2008 – The Borders
AT A GLANCE
Welcome to this wonderful, and wonderfully quiet, corner of Britain straddling the ancient borderlands between Scotland and England...
Dominated by the Cheviot Hills to the south of the border and the river systems to the north, the Scottish-English borderland is a largely rural, pastural landscape with rolling hills, broad valleys and a stunning coastline, and acts as the backdrop to stately homes, bustling market towns and magnificent castles.
This tour takes you to a selection of the very best gardens in the region, it explores the Roman occupation of Britain two thousand years ago, touches upon early Christianity on these islands, looks at the Borders recent industrial past and shows off the best of the area's landscape and heritage.
In order that we can see the whole of the tour area, without our daily distances being too great, we have split the tour between 3 nights in Kelso, north of the border, and 3 nights in Eshott, south of the border.
We take you to a variety of gardens, from large public gardens to smaller intimate private gardens, from old gardens, first established many years ago, to new gardens, created in the last twenty years and, as always, we leave out from our selection many more than we actually visit. I suspect that the horticultural highlights will be found in two or three of the private gardens, like Carolside, a garden we visited for the first time only two years ago, or The Alnwick Garden, a garden established at the turn of the millennium. As ever, when we plan tours in Scotland, I am indebted to Kenneth Cox and his wonderful book Scotland for Gardeners, without which, the pickings would be very thin.
The Scottish Borders
The Scottish Borders, originally the historic counties of Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire, is a wealthy rural area with prosperous market towns, a plethora of stately homes and four magnificent abbeys.
Historically, these counties bore the brunt of the conflicts with England, both during declared wars, such as the Wars of Scottish Independence, and the armed raids and activities of the Border Reivers, raiders from both Scottish and English families, raiding and ransacking the entire Border country without regard to their victims' nationality.
Originally meaning 'the land of the people living north of the River Humber', Northumberland is England's most northerly and least densely populated county, and has long been a frontier zone between England and Scotland.
It has a rich Brythonic-Celtic prehistory, a hugely significant Roman history, centred upon Hadrian's Wall and its attendant forts, more medieval castles than any other English county and, because of St Aidan and his Priory on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, many consider Northumberland as the cradle of England's Christianity.
Despite the considerable growth in tourism, due mainly to its scenic beauty and the abundant evidence of its historical significance, the county remains largely rural and unspoilt.
Sleeping & Eating
We are returning to Ednam House Hotel, on the banks of the River Tweed, in Kelso, a historic Borders market town, for the first three nights of the tour, and staying at Eshott Hall Hotel, a sister hotel to Ednam House, in Eshott, a hamlet north of Morpeth, for the second three nights of the tour.
We shall dine-in, at our respective hotels, on the first and third evening of our stays, and dine out twice, on the middle evenings of our three-night stays, once at Burts Hotel, in Melrose, another of the Borders historic market towns, and once at the Barrasford Arms, a village inn, en route to Eshott from our day out on Hadrian's Wall.
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4 – 10 July 2020 | 7 days
DAY 1 – SAT 4 JUL
Tim will collect you from the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Edinburgh Airport, from where we drive south, for our first garden visit, to Kailzie Gardens. Originally known as West Kelloch, its first recorded mention was in 1296 when William of Hop Kallow swore allegiance to Edward I and paid the then princely sum of 30 shillings to the King. Kailzie has passed through many families, to its present owner, Lady Buchan-Hepburn, who has developed Kailzie's garden.
After lunch, at Kailzie, we continue towards our destination, stopping to explore Abbotsford, Sir Walter Scott's home overlooking the Tweed outside Melrose. As Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire, Scott needed to spend part of the year in easy reach of the courtroom in Selkirk, so he divided his time between Edinburgh and his new home, which he named after the ford below the house, once used by the monks of Melrose Abbey.
It is not far to Kelso and Ednam House Hotel, our home for the next three nights, where we will arrive in good time to check-in, relax and enjoy drinks and dinner at the hotel.
Today's driving is about 70 miles/110 km
NB. We have chosen Hilton Hotel Edinburgh Airport as a departure point because of its proximity to the airport and because it affords customers, who are not staying at the hotel, a comfortable and secure environment in which to wait.
DAY 2 – SUN 5 JUL
After a slightly later start to the day, our first visit is to neighbouring Floors Castle, Scotland's largest inhabited castle and home of the Dukes of Roxburghe, for a guided tour of the castle, a wander through the formal Millennium Garden and lunch in the ever-wonderful 4-acre walled kitchen garden.
We stay on the banks of the Tweed for our next visit, to the gardens of Mertoun House, the family home of the Dukes of Sutherland, and one of the oldest Borders gardens, with a walled garden built in 1567, and it is this walled garden that is the jewel of Mertoun, which is probably the nearest to a full production Victorian or Edwardian garden still in existence in Scotland!
From Mertoun, we drive into Melrose, to explore Melrose Abbey. Founded by David I in 1136, it was Scotland's first Cistercian monastery, and one of several founded by David in the much-contested Borders, to show off both his piety and his power. The monks came from Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire, the Cistercians’ great northern missionary base, and monastic life continued here for the next 450 years. The last monk, John Watson, died around 1590.
Dinner is at Burts Hotel, a famous landmark in the market square at Melrose.
Today's driving is about 60 miles/100 km
DAY 3 – MON 6 JUL
The Borders is rightly famed for the creation of first-class fabrics, woollens and tweeds and we start our day in Selkirk at Lochcarron of Scotland, the largest remaining working textile mill in the heart of the Borders and the world’s leading manufacturer of tartan, for a tour of the mill and coffee in their visitor centre.
From Selkirk, we drive to nearby Carolside, for a private visit to one of the prettiest gardens we visit on any of our tours. Set in beautiful parkland, nestling in a bend of the River Leader, Carolside has been cultivated for over 200 years and is renowned for its soft and delicate herbaceous planting. Sweeping lawns lead to the oval walled garden, a shock of frantic delight, with blooms bursting everywhere, a collection of ancient roses and striking Delphiniums. Carolside is a garden apart, it is simply stunning. Kenneth Cox, in his book Scotland for Gardeners, rightly describes Carolside as "one of Scotland's finest private gardens".
From Carolside we visit Mellerstain, one of the great houses of Scotland and seat of the Earls of Haddington. The Robert Adams house sits in a 100-acres of mature parkland, with formal Italianate terraces and a wonderful kitchen garden, and breath taking views across the gardens to the lake and the Cheviot hills beyond.
We return to Ednam House for dinner.
Today's driving is about 60 miles/100 km
DAY 4 – TUE 7 JUL
Home to the Grey family since 1319, the gardens at Howick Hall are primarily the work of Charles, 5th Earl Grey and his wife Mabel, and later their daughter Lady Mary Howick between 1920 and 2001. They established and maintained an informal and natural style of gardening which continues today, and is particularly evident in the woodland walks and the wild bog garden. Howick Hall is also the spiritual home of Earl Grey tea, specially blended by a Chinese mandarin for Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834, and you may taste their blend of the tea in their tea room.
It is but a stone's throw to The Alnwick Garden, where we will spend the afternoon discovering the many delights of this modern garden, set amidst a much older walled garden. Space doesn't allow me to retell the full story of The Alnwick Garden here, but it is worth reading how, in less than twenty years, this wonderful, though derelict, 18th-century, walled kitchen garden has been transformed into the stunning garden you will see today.
It is not far to Eshott Hall Hotel, our home for the next three nights, where we will arrive in good time to check-in, relax and enjoy drinks and dinner at the hotel.
Today's driving is about 80 miles/130 km
DAY 5 – WED 8 JUL
We spend the day on and around Hadrian's Wall, the most visible and best-known land frontier of the Roman empire, and the most important and substantial of Roman remains in Britain.
Our morning is spent at Vindolanda, just to the south of Hadrian's Wall and, although pre-dating the Wall, Vindolanda became an important garrison and a Wall Fort in its own right. Indeed, Vindolanda was demolished and completely re-built no fewer than nine times, each time leaving a distinctive mark on the archaeology of the landscape. Vindolanda contains a modern, world-class museum, the highlight of which is the writing tablets, delicate, wafer thin slivers of wood covered in spidery ink writing. The tablets were found in the oxygen-free deposits on and around the floors of the deeply buried early wooden forts at Vindolanda and are the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain, and they are fascinating.
From Vindolanda, we drive to nearby Housesteads Roman Fort, on the Wall itself, from where you will get some impression of what life may have been like for the garrison of some 800 Roman soldiers, in this bleak, but beautiful landscape. We will take a picnic lunch with us, and take advantage of the spectacular landscape to find our picnic place, and dinner is at Barrasford Arms, in the village of Barrasford, en route home to Eshott Hall.
Today's driving is about 110 miles/180 km
DAY 6 – THU 9 JUL
Our day is occupied by three very different Northumberland gardens, starting at Belsay Hall, Castle & Gardens, with its ruined medieval castle, a relic of the Anglo-Scottish wars, and its Greek-revival mansion, inspired by a honeymoon trip to Athens and built with rock from Belsay's very own quarry, now the Quarry Garden, home to an array of exotic plants.
For lunch and the early afternoon, we visit Wallington, the much-loved home to generations of the unconventional Trevelyan family. Traditionally a Liberal family, Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan joined the Labour Party, an unusual move for a landed and titled member of the gentry. He served in the first two Labour administrations of Ramsay MacDonald, and gave Wallington to the National Trust. Today we visit the house, with all its treasures, and the wonderful gardens, including the East Wood with its hidden walled garden, nestled in the woods.
Although Belsay and Wallington will happily occupy much of the day, we still have time to visit Bide-a-Wee Cottage Gardens, Mark Robson's much-acclaimed plantsman's garden, richly planted, with a tranquil atmosphere, this former sandstone quarry contains some 4,000 plants, including a National Collection of centaurea.
We will return to Eshott Hall for drinks and an end-of-tour dinner.
Today's driving is about 60 miles/100 km
DAY 7 – FRI 10 JUL
We spend our final day on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, a unique place sitting off the Northumberland coast, and accessible only by a tidal causeway. Starting at Lindisfarne Castle, a magnificent 16th-century castle built to protect English ships from Scottish raiders, it was renovated by Edwin Lutyens, the Edwardian society 'Arts & Crafts' architect, for fellow socialite, Edward Hudson, the founder of Country Life magazine. Happily, Lutyens collaborated with his long-time partner and plantswoman, Gertrude Jekyll, who planted the enchanting walled garden.
There will be a little time to explore the town and grab a bit to eat, before re-grouping to visit Lindisfarne Priory, one of the most important places in Anglo-Saxon England. Its bishops had close links to the Northumbrian kings, who ruled from nearby Bamburgh Castle, and its monks had guardianship of the shrine of St Cuthbert, which brought great wealth to the monastery. The Lindisfarne Gospels, one of the most beautiful and intricate manuscripts ever produced, were made here in the early 8th century, and assimilate the spiritual and cultural influences of Ireland, Rome and the Germanic world of the Anglo-Saxons. Ransacked by marauding Viking raiders in the 8th century, it remains a place of pilgrimage today.
We plan to return to Edinburgh Airport by 16.00/4pm, in time for evening flights, but please tell us if you need to be at the airport significantly earlier than this, and we will happily arrange transport to the airport, from Lindisfarne, at your expense. If you are staying on, in Britain, and don't wish to return to Edinburgh, but would rather be dropped off elsewhere, then please let us know, so that we may assist you in getting to your next destination.
Today's driving is about 120 miles/190 km
We endeavour to be as faithful as possible to our published itineraries, but changes do occur occasionally, either necessarily or unavoidably.