Travel

48 hours in Melrose – a guide for visiting this Scottish Borders town in 2024

Melrose

Published by Finn Hayden

The Scottish Borders area is full of lovely little towns and villages, but a criticism of some of them would be that there isn't always much to do. That's why we feel Melrose is a bit special - there is plenty to do within walking distance, and the town itself has a number of great little restaurants and fun bars. We wanted to publish a guide about this town for anyone considering visiting in 2024. Let's get into it:

Where is Melrose?

As we've already mentioned, Melrose is in the Scottish Borders, within the Roxburgh, Ettrick & Lauderdale county area. It's about 30 miles from Edinburgh, 50 miles from Carlisle, and 70 miles from Newcastle. Because of how close the town is to a number of major cities, it's quite a popular place to live and has been voted as one of the best places to live in Scotland quite recently.

What is there to see and do in Melrose?

Despite being quite a small town, there is plenty to see and do in Melrose. We've tried to include as many attractions as we can which are reachable by foot, but the attractions which require driving or public transport are also worth your time if you have the means.

Here are some of the highlights:

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Melrose Abbey

Of all the things to do during your time in Melrose, a visit to the Abbey should be high on your list. It's a stunning building and it has an incredible history attached to it. Although it was closed for repairs during our visit, we were still able to appreciate the beautiful architecture and explore the grounds. There is also a museum on the site which is full of artefacts and interesting objects relating to the Abbey. For us, the highlight of the abbey is the detailed sculpture work, and the many faces and other interesting details you can notice when you stop to look at the Abbey. Definitely keep an eye out for the pig playing the bagpipes! As of 2023 the abbey is being repaired and consequently, much of the area cannot be accessed at the moment, but you can still get close to it and the positive is that this means the tickets are half price, which is a steal! Learn more and book a visit here - historicenvironment.scot
Melrose Abbey

Trimontium Museum & Fort Site

This small museum excellently outlines the Roman history of Scotland. The Trimontium Museum is the only museum in Scotland dedicated to the Roman and Iron Age. Many of the artefacts in the museum were found at the nearby Trimontium Roman fort, which is just over a mile to the East of Melrose and is one of the largest Roman fort sites north of Hadrian’s Wall. The staff here are friendly and really knowledgable, and it's located right on the high street so it's very easy to get to. Learn more here - trimontium.co.uk
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Wallace Statue

It might not be the largest or most impressive statue dedicated to William Wallace that you'll find in Scotland - that award surely goes to the Lord of the Rings-style Wallace Monument in Stirling - but we think that the Wallace Statue near Melrose is a striking tribute to the legendary Scottish figure and is well worth a look. Many people think it's a modern structure because of how well it has been maintained, but the statue was actually erected in 1814. Made from red sandstone, it has a very distinctive look and the intricate detail is very impressive. The statue overlooks the Eildon Hills and there is a car park about 400 metres from it where you can walk from. You'll pass nearby Scott's View during a visit to this statue, which is also well worth a look. It's well signposted from Melrose and no more than a 15 minute to the Bemersyde Estate where the statue is located.
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Harmony Garden

Harmony Garden is a National Trust owned garden which is very beautiful and immaculately well-kept. The lawns are perfect and the variety of flowers makes it very colourful. Like so many of the amazing attractions in Melrose, the garden is totally free to visit. The only downside is that it is only open between April and October, but if you're visiting between these months then a visit is highly recommended. Learn more here - nts.org.uk
Harmony Garden Melrose

Priorwood Garden

Priorwood Garden is also owned by the National Trust, and in our opinion is a bit more interesting than Harmony Garden. The garden features more than 70 varieties of apples, and there is actually an annual Apple Day held at the garden every October. Another highlight is the bronze dove sculpture which was made by David Annand, who is known for other works such as The Turfman. It's free to enter and right next to the abbey, learn more here - nts.org.uk
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Abbotsford

Sir Walter Scott is an instantly recognisable name in the world of literature and is one of the most iconic Scottish figures to have ever lived alongside the likes of Burns and Wallace. Abbotsford is the house in which Scott lived and worked, and it is an amazing place to visit and explore. You'll learn about Scott's influential work and see his amazing personal library.

The fascinating history attached to the house is enough reason to visit for many, but the building itself is also spectacular - built in the early 19th century, it is a Category A Listed Building and the estate is listed in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland.

The house isn't actually in Melrose, but it's only a short distance away and is absolutely worth visiting if you have the time. You can catch a number of buses or simply walk the 7 or so miles if you've got the time and energy (great place to get a drone out!)

Learn more and plan your visit here - scottsabbotsford.com

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Parish Church

If you're walking to the Tweed past the astroturf, you might as well stop at the Parish Church for a quick visit. It's not particularly old but there's good reason for this - it was actually rebuilt after a fire destroyed almost the entire building. The tower was the only part of the original church that was left, and so a new church was built around it. During our quick visit, we were very warmly welcomed and had an interesting chat with a staff member who was there.

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Go over the Gattonside Suspension Bridge

Gattonside is a small village to the North of Melrose, and although we wouldn't say a trip to the village is needed (it's very small and not much to see, but lovely), a trip over the bridge which connects Melrose and Gattonside is very pleasant. The bridge was originally constructed in the early 19th century, but you'll be glad to hear that it has been strengthened and refurbished since then. We'd also say that the Gattonside side of the tweed is a bit nicer than the Melrose side, and you can walk right round the river where it is very quiet and peaceful.

River Tweed Bridge

Follow a walking route

Melrose is the ideal base to join a number of walking routes, with both the Southern Upland Way and the Borders Abbeys Way looping around the town. Both routes are well signposted and although you might not complete either route, walking part of either is very pleasant and takes you through some lovely scenery. If you enjoyed your visit to Melrose Abbey then following the Borders Abbeys Way to see the other abbeys in the area is a great way to spend a few days.

Walking routes Melrose

Visit the shops and grab a bite

For a small town, Melrose actually has a very impressive selection of shops and places to eat. The Twelve Triangles bakery on the high street serves up delicious homemade cakes, and the Provender restaurant serves Scottish and French-inspired dishes made with locally sourced ingredients such as Eyemouth Hake. If you're a bookworm, a visit to The Reading Room is recommended. There is plenty more to see and the town offers much more than just tourist shops stuffed with rubbish - you can do some serious shopping here!

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Stay overnight

Hopefully, we've given you plenty of reason to want to visit this lovely little town, but you might have realised that there is quite a bit to see and do in Melrose, so an overnight stay is absolutely warranted. You've got a number of accommodation options in the town, with options like Burt's Hotel, The Townhouse (pictured), and George & Abbotsford being the most popular places to stay. The vegetarian breakfast at Burt's hotel, with homemade veggie black pudding, is delicious and in our opinion makes the hotel one of the best vegetarian places to stay in the UK.

Town House Melrose
Hopefully, this guide has inspired you to visit this brilliant town. If you're looking for other great places to visit in this part of Scotland, we've got guides about Peebles and the Southern Upland Way. Glentress Forest is about 45 minutes away from Melrose too, and is well worth a look.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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