Fast-flowing water, ancient stones

River Tweed frothing over rocks

Fast flowing water in the River Tweed near Melrose

Winter is reluctant to relax its grip and whilst, in higher parts of the Borders such as where we stay, daffodils struggle to grow and shiver at the thought of blooming, a short drive away spring is already into its swing.

Daffodils and the Chain Bridge, Melrose

Daffodils blooming on the banks of the Tweed with the Chain Bridge spanning the river in the background

The hills of the Scottish Borders roll up from its great rivers, undulating between salmon fishing and hill farming. The river Tweed is famed for its salmon fishing and anglers pay mind-numbing amounts to cast into its waters.

Choose which way you want to go.

Which way? You have a choice.

One of the towns by its banks is Melrose, a short drive from us, and a place we often go to walk by the riverside.

Melrose main street

The main street in Melrose in the Scottish Borders. Beautiful situation, good shops, great atmosphere.

Melrose abbey, one of the four great ruined Cistercian abbeys of the Borders, the others being Kelso, Jedburgh and Dryburgh, was founded in 1136 at the request of King David I of Scotland. Its architecture is said to be amongst the best late 14th-century church architecture in the British Isles.

The Eildon Hills and Melrose Abbey

Melrose Abbey snuggles between the Eildon Hills and the River Tweed.

The Cistercians were working monks and they implemented new farming techniques and introduced sheep. At its height in the 14th century, the monks of Melrose owned 15,000 sheep, one of the biggest flocks in Britain, and they marketed Melrose wool throughout the great trading ports of northern Europe.

Melrose Abbey, one of the four Cistercian abbeys in the Scottish Bordersur Ci

Melrose Abbey, founded over eight hundred years ago and still drawing the crowds.

Wool continued to be a major player in the Borders economy until recently, and over the years I’ve bought much wonderful knitwear from local outlets. My father was a textile buyer and I was brought up with stories of the famous mills, making tweeds and knitwear, that lined its rivers and lades. In recent years competition from places like China has decimated the industry. Most of the mills and their waterwheels have gone, though a few have been preserved, memorials to a once great textile industry.

The great window at Melrose Abbey

Beautiful window still standing after more than eight hundred years.

Its tranquil setting at the foot of the Eildon hills belies Melrose Abbey’s turbulent history. Because of its proximity to the border, the abbey frequently suffered at the hands of invading English armies, being damaged then restored. Twenty years before the Reformation in 1560 there were 130 monks at Melrose, but after Henry VIII had the abbey torched and destroyed once again in 1544 the abbey never recovered. By the Reformation in 1560 only a handful of monks remained.

Melrose Abbey, tower finial

Melrose Abbey tower finial. Is it a crown?

Within its precincts Alexander 11 of Scotland and numerous nobles are buried and the abbey is also the resting place of King Robert the Bruce’s embalmed heart.

Melrose Abbey in the winter

Melrose Abbey in a view that might have appealed to the great Watercolour painter Turner who actually painted the abbey whilst visiting Sir Walter Scott at nearby Abbotsford.

Today the abbey is a tourist attraction, a favourite place for weddings, but if you visit when it’s quiet you might hear chants in the swirling winds, glimpse swords glint through tree branches, feel human history seep from the red sandstone walls.

Melrose Abbey and the Eildon Hills

The abbey situated at the foot of the Eildon Hills.


About jingsandthings

I am me. What do I like? Colour Shapes Textures Paintings, photographs, sculptures, woven tapestries, wonderful materials. The love of materials probably comes from my father who was a textile buyer, and I grew up hearing the names of mills and manufacturers which sounded magical and enticing. Glass in all its soft and vibrant colours and flowing shapes, even sixties glass which makes its own proud statement. A book I can immerse myself in. Meals with family or friends with lots of chat and laughter (and probably a bottle or two of wine). The occasional trip abroad to experience the sights, sounds, food, conversation, quality of light and warmth of other countries. To revel in differences and be amazed by similarities. I like to create and to experience, to try and to achieve. And then there are words – read, heard, written at my keyboard, or scrawled on sticky notes, or along the edges of dog-eared supermarket receipts excavated from the unexplored nooks of my handbag. What do I dislike? Cold Snow Bad design Fast food Condescension
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12 Responses to Fast-flowing water, ancient stones

  1. mamacormier says:

    Dorothy, what a wonderful post. I loved reading about the history of the Abbey and seeing those wonderful photographs of this ancient site. Canada is such a young country in comparison and we don’t have the same history. We take children to Pioneer Village to see how the first Canadians lived 200 years ago and those lucky enough to travel to Quebec City can see some architecture from the 1600s when Canada was first being explored and inhabited.

    • Thank you, Carol. The Borders is full of ruined abbeys and ruined tower houses, because of all the cross-border fighting. It has an abundance of stately homes too (must do a post on some of these). But it’s the towns I like. Not all that far apart yet each has its own character, even the language spoken can differ dramatically, and the people are fiercely proud of being brought up in Selkirk, or Galashiels. You have wide open spaces, and great mountain ranges. Scotland is a much more compact country.

  2. mybrightlife says:

    Hope to visit the Abbey in person someday, meanwhile your lovely pics and background have given me a great taster! Thanks.

  3. Beautiful! I love the idea of a small town feel. However, I have no idea if I would make the cut as I’ve been surrounded by millions of people my whole life.

    • Can understand that. I was born in a city but now live in a very small village but within easy travelling distance of towns and Edinburgh. Guess it comes down to what you are used to. But that is one of the reasons why I like your posts so much, they show me a glimpse of city life, here and in other countries so I feel I’m still in touch.

  4. carolee1945 says:

    I love exploring the ancient abbeys after all the tourists have gone. If you go at an odd hour, you can manage it.

    • That’s the best time to explore, when It’s quiet. Melrose Abbey belongs to Historic Scotland, the national body that looks after old buildings, so you have to visit during opening times. But it’s still possible to find quiet if you visit outwith the main visitor season and times. And as the abbey is a stonesthrow from the centre of Melrose, it’s always there, in sight.

  5. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful place and lovely pictures. So far from it but I am glad to have got a glimpse of such beauty and history.

  6. bebs1 says:

    What a beautiful blog! I love reading your story and the history.

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