CHAPTER TWELVE: The Scottish Borders
Day Twelve: Kath’s Cookies, Fleurs At Floors, Scotland’s Largest Inhabited Castle (But Not By Us), Great Scott, Guardian O’ The Scottish Borders, Burt’s, Farewell To Arms, The Agony Of De-Feet, In Search Of Mary Queen of Scots, A Locals Restaurant and Masking Issues
At breakfast, we received wonderful news. Kath was willing to share her recipe for those tasty shortbread cookies (Kath works at Budle Hall). We learned the “secret” ingredient is the ground rice, and Celia even brought out the box to show us. Unfortunately, other than the list of ingredients the recipe was lacking directions, so we (Tracy) will have to experiment a tad. (Maybe we’ll see it on MaiTai Tracy’s Kitchen sometime soon.)
We bade goodbye to camera-shy Ziggy, who gave us her usual “look” of endearment. In case you were wondering what type of dog Ziggy is, she is a lurcher which we learned is a cross-breed between a Greyhound and a herding dog. According to Ralph, Ziggy was quite the hunter in her youth. The sheep were nowhere to be found, and I didn’t have the heart to ask where they were. If you want to stay in this part of the world, I can’t think of a better setting than Budle Hall. Ralph and Celia (and Ziggy) really make your stay a special one.
In planning for this trip, there were plenty of spots I had marked on the itinerary. Unfortunately, before I left, I saw many of these places were either closed for renovations or events. Today was one of those days. The first disappointment would be Floors Castle, an 18th-century castle that is Scotland’s largest inhabited castle and home to the 10th Duke of Roxburghe. Today, however, it was closed for a private party of some sort. I guess our invitation was lost in the mail.
Instead of getting to see the interior of the castle, we were able to enjoy the gardens and parkland that surrounds Floor Castle. Before going into the gardens, I galloped over to see some four legged friends who seemed kind of lonely in the expansive fields.
But enough horsing around.
Inside The Walled Garden, we visited The Tapestry Garden.
Since Floors Castle hosts concerts, I figured the Tapestry Garden would make for a great Carole King venue. Speaking of concerts, Tracy learned there was to be a Michael Buble concert at the castle on July 4th and asked if we wanted to stay until then. The Tapestry Garden is relatively new (2016) and provides some contrast within The Walled Garden.
The garden pathways were lined with an array of colorful flowers including lupines, Scottish thistle and many others.
The head gardener lives in the house in the corner of The Walled Garden. Tracy asked whether she could move in. Turns out she can. The house, built in 1815, has been restored and can be rented out as a holiday house. Tracy said she’d see me next year if I wanted to visit.
The French-style Millennium Parterre was our next stop. It features the intertwining initials of the 10th Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe. Since I left my drone in the car, I got this photo off the website.
The ever-present rhododendrons of the United Kingdom were in full blooming glory in a glorious array of colors.
They were so big …
… it looks like I’m waving pompoms.
Pollinators were buzzing with excitement.
The gardens were interesting, but we were a little bummed about missing out on the castle.
We then meandered the Riverside Walk and Woodlands Walk to catch a glimpse of the front of the castle we couldn’t visit.
Yep, it’s large alright.
This lookout is where Sir Walter Scott would come to reflect.
It would later be named, not surprisingly, Scott’s View. There are commanding views of the River Tweed and Eildon Hills. This was an area that once even had volcanic activity.
Now it was time to find another famous Scot located a short drive away. Near Dryburgh Abbey, on a hill overlooking the River Tweed, we stopped to photograph the giant statue of Scotland’s hero and “Guardian O’ The Scottish Borders,” William Wallace.
The statue, erected in 1814, was the first of many statues honoring Wallace. The statue is 21 1/2 feet tall on top of a nearly ten-foot pedestal. It’s a short walk through a wooded area from the parking area.
We had wanted to visit either Dryburgh Abbey or Melrose Abbey, but they were both closed for renovation projects. When you can’t see an abbey, you know it’s time to eat. We drove into the town of Melrose and grabbed a late lunch at Burt’s Hotel.
I felt obligated to eat here because we were originally going to stay at Burt’s. However, after I calculated our next destination to be another 35 minutes away, we stayed nearer to it. Burt’s Hotel exuded charm, and our lunch was terrific from Tracy’s Mediterranean Greek Salad to Mary’s Carrot and Honey Soup to my Minute Steak Ciabatta with Dijon mustard, onion, mushroom and arugula special.
Since Burt’s was voted Scotland Dining Pub of the Year in 2021 in the Good Pub Guide, I decided a Guinness to toast that award was in order.
Our final destination of the day was a house that’s been here for more than 900 years. That makes Traquair House “Scotland’s Oldest Inhabited House.” Like this guy told me when we entered, “There’s no place like Gnome.”
Originally a hunting lodge, it lays claim to have been “visited by 27 Scottish Kings and Queens” and has been in the Stuart family since 1491. In fact, it was John Stuart, the 4th Laird of Traquair, who became the Captain of the Queen’s bodyguard to Mary Queen of Scots and hosted the Queen when she visited Traquair with her husband and infant son James (later James VI of Scotland and James I of England) in 1566. Although it was a rather unpleasant visit for Mary (the Queen, not our traveling companion), some of the artifacts from her stay are still here.
We learned from the docent that the Bear Gates at the main entrance to the grounds have been closed since 1745 because the 5th Earl of Traquair vowed never to open them until the throne of Scotland was reclaimed by a Stuart king. According to Atlas Obscura, “the last direct male descendent of the Stuart Kings died in 1807,” so those gates will be closed forever. I couldn’t bear to go back, so we got this from the Traquair House website.
It was here where my right arm was hurting mightily, and glancing down at my right ankle, it was so swollen it looked like a bowling ball (I would show you a photo, but some of you might be eating.). I only made it part way through the house before I had to sit down and put my feet up, but fortunately Tracy captured everything, including another Martha Stewart-like collection.
In the foyer there is a plaque bearing the Royal Arms of Scotland, and underneath that is a copy of the 1587 warrant to execute Mary Queen of Scots signed by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.
The Higher Drawing Room is the largest room in the main house, and it contains a rare 1651 Harpsichord made in the Netherlands.
A narrow spiral stairway leads to the King’s Room. The stairs were purposely designed that way so nobody could climb the stairs with their swords drawn. The King’s Room is where Mary and her husband stayed. You can see the future King James’ crib.
Since Queen Mary suspected she might be pregnant, one evening at dinner, she said she did not want to go hunting the next day. Her husband made a snide remark, and Stuart chastised him and admonished him to treat his wife with more respect. The bed she slept in can also be seen in this room.
Also on display are one of her shoes, a white satin bag along with a rosary and crucifix belonging to her.
The Library was created between 1700 and 1740 and has a collection of about 3,000 books.
Mary went in search of the “Secret Staircase” that provided escape by priests and political refugees in the 1600s during the Jacobite risings.
After dinner, while the gentlemen stayed in the dining room, the ladies made their way to the Lower Drawing Room.
The Dining Room is in the more modern wing of the house (circa late 1600s).
The white marble altar is from Italy.
There are also carved oak panels on the wall chronicling scenes from Christ’s life.
Our resident Catholic Mary must have prayed for good weather while in the chapel because the rain stopped, and it was sunny as we headed for Cupid’s Garden. Tracy loves her bee pictures.
We also ran into a couple of goats on our walk. I kid you not.
Then we made a visit to the Old Walled Garden, which is mainly a grassy area dotted with apple trees.
Cows were grazing nearby.
I also stopped in the brewery that has been on the premises for centuries. I’m sure it had a cure for what ales you, but we moved on.
It was a short drive to our B&B on this evening, Caddon View in Innerleithen, a lodging with eight bedrooms. The house has been here since 1865. It’s a cute building that has its own cafe.
My peppercorn steak was as tough as Mary Queen of Scots’ shoe that we had seen at Traquair House, while Tracy’s butternut squash green curry could have used some spice. My veggies and fries were very good, though.
When we entered the restaurant, the front bar and restaurant spot was very quiet. Kim hadn’t put his mask on when we departed, but when we hit the bar it was wall-to-wall people. When we got out, Kim said, “I guess I should have worn my mask.”
It was still light on a gorgeous night as we walked back to Caddon View. We didn’t see much darkness during our entire three weeks in England and Scotland as sunset wasn’t until close to 10 p.m.
Tomorrow, we’d head toward Edinburgh, but not before we made a stop at a 15th century chapel we didn’t quite get to see on our first visit to Scotland in 2017. Just like Monty Python, we would go in search of the Holy Grail.
After a couple of quick castle stops, we made it to Edinburgh. We eventually made our way to the Royal Mile and St. Giles Cathedral, and checked out the exterior of the castle, which was already having temporary stands erected for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August. We’d also have a spectacular dinner at a restaurant recommended by many on the travel board I frequent.
Next: CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Mai Tai Tom and The Holy Grail (and Edinburgh)
Day Thirteen: Where’s Tom Hanks?, Four Weddings And A Funeral, No Photos (Almost), What Goes Down Must Come Up, Queen Mary Slept Here, Perfect Location, Direction-Impaired Males, Brewhemia, A Royal Walk, “55 Highland Cows” and Angels With Bagpipes