Discover the Scottish Borders.

 

The Scottish Borders

An often overlooked area of the UK, is the border area running between Scotland and England. The borders are a fascinating area for those who love history, but also for camping, walking and relaxing. With everyone else heading to the congested, overburdened North, with its busy roads and midge infestations (July, August), crowded campsites and traffic queues; give yourself a break and make your holiday an actual holiday. 

The borders vary greatly from East to West, with the West’s rolling hills and beautiful lochs.  to the East, bordering the North Sea. There you stumble across some hidden gems such as the seaside village of St Abbs and the former fishing village of Cove.

The river Tweed crosses the entire area of the Borders and on the banks of this beautiful river you can find lovely and romantic villages such as Peebles, Innerleithen and Melrose.

The Scottish Borders are steeped in history as it was once the home of Christian monks who lived in the magnificent Border Abbeys of Dryburgh, Melrose, Kelso and Jedburgh in the 13th and 14th centuries. Later the Borders were the scene of a devastating battle at Flodden Field.

Edinburgh: Under two hours drive North of Newcastle lies historic Edinburgh. Stroll up the Royal Mile which links The Palace Of Holyroodhouse with Edinburgh Castle perched above the city. Sample a dram or sip a pint with the locals.

Stirling: Cross the border and head to Stirling, the gateway to the highlands.  The old town is like a walk through history and Stirling castle was home to Mary Queen of Scots.  You can also visit the William Wallace Monument (Braveheart) and see the sword he swung in battle.

Loch Lomond: Scotland’s largest loch is well loved by hikers, water sports enthusiasts and families.  To the east is Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, which is the 3rd largest in Great Britain. There are some areas where wild camping is not allowed, but there are seven official campsites to choose from.

What they don’t tell you about the Scottish North Coast 500.

This 500 mile northern coastal route becomes over 1,000 miles if you start and finish in Newcastle upon Tyne. In a car, with perfect traffic and road conditions, google maps estimate over 21.5 hours of driving.

If you take into consideration one-two lane roads, some in poor condition, winding passages, massive amounts of mobile home, campervan and car traffic, limited campsites, and even more limited wild camping sites or laybys, and you can easily double or triple the amount of driving hours you will be sat behind the steering wheel.

Being stuck driving 20-30 miles an hour, behind other tourists who don’t understand passing places, or convoys of motorhomes who take up the whole road, can quickly turn a holiday into a nightmare.

Large groups or families will often rent large mobile homes from Inverness, which is the start of the 500. They may have no idea how to reverse, or are nervous about pulling over to let traffic pass. In a small village with one road in and one road out, this can cause major congestion. 

We watch blog sites and travelling sites for insight as to how the tourist season is going.  Last year, many on the 500 reported campsites full by late afternoon.  When trying to find a layby or to wild camp, they had to stop by 3pm in order to try to secure a spot.  Often starting off just after sunrise, to make sure they could get some distance in and secure a night spot for the following day.

Combine this with July and August midge season, and strained public facilities; the 500 is not for everyone.  Due to an influx of comedians and TV presenters doing lockdown travel shows in Scotland this year, the 500 is due to be busier than ever.  At time of writing this, many campsites are already booked up for the summer. 

The Southwest Coastal 300 

If you want to explore the Scottish borders, all or part of the South West Coastal 300 might be for you. The main stops along the way include: Gretna Green, Prestwick, Ballantrae, Cairngaan, the Isle of Whithorn – Kirkudbright – Dumfries – Lockerbie – Moffat – Dalmellington – Prestwick

Highlights

Gretna Green was the first stop over the border for young English lovers to get married. The blacksmith would marry them over the anvil.  The blacksmith’s shop still exists and the town is a hive of wedding activity to this day. Stop for a visit, and you may be asked to be witnesses for an actual wedding ceremony.

If you are interested in war history, after visiting the Blacksmith shop in Gretna Green, maybe stop in at the Devil’s Porridge Museum in Eastriggs. This was the site of the largest ammunitions plant in the world.  Follow your visit by stopping at Annadale, for their whiskey distillery or the history museum.

If stargazing is your passion, chose between the only Dark Sky Park in Scotland: Galloway Forest Park, or book to visit the Scottish Dark Sky observatory at Dalmellington.

Just south of Ayr, look for Danure Beach with it’s dark sand and rock pools, overlooked by the ruins of Danure castle. If you like your castles fully formed, your next stop along the coast can be Culzean castle.

Stop at the southern most tip of Scotland on the Galloway Peninsula to climb the lighthouse.  The sunsets can be spectacular in the evening.

Visit Whithorn to see the ruins of the chapel built by Ninian. In 390AD he founded the first Christian church in England.

If empty beaches with wonderful views are your passion, maybe stop at Southerness Beach and gaze across the Solway Firth to the Lake District.  You will also find one of the oldest lighthouses in Scotland at the western end of the beach.

Dumfries was the home of JM Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan. Wander through the book at Moat Brae, and it’s beautiful gardens. 

Some lovely historic towns to stop along the way include Moffatt, Jedburgh, Peebles and Coldstream.

 

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