Melrose was rated the best place to live in Scotland in the 2018 Sunday Times Best Places to Live guide. I have been to Melrose several times and this came as no surprise to me as I find this town to be one of the most charming in Scotland. It has a fine selection of independent shops, places to eat and a magnificent Abbey to visit. Let me take you on a walk through the town...
Getting to Melrose
The Borders Railway, Scotland's newest railway line, makes it much easier to visit Melrose. The last stop on the line, Tweedbank (around 55 minutes from Edinburgh), is about 1.75 miles from Melrose. There is a cycle path to Melrose directly opposite the station. It is such a short cycle ride that you might prefer just to walk there.
There is a brilliant food and coffee kiosk at Tweedbank station. Born in the Borders is a champion for produce from the Scottish Borders region. You could pick up a nice souvenir from here, like the delicious tablet that I bought. There is even an app that allows you to pre-order your coffee so that it is ready for your arrival!
Tempest Brewing Co. is located in an industrial estate next to the station. They have a shop so that you can stock up on some of the best craft beer in the country. Read about the brewery in my blog.
Don't miss the standing stone that commemorates the opening of the railway in 2015 by the Queen. It pays tribute to the community effort involved in restoring a rail link to the area after an absence of 46 years.
Great Shops and Railway Heritage
A wander around Melrose is like stepping back in time when all of Britain's towns had shops that catered to every need. The shop fronts have elegant facades that are so perfect you would be forgiven for thinking you had stepped onto the set of a film set in the 1940s.
It is immediately noticeable that Melrose is lacking in the unfortunate characteristics of so many of Scotland's town centres- empty shop units, peeling and unloved buildings and a general lack of atmosphere. Melrose has none of this and is beautifully looked after with immaculate buildings, bright flowers and a genuinely interesting selection of stores.
There is a good selection of antique shops in Melrose. One of them is down an alleyway and was selling bird boxes made from recycled wood, displayed outside. Inside there was classical music on the radio and lots of fascinating curiosities to tempt me.
Outside the fruit shop there was an impressive display of delights, like raspberries, plums and rhubarb. I walked inside the secondhand bookshop and it had that wonderful musty smell that makes you want to spend hours exploring the shelves.
I made my way up to the old train station. It looks more like a Victorian manor house than a station, with its grand frontage of bay windows The new Borders Railway did not make it this far, but I could swear that I heard a steam train puffing. For a second I believed that a steam locomotive was on the platform until I discovered that the noise was from the extractor fan of the Italian restaurant that is now in the station.
Despite the station's new usage there are plenty of reminders of the railway's golden age. The platform still has a white picket fence, station sign and bench with a station nameplate. The canopy has vintage advertising for products like Lyon's Tea, Capstan Medium Cigarettes and Rodine ('kills rats and mice').
Take a look at the lamp posts on the platform- the stems have lovely flower motifs. A beautiful little detail that perfectly illustrates the care and attention that was once lavished upon station design.
There is something quite sad about a station no longer fulfiling its purpose; its platform now marooned alongside the busy A6091 instead of train tracks leading to Edinburgh. However, there is hope for Melrose station as there is a strong community and political desire to extend the railway here and beyond.
Amazing Ice Cream and Award Wining Pies
Dalgetty's Tea Room is the perfect place to enjoy that stepping-back-in-time feeling that Melrose creates so well. This bakery business has been around for over 100 years and the counter is loaded with an immaculate display of cakes and bread. They use tradtional ovens which are over 120 years old.
For ice cream lovers Simply Delicious is the shop to aim for. When the sun comes out there is an almost constant stream of customers. I tried the apple crumble flavour and it was amazing. There were little pieces of baked apple inside, so it perfectly replicated the taste of the dessert that it was named for. This is also an old fashioned sweet shop with shelves brimming with jars of candy delights that are measured into paper bags.
Down by the River Tweed
When you travel to the Scottish Borders it is almost impossible to avoid its mighty river, the Tweed. Melrose is situated right next to the river and one of the best places to take a look at it is from the chain bridge.
This bridge opened in 1826 and you once had to pay a toll to cross it. It feels like you are entering a castle via a drawbridge because of the iron suspension chains and the tower with the arched doorway.
The bridge still has the old signs with the list of byelaws 'by order F.P. Smart, Clerk to Joint Commitee.' There rules included no more than 8 people on the bridge at one time, not crossing in a heavy gale and not deliberately swinging the bridge. You could end up in prison for these offences!
The bridge is a good vantage point to take in the Eildon Hills, the distinctive peaks that give Melrose its attractive backdrop.
Gardens of Melrose
In the town centre there are two gardens that are havens of tranquility. Harmony Garden is free to enter and the venue for the Borders Book Festival.
The gardens belonged to a wealthy joiner, Robert Waugh, who owned a pimento plantation in Jamaica. He named Harmony House (1807) after the variety of pimento that he grew. The design of his Melrose home was also inspired by his West Indian property. Take a look at the staircase up to the front door of the Georgian House- this replicated the stairs to the front of the plantation house where they were designed to keep wild animals at bay.
You cannot visit the house, but you can rent it as a holiday home. The gardens are not huge, but they are a joy to walk around because of the beautifully presented flowers and views of the ruined abbey.
The only sound was chirping birds. The sweet scent of the huge variety of flowers delighted my nose. In one corner raspberries, substantial and juicy-looking, were thriving. A peek through the windows of a glasshouse revealed peppers, tomatoes and chilles.
Priorwood, also free to enter, is the other garden in the centre of Melrose, adjacent to the abbey. Its high walls hide it from view, so it is somewhat of a secret garden and easy to miss. The entrance to it is through a visitor centre and shop where you can buy dried flowers and apples from the gardens.
Priorwood is dedicated to cultivating flowers for the purpose of dried flower arranging. There is also an orchard with about 70 varieties of apples. I loved that you could walk among the trees and take a good look at the growing fruit. One of the apples is called White Melrose and is thought to have been grown by the monks of Melrose Abbey.
This place is so tranquil and pretty that it is crazy to think that it was going to be turned into a car park in the 1970s! Thankfully the National Trust stepped in to save it. Amongst the apple trees there is a bronze sculpture of two doves.
Melrose Rugby Football Club
Rugby has been played at The Greenyards since 1877. It is a lovely ground located right in the centre of the town. It does not have a massive stand and high fences, so you could easily watch some of a game as you wander down the street. Melrose is one of the most prestigious clubs in Scotland; this is where the Rugby Sevens tournament was invented.
The entrance to the club is turned out smartly with yellow doors and window frames, complimented with flower displays.
Famously the home of Robert the Bruce's buried heart, Melrose Abbey is the main visitor attraction in the town. The abbey church, dating from the late 1300s, is a magnificent piece of architecture where the height of the ceiling is immense and difficult to stop looking up at.
The scale is breathtaking, perfectly illustrated by the incredible size of the blocks of stone on the columns.
The detail of the stone carvings is spectacular- the most famous piece is a pig playing bagpipes, but there are plenty of others to look out for.
There is a spiral staircase with a rope banister to grasp. It leads to a viewing platform that allows you to take in the roof of the church and the surrounding countryside.
Melrose is much more than its visitor attractions and it topped the list of best places to live in Scotland because of good schools, transport links and community spirit.
Melrose is also brilliantly situated for nearby attractions that make for great day trips and I will be writing about these in future blog posts.
I am interested to find out if you liked Melrose as much as I did, so please leave a comment below.
There are lots of things to look forward to when you go on holiday, not least the culinary delights. Trying new dishes that you’ve never heard of, sampling the local wines and not worrying about your diet for the next 10 days is always a winner in our eyes! We’ve selected some of the most unique dining experiences worldwide for you to feast your eyes on (see what we did there?). Bon appétit!
1. Secret Dining- Maldives
Stay at the 4* Plus Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa and discover their dining experiences in the resort’s secret locations – whether it’s dinner beneath the banyan trees, a dinner in the meditation pavilion overlooking the ocean or an in-villa romantic dinner for two, all of the ingredients are locally sourced and prepared in the Chef’s Garden. At the Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa you can also have menus tailor-made for a truly unique experience.
2. Cacao cuisine – St Lucia
The 4* Plus Boucan By Hotel Chocolat is in a unique location within the cocoa groves of St Lucia’s Rabot Estate and 1,000 feet above the Caribbean sea. Their exclusive Cacao cuisine uses the superb local produce which has made Boucan one of St Lucia’s most popular foodie hotels. Sip a Cacao Bellini as the sun sets and explore the natural sweet and savoury delights of cocoa, with everything from fresh seafood to crisp salads and plentiful fruits.
3. Dine with the fishes – Dubai
The definition of luxury is the Burj Al Arab where multiple, impressive dining locations are on offer. Experience a stunning floor to ceiling aquarium, which sets the backdrop for some of the finest dining you will ever experience. Colourful sea life will swim past your table, as the team of award-winning chefs prepare some of the most delicious dishes in the Middle East. Or alternatively, why not enjoy Tapas on the 24th floor whilst sipping on cocktails created by in-house mixologists.
4.Dine By design – Maldives
Located on Bolifushi Island in the South Male Atoll of the Maldives, the 5* Jumeirah Vittaveli offers a spectacular personalised dining experience at a breath-taking location. Whether you want to dine on a private sandbank or breakfast as the sun rises over the horizon on your own stretch of beach, nothing is too much trouble and the menu is what you make it.
5. Night Bazaar – Thailand
The 4* Plus Tamarind Village Chiang Mai is conveniently located just a short distance from the famous Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. This sprawling night market provides an authentic Thai shopping experience and sells everything from fried bamboo worms to tasty and traditional Thai cuisine. Why not try ‘kantoke’, a platter of meats, vegetables and chilli dips all displayed on a woven rattan tray.
This is a guest post.
Congratulations everyone – we’ve made it to summer! Swimming costumes have been washed and pressed, beach bods have been perfected, and now it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy.
That being said, no summer is ever truly complete without a handful of sun-inspired drinks to impress your friends with. With that in mind, here are our four favourite tipples for summer 2018.
1. Moët & Chandon Ice Imperial
At the top list of our best drinks for this summer is Moët & Chandon Ice Imperial champagne. Presented in elegant white, this is the first-ever champagne created primarily to be served over ice, especially when you’re at a summer picnic, barbecue, or garden party. It is a sweeter, lighter, sparkling style of champagne with less dense bubbles that goes down smoothly, providing the perfect refreshment on your summertime.
The champagne is expertly made up of the best Pinot Noir to give it structure and density, Pinot Meunier for a richer and milder mouthfeel, and Chardonnay to add a little touch of refreshing acidity.
To get the most out of this fun and fresh drink, we recommend serving it on a lot of ice or with chopped plums and summer fruits. If you forget to bring the ice along to your summer picnic, don’t worry one bit as you can also drink the champagne as long as it is very chilled to give it the full fruity flavour. And that’s why Moët & Chandon Ice Imperial is a perfect summer drink!
2. Dom Perignon 2009
Dom Perignon is one of the most celebrated champagne brands worldwide, and they have a unique 2009 vintage designed for summer lovers. Well, the Dom Perignon 2009 is an iconic champagne —the first ever vintage to have been released out of a chronological order, meaning it hit the market even before the 2008 vintage.
The 2009 Champagne vintage was created using mature ripe grapefruits, finely chiseled to give a silky texture and one of a kind freshness. It offers a vivacious nose of guava and grapefruit with stone fruits that often burst from your glass right after you’ve poured the drink. We are talking about the white peach and nectarine! Take a sip and you’ll be amazed at the absolutely refreshing taste sensation of this rich fruity tipple as soon as it hits your tongue.
We love this drink because you can partner it with seafood, fish, hard cheese, fresh and citrus salads.
3. NYETIMBER NV Rosé Brut English Sparkling Wine
Nyetimber is a true pioneer, with over 25 years of experience in making some of the finest English sparkling wines you can find on the market today. They’re the first English producer to make sparkling wines exclusively from the popular sought after grape varieties — Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. NYETIMBER NV Rosé Brut English Sparkling Wine is one of their best, which spent 3 years in the fine lees and includes 2009 as well as 2010 vintages.
It’s one of the delicious wines you’ll ever taste this summer. The wine is made from hand-picked grapes, which are at their peak ripeness. The magnificent character emerges as soon as you open that bottle. On the nose, you’ll be greeted with a superb aroma of red fruit flavours with floral notes anise and lavender. The palate is amazingly creamy with a silky texture and refreshing cherry flavours to retain that sense of tension.
4. Zymurgorium Pink Grapefruit Gin Liqueur
We end our list of the best drinks for this summer with Zymurgorium Pink Grapefruit Gin Liqueur, which is full of flavour& colour and also excellently designed with a balanced tangy taste. Well, the manufacturer uses juniper and 20 other British botanicals along with a dry, crisp gin to produce liqueur that has a well-balanced pink grapefruit taste.
This bottle of gin liqueur can be taken either with or without crushed ice. And for those that love partnering, you too can never go wrong with Zymurgorium Pink Grapefruit Gin Liqueur. It is delicious when partnered with tonic, prosecco, lemonade, or cocktail simply by adding fruitiness.
There you have it! And we wish you a truly happy summer adventure.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.