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To Selkirk in the Scottish Borders

Home -> Europe -> Scotland -> Travelogue Scotland -> 14 & 15 September 2019

Saturday 14 September, to Selkirk in the Scottish Borders

We leave Beauly today but we take it easy because we don't have to drive that far. To be honest, we always plan our next destination from here so to be able to have a nice breakfast and drink coffee with our friends. Next year we hope to see them again and in the meantime we will keep in touch via e-mail.
It is dry when we drive away but soon it starts to rain and for the first time this holiday we have several hours of rain in a row. Until now it has been mostly dry. We are going to Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, the southeastern council area of Scotland. Because of the rain we don't stop anywhere for a photo, and it will only get dry after Edinburgh. For the last part of the route, Teije has of course already searched some roads that we have never been to before so he can mark them on the map.
Newly developed neighborhood at GorebridgeAt Gorebridge, 20 kilometers south of Edinburgh, we take the first single track road. It winds up to the back of a hill from where we have an overview of a new residential area. We had already noticed last week that there are many new housing developments under construction. Nothing wrong with that, but they do not always fit in well with the typical Scottish character of the small villages and towns. A bit unimaginative and so different from the historic Scotland we know. We have also seen once a new neighborhood with castle-like houses, which were typically Scottish and matched much better with the original village.
Gatelodge at Heriot, Scottish Borders Gate lodge at TraquirWe may have too romantic ideas about Scottish houses, but the old-fashioned gatelodges and houses with tower-like structures in them are much nicer. But we also understand that there is a need for more homes that cannot be too expensive. The older houses are of course much less well insulated and often have smaller windows, but they are so much nicer than the modern architecture that is now being introduced in the small Scottish villages. Although, there are also Scottish castles that we find hideous. In Greece, traditional / historic villages often have the rule that any new construction must be built in the same style as the rest of the village. They should do it here too!
After Fallahill we take the B709 to Yarrow and we soon arrive in a valley that is typical of the Scottish Borders. The Scottish Borders is one of the 32 council areas in Scotland. We would call it a province. The western part in particular is mountainous but much less rugged than in the western Highlands. Lovely slopes and glens (valleys) shape the landscape and the often the light vegetation shows all kinds of shades of green, especially when the sun is shining. It is difficult to capture this landscape on photographs, at least for us as amateur photographers, but fortunately we have recorded the trip also with the dashcam (the video link will follow once we have finished it).
Our cottage in Selkirk Garden at our cottage in SelkirkVia Yarrow we arrive at our new house Kilmuir in Selkirk around 6 o'clock in the center of the Scottish Borders. The friendly owner is waiting for us and shows us around the large and luxuriously furnished house. Really everything is there, a lot more than we need and there are even fresh food items such as eggs and milk. So tomorrow morning we can prepare our usual Scottish breakfast again.
Around the house are a few seats and nice pieces of garden where we can sit outside. The house costs € 475 for a week, not too expensive for Scotland and well worth the price.

Sunday 15 September 2019, Selkirk and Kelso

Nice house in Selkirk The Five Turrets in SelkirkAfter breakfast we first walk into Selkirk, we are quite close to the center. And immediately we are surrounded by all those typical Scottish buildings that we like so much: built with coarse natural stones and of course turrets that give the houses a fairytale look. Many of these houses were built in the so-called Scottish Baronial style that came up in the 16th and 17th centuries and was mainly used for castles. In the 19th century there was a revival of the style and then also used for ordinary houses throughout the British Empire. People sometimes call it the Scottish form of Gothic revival.
The Scottish courthouse in Selkirk The center of SelkirkSelkirk is one of the oldest 'Royal burghs', meaning that the king gave certain rights and guarantees to the city in a document. In the Middle Ages, that was equivalent to granting city rights. The earliest traces of habitation in the Borders have also been found near Selkirk.
The sky is a lot gloomier than yesterday afternoon and the buildings such as the Scottish Court then have a somewhat grim character. In the past, the sheriff used to live there, who was both a civil and a criminal judge. The famous writer Sir Walter Scott has been the sheriff's substitute in Selkirk for more than 30 years.
Selkirk grew rich because of the wool industry in the Middle Ages although there is not much left of it now, except that tartans are still being made, the checkered wool as is used in kilts. Because of the proximity of England, there was regular fighting in the area and residents took part in battles such as the Battle of Flodden in 1513, the largest battle between the Scottish and English army in the centuries-long struggle. In memory of this fight (only 1 man out of 80 from Selkirk survived Flodden) and the many raids that the Scots carried out on horseback in English territory, a horse ride is still held every year, the Common Riding, often combined with all kinds of other festivities. The Common Riding is celebrated in several places in the Scottish Borders and in Selkirk always on the 2nd Friday after the 1st Monday in June. We have no idea why that is not a fixed date, there is probably a special reason for it.
Monument for D-Day, SelkirkApparently soldiers from Selkirk and the surrounding area also participated in the invasion on the Normandy coast during the 2nd World War (D-Day), as can be seen from the war monument and the decorations, but we could not find any further information about it. Scots have always been fearful fighters, even the bagpipe was being used as a weapon to intimidate the enemy. In the 1st World War more than half a million Scots took part in the war of which more than a quarter perished (and almost 3% of the Scottish population). Probably they were not bad soldiers, but rushed fanatically into the lines of fire, which would suit the classical image of ferocious Scottish warriors.
Mungo Park monument in Selkirk Mungo Park monument in SelkirkThere is also an African-like monument in the center of the city. It has a base with African engravings and statues on every corner and on top is Mungo Park (1771 - 1806), an explorer and doctor born near Selkirk. For the African Society he made 2 extensive expeditions to complete the course of the Niger river. He wrote a book about his first trip in 1799, and drowned during his second trip after trying to escape with his thinned group from an attack by the local population - from the original group of 39 Europeans and an unknown number of slaves no one survived.
It is primarily an interesting monument because it is so un-Scottish with the African images.
In the former court house (Sir Walter Scott's Courtroom) on the central square is now a museum dedicated to his life but also to that of Mungo Park and the shepherd-poet James Hogg who lived in the nearby Ettrick valley. Down a side street is the Halliwell's House Museum in an unusual 18th-century building that is part of the oldest remaining row of residences in Selkirk, and tells the story of the city and its long history, including relations with William Wallace and the Battle of Flodden. This small museum has no entrance fee.
A windowshop in SelkirkIn the shop windows of the stores we see a lot of knitwear. The owner of our apartment told us that every year around the Walk Festival (which has just ended) various knitting clubs do their best to knit as many creations as possible that can be seen in the streets but also in shops. A friend of mine likes to knit, so now and then I take a picture of original creations such as this very small donkey here.
After this walk through Selkirk we walk back to our house and get into the car.
Castle Floors near KelsoOn the way to Kelso, east of Selkirk, we see a mega-sized castle from afar. It is the 18th-century Floors castle that is more of a manor house with dozens of rooms. The Duke of Roxburghe and the Innes-Ker family live here, but parts of the castle can also be visited and you can take long walks through the gardens. We settle for viewing the outside of the castle, we have seen much nicer ones.
Bar in Kelso Market square with the town hall of KelsoWe park the car near the abbey and walk to the central square. Kelso was founded in the 12th century after the founding of the abbey, which is the most famous tourist attraction nowadays. The old town was completely rebuilt in the 18th and 19th centuries and many buildings can still be seen from that time. The market square of Kelso is Scotland's largest and paved with cobblestones. Kelso was an important marketplace in the past and the street names still indicate that, 2 streets that run parallel to the market are called Woodmarket and Horsemarket.
Cemetery behind the Kelso Abbey The Kelso AbbeyOn our way to the remains of the abbey, we pass through a park that is also a cemetery and extends to within the walls of the abbey. Like many cemeteries in Scotland, the stones are standing higgledy-piggledy. There is not much left of the abbey but a ruin. Construction started in 1128 and it became the largest abbey of the Borders. Because the building was almost symmetrical with 2 towers and 4 transversal ships, it was unique in Scotland. But due to the nearby location of England, it was regularly plundered and destroyed before being rebuilt again.
War memorial next to the Kelso abbeyMany abbeys in the area met the same fate and the reason that most are now ruins is due to the arrival of the Reformation in 1560, after which Catholic monuments were no longer rebuilt. The abbey in Kelso was just before that, in 1545, thoroughly destroyed and only in the 18th century a part of it was converted into a parish church. Only a part of the western tower and two cross ships can still be seen. Next to the abbey is a war memorial like every Scottish city has, but this one is located in a park full of colorful flowers.
One of the many border crossings with Scotland Union Bridge, a border crossing between Scotland and EnglandWhen we leave Kelso, we drive to the border roads to England, just over it and then quickly return to Scotland where we are usually welcomed by signs. But with a single transition there is no sign and there is even a border where we cannot continue by car. Here lies the Union Bridge over the Tweed river, the course of which determines the boundary in this area. When the bridge was built in 1820, it was the largest iron suspension bridge in the world with a length of 137 meters. Before the bridge was opened, people first had to travel 18 kilometers to the north or 32 to the south in order to cross the Tweed.
A pheasant flees for the carAlong the roads we see dozens of pheasants rushing back and forth across the road like stupid as soon as they hear the car. It is often a comical sight as they run in front of the car and don't think about going to the right or left. But as soon as we get out to take a photo, most of them quickly hide into the undergrowth. They have to be careful because soon, on October 1, the hunting season for seasons will start that will last until February 1. According to the League Against Cruel Sports, up to 100,000 pheasants could be shot per day.
Entrance to an estate at Ladykirk Gate and gate lodge at Stichhill in the BordersOn the Scottish side of the Tweed are vast estates in the north and occasionally we pass a gate with a gate lodge. For centuries these lands were a buffer against the English and there were regular looting parties from both sides in each other's area. At the end of the afternoon we have seen most border crossings and the sun is setting fast. Driving back to Selkirk it is blinding us most of the time so we have to drive carefully. Along the way we see a few interesting things that we will be looking at in the coming days.
We will edit a video of the dashcam images later for a brief overview of the day.


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