep dog demonstrations by Julie Hill, an award-winning international sheep dog trialler and full-time shepherd who has developed her own special method of training working dogs. Meanwhile, on the lower part of the avenue, there will be terrier racing with a chance for all dogs to have a go at chasing a lure. Find out if your dog has a natural racing instinct!

For more agile and obedient pooches, there is an opportunity to try out some dog agility with the Dryburgh Abbey training group. Even those without a dog, and especially children, will be able to try out the course with an experienced dog from the team.

And, of course, no self-respecting doggie event is complete without a few competitions to enter. The Companion Dog Show in the old walled garden includes categories such as Dog with the Waggiest Tale, Best Six Legs, Dog with Most Appealing Eyes, Best Rescue Dog, plus a Best Pedigree Puppy Show. Dogs can be entered on the day, with proceeds going to the New Beginnings Cavalier Rescue Charity.

Throw in the opportunity for great dog walks, doggy tales from a master storyteller, a canine treasure hunt in the maze, an exhibition of dog portraits as historical characters by Marie Louise Brulatour, plus a host of stalls selling doggie gear, and it’s clear that it will be a day of pure doggie heaven. 

Further info

A Dog’s Day Out will take place at Traquair House near Innerleithen, Sunday 17 July (11am-5pm). The day sees a special admission ticket for the house and grounds, £8.00 adults, £4.00 children (dogs go free). Don’t forget your poo bags! For more details, visit



Make merry at the Traquair Medieval Fayre

Jousting action at the Traquair Medieval Fayre


The Traquair Medieval Fayre returns later this month (28-29 May) with a marvellous line-up of medieval merriment for all ages in the grounds of Traquair – Scotland’s oldest inhabited house.

This year’s fayre promises to be particularly authentic with a celebration of the marriage and gift of the house by the Earl of Buchan to his son James Stuart, who became 1st Laird of Traquair in 1491.

Visitors will also be dazzled by a special Grand Tournée on the wineglass lawn in front of the house which sees combat displays with knights in armour, a battle of the shields, and a grand melée finale. Elsewhere, the grassed avenue will see spectacular displays of jousting and tilting, with a record number of re-enactors setting up living camps and demonstrations throughout the weekend.

Even the old Walled Garden will get a make-over as it is transformed into a medieval market with living history displays covering everything from making chainmail armour to medicinal remedies. Visitors can try their hands at longbow archery, experience the stocks and, for those with a love of the macabre, even see how medieval torture instruments were used!

Traders and demonstrators on site include felt-making, willow-working, medieval forge, bodging and spoon-making, plus merchants selling leatherwork, jewellery, children’s costumes, pottery and other crafts.

And with a great line-up of children’s activities, falconry displays, medieval music, delicious food – including from Traquair’s ye olde pizza oven – and a special Medieval Fayre Ale brewed exclusively for the event, it’s a weekend that promises something for everyone.

Further info

The Traquair Medieval Fayre takes place on Sat 28 and Sun 29 May at Traquair House (11am-5pm each day). Tickets: adults £12.00 (£10.00 advance), child/concs £10.00 (£8.00 advance),  family £38.00 (£30.00 advance). Ticket price includes all entertainment and entry to house. Dogs welcome on leads. Reduced price tickets available until 24 May.

For more, visit www.traquair



Easter at Abbotsford


With an exciting family event on Easter Sunday plus outdoor fun for kids during the school holidays, the home of Sir Walter Scott has got the Easter period all wrapped up.

On Easter Sunday (10-3pm, 26 March), Abbotsford will host a special day of drop-in activities for the whole family, including a spectacular egg hunt through the glorious Abbotsford spring gardens, face painting, birds of prey demos and story-telling in a tipi.

Visitors can discover all of what Abbotsford has to offer for the special price of a Garden ticket (Family £13.00/Adult standard £3.60) and enjoy a day of outdoor fun exploring the walled gardens with their hidden treasures and eggs. There will also be opportunities to take part in craft activities in the Learning Centre and play and build dens on the estate's extensive woodland play trails. Best of all, by paying once, visitors can return to the gardens free for the whole season.

Meanwhile, Abbotsford’s Ochiltree’s family restaurant will offer a special 10% Easter discount, with a kiosk for refreshments available for thirsty children and adults taking a quick break.

Later, during the Spring holidays, there’s a chance for kids to spend a week outside, making friends and playing wild under the expert guidance of fully-qualified Forest School staff at Nature Unlimited. The week-long programme runs from Mon 4 April to Fri 8 April, 10-1pm daily (£60/child for week, booking essential).

For more information, visit

From alpacas with love


It’s unlikely there has ever been a wedding quite like this one …. Cringletie House Hotel claimed a Scottish first recently when a couple had their wedding rings delivered by a pair of alpacas. It’s all part of a quirky new service on offer that sees the happy couple's rings stowed in a velvet bag and carried up the red carpet around the neck of a beautiful alpaca dressed in its best bib and tucker.

The delightful animals, supplied by nearby Velvet Hall Alpacas, have a wonderfully mild temperament which makes them ideal for socialising with the lucky bride and groom. Not only do they add a memorable twist to the ceremony, but the alpacas also then play a part for photos with guests who may also take them for a walk.

“Weddings are always meant to be memorable and providing something extraordinary like this is another way of demonstrating that we care about ensuring the big day is just that," commented Cringletie's manager Jeremy Osborne. “The alpacas are adorable and are proving a huge hit with all age groups. Plus, with our superb grounds, the animals get to enjoy themselves as much as the wedding party!”

For more information, visit


Scott the rave reviewer


The Abbotsford Trust has announced the opening of a special new exhibition at Abbotsford this spring in partnership with the National Library of Scotland. The exhibition – Rave Reviewer: Scott on Frankenstein, Emma and Childe Harold – tells the story of Walter Scott's engagement and interaction with some of the most famous literature of the early nineteenth century: the works of Mary Shelley, Jane Austen and Lord Byron.

Scott achieved this through penning some of the most insightful, sympathetic and outstanding literary reviews of the age – a time when reviews on all manner of subjects were often more widely read than the original publications. Walter Scott was central to the launch and subsequent popularity of John Murray’s Quarterly Review, and remained a key contributor throughout his years as the most famous and prolific novelist of the time.

With novelists and reviewers often writing anonymously, the story behind the exhibition is one where appearances can be deceiving. Few were as capable at playing this elaborate game as Scott – he even anonymously reviewed his own novels in 1816. This was without doubt, the harshest review these works received.

Two hundred years from the time that Mary Shelley first began work on Frankenstein, in the company of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, visitors will be able to see a very rare first edition of the gothic novel belonging to Walter Scott, one of only 500 copies originally circulated, along with his first edition of Jane Austen’s Emma. Visitors will also be able to view a selection of letters and manuscript reviews that bring to life the story behind preparing a work for publication and review, including original documents in the hand of the poet Percy Byssche Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott, on loan from the National Library of Scotland. Many of these items will be on display to the public for the first time. There will also be original artwork on display from accomplished artist Hugh Buchanan, inspired by Scott's review of Byron’s famous poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

"We are delighted to be collaborating with the National Library of Scotland to tell this fascinating story about a community of readers and writers shaping the present, and indeed future, impact of what we now consider to be classic works of literature,” commented Kirsty Archer-Thompson, Collections and Interpretation Manager for the Abbotsford Trust. “Novels such as Frankenstein did not fare well with the reviewing community as a whole and Scott’s acknowledgement of Shelley’s genius ran very much against the grain. This exhibition is a wonderful platform to show that Scott was just as capable of looking to the future as he was to the past.”

The exhibition will be on display at Abbotsford House from Saturday 2 April and run until the end of the season in November. Entry is included as part of the admission ticket to the house. 

For more information, visit



Tunnel of love


The team behind the TweedLove Bike Festival and Tour O The Borders have stepped out of the saddle to create a brand new trail running event in October – one with a spectacular twist in the tail.

Developed by Hillside Outside, the first ever Tweed Valley Trail Run on 1 October will take runners on an autumnal journey along riverside paths, through gorgeous woodland and out into the hills before diving into the Neidpath Tunnel – a 600m disused railway tunnel that will be rigged with special lighting effects and a sound system for the event. The tunnel, which was first opened in 1864 and last saw trains running through it in 1954, is still in remarkably good condition.

Suitable for seasoned trail runners, or complete beginners, participants can choose between two distances – approximately 10k and 20k, all off-road. The event starts and finishes at Hay Lodge Park, Peebles.

For more information, or to book a place, visit




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