I often think the Borders are overlooked when tourists come to Scotland. The region offers so many beautiful views and interesting sights but all of that is pushed to one side when everyone wants to see Edinburgh and Glasgow and then storm up the A82 to Loch Ness. And while I am in no way innocent of storming myself (more posts on that to follow!), it was lovely to take the road less travelled for a change.
That’s not to say this region gets no visitors whatsoever! The Scottish Borders are understandably overrun with historic locations where the English and Scottish fought in centuries gone by. If you’re into history, it’s paradise and every village has a story to tell.
Melrose is a charming little town – so charming, in fact, my maternal grandparents honeymooned there – but its main attraction has always been its abbey.
Its ruined abbey.
Once a successful Cistercian monastery, it suffered heavily during the Reformation. This was a hugely transformative period for Scotland as the country shifted from Catholic to Presbyterian Christianity. As the country extricated itself from the concept of grandeur and treasures to become close to god, many impressive places of worship were damaged.
Historic Scotland has done a great job of preserving what remains of it though! Despite missing most of its walls and ceilings, the abbey still has many carved decorative details, including saints, dragons, gargoyles and plants. A bunch of historic figures are also buried on the grounds and a lead container believed to hold the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce was found in 1921 below the Chapter House site.
Mainly, it makes for a really fun place to photograph.
And for those brave enough, you can climb the old spiral staircase to the top of the ruins and look out over what remains of the roof (and if I learnt anything from studying abroad, I am brave enough for heights!)
At the top there was a great view of the countryside and the atmospheric weather. By the time I got to Scott’s View – the beloved location of Victorian writer Sir Walter Scott – towards the end of the day, the clouds had upgraded to dramatic and ominous. It’s always much appreciated when forces conspire for a photo opportunity!