In an area with more than 1,500 miles of walking routes to choose from, the Scottish Borders is an absolute paradise for walkers. You can discover landscapes that have inspired literary masterpieces or choose between more challenging long distance routes and short country rambles in one of Europe‘s most beautiful, unspoilt regions.
Our hometown of Melrose is a wonderful base for exploring the Borders on foot and we are lucky enough to have some of the finest walks and scenery in the region literally right here on our doorstep. With the iconic triple peaks of the Eildon Hills and the famous River Tweed providing a glorious backdrop, Melrose is really fortunate to have several long distance walking routes that either pass through or start or end in the town including St Cuthberts Way, Border Abbeys Way, Southern Upland Way, Sir Walter Scott Way and Roman Heritage Way.
But in this article we thought it would be good to focus on some of our favourite circular walks which both start and end in the town centre. These walks vary from easy strolls to lovely local villages such as Darnick, Gattonside and Newstead to more strenuous hikes into the nearby hills, but what’s great about them all is that you can arrive at Burts and Townhouse, park the car (or if you arrive on the new Borders Railway we can arrange to pick you up) and use Melrose as a fabulous base for your walking break.
You can enjoy the scenery of the Eildon Hills and the River Tweed, be fascinated by the Roman occupation at Trimontium, view Melrose Abbey from surrounding countryside and visit the home of Sir Walter Scott of Abbotsford. With rolling hills, mature forests, lovely river valleys and interesting towns and villages you can choose to walk for an hour or a day, all at your own pace.
Here are 7 magnificent circular walks around Melrose.
1. NEWSTEAD CIRCULAR
Distance: 3 miles
Allow: 1½ hours
Newstead, according to local tradition, is the oldest inhabited village in Scotland. However, the name suggests that it was a “new stead” or farm dating the early mediaeval period. The Romans occupied nearby Trimontium intermittently from the 1st to 3rd centuries AD. The village was the home of the masons who built Melrose Abbey in the early 12th century and Priorswalk was their route between Newstead and the Abbey.
2. DARNICK AND GATTONSIDE
Distance: 4½ miles
Allow: 2 to 2½ hours
Featuring: The area known as Skirmish Field was the site in 1526, of a battle between King James V’s supporters and many of the renowned Border families. Gattonside was given to the Abbey by King David I in 1143. Place names such as Friar’s Close, Abbot’s Meadow and the Vineyard still remain around the village today.
3. GATTONSIDE CIRCULAR
Distance: 3½ miles
Allow: 1 to 1½ hours
Featuring: Follow the path down towards the River Tweed to meet the Southern Upland Way at the cauld. The cauld was built to divert the water from the river to the Abbey Mill. Cross the Chain Bridge, then immediately left along a path on the riverbank. The suspension bridge was built in 1826 to avoid having to ford the river. Tolls were payable and the Toll House still stands at the southern end.
Distance: 8 miles
Allow: 4 hours
Featuring: Continue south down the Southern Upland Way with excellent views of the River Tweed and the Eildon Hills. On a clear day, the hills of Ettrick Forest can be seen in the distance to the south-west, and these hills are crossed by the SUW.
Distance: 6 miles
Allow: 3 hours
Featuring: Abbotsford House (originally a farm named Cartleyhole) was built and lived in by Sir Walter Scott between 1812-1832. Follow the Borders Abbeys Way along the river, under the Redbridge viaduct and past Lowood House to finally reach the road at the Lowood Bridge.
6. THE EILDON HILLS PATH
Distance: 4 miles
Allow: 2 to 2 ½ hours
Featuring: At the summit of North Hill enjoy the views. Around the summit area you may be able to see small flattened areas where there were the sites of circular huts during the Iron Age period some 2000 years ago.
7. RHYMER’S ROUTE
Distance: 9 miles
Allow: 4 to 5 hours
Featuring: Scott bought the land here in 1817 as part of his Abbotsford estate (although no longer part of Abbotsford Estate). He turned this wild and picturesque ravine into ‘Rhymer’s Glen’, named after Thomas the Rhymer,with trees and wooden bridges to cross from one side of the burn to another.
Photograph: Eildon Hills Panorama © Craig Paterson