The recent restoration of the Scottish Borders Railway has opened up this serine part of Scotland to visitors. It is part of Scotland often neglected by visitors, but one major draw is Melrose Abbey. Historically known as St. Mary’s, it is located 40 miles south of Edinburgh and today is easily accessible by train. History buffs will be amazed by the Abbey, and foodies will be overwhelmed by the array of local foods in Melrose village – home of some of the finest organic produce in the UK!
The train journey from Edinburgh to Tweedbank, the closest train station to Melrose, meanders through beautiful Scottish countryside. The journey takes 1 hour – from the train station it’s a leisurely 40 minute walk along the tranquil Tweed River to Melrose Abbey. Alternatively, it is a 10 minute bus ride from the train station to Melrose.
The Abbey is open year round and entrance costs a mere £5.50. More information on concession prices, opening hours, and facilities can be found on the official Historic Scotland website.
Melrose Abbey, built in the shape of a cross, was founded by the Cistercian order in 1136. It’s thick rose-pink stone walls were finished with some of the most exquisite carved work in the British Isles. Much of this work has been preserved immaculately – just tilt your head up high to see!
The Abbey’s golden age was between the 12th and 14th centuries, when it grew considerably and attracted worshippers from across the British Isles and further afield. It’s decline began as the English monarchy swept north through Scotland, and by the end of the 16th Century the Abbey lay abandoned. It wasn’t until 1822 that the splendour of the Abbey was recognised, and restoration work began.
Much of the Abbey is in ruins, however it’s sturdy walls have survived military battles, sieges and horrific storms throughout the centuries. Part of the Abbey was used as the local church during the 18th and 19th Centuries, before a new church was built in the village. Nowadays it is a highly sought after wedding venue in Scotland – so don’t be surprised if you become an accidental “wedding crasher”!
Haggis and Coffee
The High Street in the pretty village of Melrose is lined with tasty cafes, cosy pubs and tempting restaurants. The surrounding countryside is home to highly regarded farms and dairies, and as such some of the finest Scottish produce can found in Melrose.
Award winning Millers is one of the oldest butchers in Scotland. and since 1857 they’ve offered an epic variety of meat pies, haggis and local game such as pheasant. Much of their stock is organic, and they offer a range of artisan cheeses from accredited dairies.
For a picnic, my top tip would be to buy a huge sausage roll from Millers. They are heart cloggingly delicious and are best washed down with a coffee or tea from Dalgetty’s bakery up the street. Hey, you’re in the bakery, pick up a cake or sweet treat too 🙂
Train – I’m a train guy so this would be my preference. ScotRail offers regular train services to Tweedbank from Waverely station in Edinburgh. The picturesque journey through rolling countryside takes one hour, price is £11 return.
Bus – The Firstbus X62 links Edinburgh and Melrose. Journey time is 1:30hrs and return fare is £7.20.
Car – It’s a pleasant one hour drive from Edinburgh, and there is ample parking in Melrose village.
Tweedbank Train Station to Melrose
Walking – As I mentioned, there is a lovely walk along the Tweed River from the train station all the way to the Abbey. This takes approximately 40 minutes. Alternatively, walking along the road takes 30 minutes.
Bus – First Group offer scheduled services between Tweedbank and Melrose. It is a 10 minute journey and perfect if you rushing for a train or it’s raining! Look out for bus numbers X62 and 72.
Cycle – ScotRail allows bicycles on services. It is possible to cycle along the river path but may be more comfortable to cycle along the road to Melrose.