After Jedburgh, we moved on to the town of Kelso, which also contains a fantastic ruined Abbey…
Status: Scottish Borders, Town, Scotland
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Kelso Abbey, St Andrew’s Church, Town Hall, North Parish Church, Floors Castle, River Tweed, Smailholm Tower etc
Our first stop was the beautiful Kelso Abbey. Founded in the 12th century, it was attacked in the 14th century by the English, and again in the 16th century, this time by King Henry VIII who ordered the attack along with ones on Jedburgh, Melrose and Dryburgh abbeys.
The Abbey is completely open to the public, and the ruins are quite extensive. A lot of history occurred around the Abbey, including the death of Scottish King James II (1430 – 1460) in 1460, when a cannon he was attempting to fire backfired and killed him. This happened during a (ultimately successful) campaign to capture the nearby Roxburgh Castle that was still held by the English. His successor, James III (1451 – 1488) had his coronation in the Abbey.
The Scottish Borders were a key stronghold hundreds of years ago against the English, and one of the first areas occupied going North from England, with lots of Abbey’s and Castle’s in the immediate area.
I mentioned Roxburgh Castle earlier, the ruins of which now stand in the grounds of Floors Castle, pictured above. It was built in the 1720’s, as home to the 1st Duke of Roxburghe. It’s more of a stately home than a Castle, and in the 19th centuries turrets and battlements were added to the structure, making it look as grand as it does today.
The river Tweed snakes its way around the front of the building, and then around Kelso itself. To get the best view of the Castle we left the town and went round to look back over the river.
After getting some photographs of the Castle, we went back into the town itself to do some more exploring. The bridge pictured is an old stone bridge carrying the A66 into Kelso. The spire visible behind it is part of St Andrew’s Church, from 1869.
In the centre of the town, we passed the Town Hall in the main square, built in 1816, although it was remodelled in the early 1900’s to give it more of it’s current appearance. The square itself is very pleasant, and covered in cobble stones, so we stopped for a wander round as we passed through.
I like the small clock tower on top of the Town Hall, it’s a nice little feature, and the original clock is from 1841, with it’s housing redeveloped in 1906.
After going past the entrance to the Floors Castle grounds, which leads round to the main Castle, we went down to the riverside, and had a wander. We got a great view of the main church in the town, North Parish Church. The Church dates back to 1866, and overall it stands 180 feet when taking the spire into account, which is a fantastic height. The whole town feels really old, and is very unspoilt, the beautiful stone buildings showing off the architecture of the time and giving it a historic feel.
This is the rived Tweed running around the town, through lush countryside. It cuts through the entire Scottish Borders area, and ultimately runs through to the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland, England, where it flows out to sea.
Only five miles away from Kelso, we found this ornate looking tower in the middle of the countryside. It is called Smailholm tower, sat on a bed of rock overlooking the surrounding valleys.
The 16th century tower was built by the Pringle Family, and the tower was designed as a peel tower, to repel English invaders. The 1540’s saw many attacks on the tower by the English who ransacked the tower, but the next attack in 1640 was beaten down and the tower remained strong.
The Scotts of Harden were the next owners of the tower in the 18th century, but after they moved out it decayed, and the final owner of the property, the Earl of Ellesmere, sold it to the state, who opened it as a museum in the late 20th century. It was closed when we visited, and appeared to be guarded by a set of vicious cows (one ran at me!) but they aren’t there all the time and in high season it would have been a joy to look around, so we will go back sometime to see what it’s like.
From here we moved on through St Boswells, to Melrose…