Stately homes in the Scottish Borders
As life settled down over the centuries, fortresses were remodelled into grand homes, and great estates were formed as shows of wealth by noble Borders families - dukes and earls among them. Today many of these estates are visitor attractions as well as family homes, with great days out for all the family close to your holiday cottage at Burnbrae.
Just a few minutes' drive towards Kelso from Burnbrae you will see the imposing grey stone walls of the Duke of Roxburgh's family home, Floors Castle, or the 'Duke's dykes' as they are known locally, dyke being a Scots word for stone wall. The castle is reputed to have 365 windows - one to clean every day of the year! The gardens at Floors Castle are being re designed during 2016 including closing of the famous garden center. There is now a charge to visit any part of the gardens.
Another beautiful house just a few minutes' drive from your cottage is the lovely Georgian stately home of Mellerstain House and Gardens , unusual in that it was begun by the architect William Adam, and finished over 45 years later by his more famous son, Robert. Set in idyllic parkland with terraced formal gardens and a lake, Mellerstain' glorious Adam interior is halied as one of the best in Scotland, with classical scenes hardly touched since the 1700s, adorning the ceilings, walls and fireplaces. There is also a cafe and a children's playground.
A little further, around half an hour's drive away just outside the former county town of Duns is glorious Edwardian Manderston, where no expense was spared, especially on items such as the silver staircase and the marble-clad dairy. The gold thread in the curtains glitters as if it were woven in there yesterday. Beautiful terraced gardens step down from the rear of the house. The owners are descendents of the founders of the Huntly & Palmer biscuit company, and the house has a dedicated biscuit tin museum. Look out for letter on display from game show host Chris Tarrant, a keen Tweed fisherman, thanking 'Lord Biscuit' for his hospitality.
About 40 minutes away near Selkirk is Bowhill House and Estate, one of the homes of the Duke of Buccleuch, who once owned so many acres it was said you could walk from Scotland down to London and not step off Buccleuch land. The Duke still has the largest collection of portrait miniatures, after Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The estate has a network of walks and bike-friendly trails, with a riding stables and huge adventure playground, as well as a cafe.
Over towards Galashiels and Melrose is Abbotsford, built by Sir Walter Scott with the proceeds from his famous novels. As his popularity and auccess grew, so did his house on the banks of the Tweed. Abbotsford boasts a state-of- the-art visitor centre with cafe and adventure playground in the adjoining woodland. Take a stroll from the formal gardens down to the River Tweed for fine views up towrads the house. Inside, Sir Walter's penchant for collecting Scottish relics sees a vast array of memorabilia on display, including Rob Roy's sword and newspaper clippings about the trial of the notorious grave-robbers, Burke and Hare.
At Paxton House near Berwick-on-Tweed, you can see some fabulous Chippendale furniture, made especially for the house, and admire the works of art on loan from the National Gallerestaurant.Scotland which are on display in the magnificent portrait gallery. Children will enjoy the teddy bear trail, as the seek out the teddies hidden in many of the rooms as they tour around. They can even dress up in Regency and Georgian costume to take their tour. There is a cafe in the former stables, and an adventure playground. Salmon are still netted by hand on the Tweed here, and you can visit the boathouse and take a trip on the river by small boat.
Up near Peebles, Traquair House is the oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland, with links to the '45 - the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 - and the ill-fated Bonnie Prince Charlie. Look out for the Bear Gates, which were closed after the prince's visit in 1745, and which the family said would not be opened again until there is a Stuart king on the throne. They remain closed to this day. There is a chapel, a brewery making Bear Ale and Jacobite Ale among others, a maze, a playground and the aptly-named 1745 Cottage restaurant.
Just outside Lauder is Thirlestane Castle, ancient home to the earls and (one and only) duke of Lauderdale, which has grown and changed from a fort in the 1300s to the grand house it is today with fabulously ornate plaster ceilings which look like delicate icing sugar. Don't forget to look up as you wander around. Don't miss visiting the room Bonnie Prince Charlie used when he stayed here in 1745 after the battle of Prestonpans. Children will love the collection of historic toys in the old family nurseries.
Monteviot House near Ancrum is home to Lord Lothian - better known as the politician Michael Ancram - and boasts an idyllic setting with a series of gardens spilling down to the banks of the River Teviot. During July the house is also open, and by the owner's admission has a 'somewhat eccentric and tangled mixture of architecture'. A helpful map guides visitors round and if you're lucky you might come across the enthusiasts here, including head gardener, who is happy to answer questions.