There’s so many awesome road trips in Scotland, that even a route in and out is one! The Borders Historic route running from the English border to the capital of Scotland is simply a must for anyone interested in learning more about the history of this beautiful country.
Borders Historic Route
Running right along the A7 from Scots Dyke on the border in a linear route through to Edinburgh, this Scotland road trip is 90 miles long. Starting off in Dumfries and Galloway, you’ll drive right through the Scottish Borders and on into the City of Edinburgh.
Being one of Scotland’s lesser known tourist routes doesn’t make it any less impressive. There’s miles of undulating countryside coupled with picturesque towns steeped in history and tradition. And loads of museums balanced with some stunning walks to get stuck into.
In this blog post we’re going to be covering how to plan an epic Borders Historic itinerary. Plus a few detours and lesser known places we highly recommend adding in if you have the time.
And whether you’re travelling by car and staying in hotels or by campervan and looking for wild camping spots, we’ve got you covered with lots of great recommendations on where to stay too.
Scottish Borders Map
Total driving time is around 2 hours so it’s a relatively short route. It’s one of the best routes to Edinburgh. Or ideal for tagging onto one of the more northern Scotland road trips if you are travelling in from England anyway.
How many days you take to drive the Borders Historic route is of course up to you. But this comprehensive guide will help you make the most of your trip through this part of Scotland.
Scottish Borders Where To Stay
We’ll be covering Scottish Borders accommodation options that include hotels, B&B’s, campsites and wild park ups. So whatever your style of travel is, we’ve already done the research up front for you.
If visiting during summer or bank holidays, booking in advance is best. Because whilst the Scottish Borders is one of the lesser visited parts of Scotland, it also means there are less options available in some parts over busy periods.
Top 5 Borders Historic Highlights
- Edinburgh Castle
- Dalkeith Country Park
- Melrose Abbey
- Gilnockie Tower
- Borders Distillery
Borders Tourist Route To Edinburgh
For the purposes of this Borders Historic itinerary, we’re going to be running through places along the A7 from south to north. Simply because that’s the direction we drove it in, but you can join the road at any place you like.
Okay, before you even get started on the Borders Historic route proper, you may want to take a quick detour to Gretna Green if you’ve never been there before. Because whilst there’s not loads to do there it has a pretty cool story.
Situated right on the Scottish border this village has a long history of couples rocking up there to elope and there’s a very simple reason for it. The 1754 Marriage Act introduced in England and Wales meant that you couldn’t without your parents consent if you were under 21.
Whilst this has since been lowered to 18, there still remains a disparity in the law between these two neighbouring countries as you can legally get married at 16 in Scotland. And so being the first village over the border many young English and Welsh couples know it well.
At the Gretna Green visitor centre you’ll find a museum, department store, whisky shop, sculpture garden and courtship maze. Parking is plentiful, even if you’re in a large vehicle.
Where To Stay in Gretna Green
If you fancy breaking up your journey here, or indeed are planning on taking advantage of the legal loophole, there are plenty of lovely places to stay. Here’s our top picks.
Gretna Chase Hotel | Welcoming guests since the 1800’s this charming hotel retains much of its original character and has gorgeous countryside views.
Bojangles Guest House | Centrally located this modern bed and breakfast is a small and friendly, family run business with exceptional reviews.
For free overnight campervan park ups, you’re best looking around nearby Longtown in England or Canonbie in Scotland as these are much smaller villages. Camping site wise there’s Braids Caravan Park in Gretna Green that has great reviews and full facilities.
5 miles from Scots Dike | 4 minutes
A few miles north of Canonbie you’ll find the infamous Gilnockie Tower. At first glance this old rubble building may not seem all that interesting. But inside the grey facade there’s a seriously fascinating history dating back 500 years.
The five storey residence was built to house an important 16th century organised family and protect them from other Anglo-Scottish border raiders. It stands in ‘the Debatable Lands’, called so because in the past no one knew whether they belonged to England or Scotland.
Adult tickets are £6 plus £20 per group for a tour guide. It has been closed recently for some refurbishment so check that it’s open.
28 miles from Canonbie | 40 minutes
Continuing north up the A7 then, you’ll pass through the picturesque village of Langholm. This stretch of road through the valley of the River Esk is seriously scenic and a real pleasure to drive. Soon enough you’ll come to Hawick.
It’s the largest of the border towns and famous for its quality knitwear – cashmere in particular. As part of Scotland’s textile trail, the Borders Textile Towerhouse here will be of interest if you want to learn more about this aspect of the Scottish Borders history.
New to Hawick and the Borders Historic tourist route is The Borders Distillery. It only opened in 2018 and is the first Scotch Whisky Distillery within the Scottish Borders since 1837. They also make Vodka and Gin so if you like your spirits include a tour and tasting on your itinerary.
Another favourite of things to do in Hawick is take a wander around Wilton Lodge Park. There’s 107 acres of riverside and tree lined walks, formal gardens, a museum in an 18th century mansion, a walled garden and even a waterfall.
Where To Stay in Hawick
Mansfield House Hotel | This 4 star hotel has spacious rooms with contemporary decor and private bathrooms. There’s some lovely gardens to enjoy and a bar on site.
Beehive Glamping Pod | This unique off grid setup comes with a kitchenette, a patio, a BBQ, a hot tub, a fire pit and you can even take your pets – what more could you want?!
If you’re exploring the Borders Historic route by campervan, Hawick makes for a brilliant stop as there’s free overnight motorhome parking right in the centre of town. It’s just off Victoria road alongside the river and there’s space for around 10 campers.
16 miles from Hawick | 30 minutes
Taking a short detour off the A7 back south from Hawick is the eerily foreboding Hermitage Castle. With a 400 year long history as the guardhouse of the bloodiest valley in Britain it has a dark story full of murder, torture and treason.
It has been closed recently, so be sure to check it is open before heading down there.
10 miles from Hawick | 20 minutes
If you have the time, there’s another detour from Hawick that’s well worth it. Jedburgh is a beautiful town to spend the day in and there’s a great visitor centre where you can pick up a self guided walking tour leaflet from.
You literally can’t miss the magnificent cathedral, but also be sure to check out Mary Queen of Scots House and pay a visit to Jedburgh Castle Jail too.
Where To Stay in Jedburgh
Allerton House | This welcoming guesthouse set in a Georgian house with spacious rooms and landscaped gardens is just a five minute walk from the town centre.
You’ll find a few wild camping spots dotted around the edges but nothing in Jedburgh itself. Alternatively, there’s a campsite called just north of the town.
10 miles from Hawick | 15 minutes
Okay back on the Borders Historic route proper, further up the A7 from Hawick, you’ll come to another charming and interesting town called Selkirk. The people who live here are called Souters which means cobblers, a profession which has a long history within the town.
If you didn’t get your fill of Scotland’s textiles in Hawick, the Lochcarron Visitor Centre in Selkirk is a must. The fascinating mill tour will take you through how tartan is made from scratch and there are over 700 types available for purchase.
Stop by the unusual Mundo Parks monument while in town. Born near Selkirk, he extensively explored Africa. The statues of black people on each corner depict peace, war, slavery and home life along the River Niger where he spent a lot of his time and subsequently died.
Be sure to pick up a Selkirk Bannock before you leave. Never of it? Well it’s a fruit cake made with loads of butter and packed with sultanas. It’s delicious toasted with a further slather of butter and a nice strong cuppa.
Where To Stay In Selkirk
Heatherlie House Hotel | This elegant Victorian mansion has light spacious rooms with views out over two acres of wooded grounds. Breakfast is included and there’s ample parking.
There isn’t any overnight parking in Selkirk itself. If you’re after a free spot, a few can be found either side of the A7 off some of the smaller roads.
25 miles from Selkirk | 40 minutes
To be exact, The Grey Mares Tail Nature Reserve in Moffat. Yes this is quite the detour and actually means dipping out of the Scottish Borders slightly and into Dumfries and Galloway. But if you enjoy walking and love yourself a dramatic landscapes it’s simply a must.
The drive in through the Moffat Hills is worth it in itself. However taking a walk up past the Grey Mares Tail waterfall and onto Loch Skeen leads you through some of the best landscapes you’ll see in this part of Scotland.
It takes around an hour to reach the loch and 45 minutes on the way back down.
5 miles from Selkirk | 10 minutes
Back in Selkirk you’re not far away from Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott. A cherished Scottish novelist and poet, he’s said to have popularised tartan, saved the Scottish banknote and rediscovered the Crown Jewels. The building is as extraordinary as the history.
8 miles from Selkirk | 15 minutes
Founded in 1136, but largely destroyed by the English army in 1385, this Cistercian monastery that is Melrose Abbey is one of the most famous ruins in Scotland. Look out for the hobgoblins and the pig playing the bagpipes on the lavishly decorated exterior.
Adult tickets are £3 and there is an audio guide available. It has been closed recently for some refurbishment so check that it’s open.
7 miles from Selkirk | 14 minutes
Locally shortened to Gala, this Scottish Border town is also synonymous with the extensive history in the textile industry of this region. Interesting things to do here are visit Gala House, stop by Lindean Mill Glass or challenge yourself to the 55 mile 4 Abbeys cycle route.
Where To Stay in Galashiels
Kingsknowes Hotel | Gorgeous and comfortable 3 star hotel in peaceful surroundings with a tasty breakfast, welcoming vibe and secure parking.
The Salmon Inn | Contemporary accommodation with luxury bedding, walk-in shower and a delicious breakfast to either eat in the library or take with you.
While there aren’t many free spots for campervans in Galashiels, you’ll find more overnight parking in and around Melrose or just to the east along the A72.
Dalkeith Country Park
27 miles from Galashiels | 40 minutes
This enormous park on the outskirts of Edinburgh is an awesome place to stop by to enjoy some time outdoors. There’s a variety of walks of varying length around the estate, the Fort Douglas Adventure Park for kids and the Restoration Yard for shopping and dining.
10 miles from Dalkeith | 20 minutes
At the official end of the Borders Historic route, you’ll find plenty of things to do in the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh. This is one seriously gorgeous city. And there’s simply tons of cool bars and restaurants with haggis and whisky on tap to get stuck into.
Visiting Edinburgh Castle is of course a must. But also is strolling down the Royal Mile between Holyrood and the castle to take in all the other impressive architecture. Climbing Arthur’s Seat and having a wander around Holyrood Park is a great choice too.
Where To Stay In Edinburgh
Ben Cruachan Guest House | Just over a mile from all the action, this stylish B&B has it all. Rooms are tastefully decorated with everything you could need plus an amazing brekkie.
The Balmoral Hotel | Set in a seriously impressive building with its own clock tower, this Edinburgh hotel. It has a Michelin star restaurant on site, a pool, a gym and a spa.
There is actually on street parking available overnight in the city centre which plenty of campervans use for the odd night. You will have to pay from it during the day however.
6 miles from Edinburgh | 15 minutes
We found this little gem of a detour by complete accident while looking for a park up outside of Edinburgh. So although not officially part of the Borders Historic route, we couldn’t fail to give it a quick mention.
The breakfast at Harbour Cafe is an absolute treat and if you like seafood be sure to swing by Clark Bros Fishmongers. We recommend the locally caught squid and yummy homemade Thai fishcakes.
More On Scotland
- Borders Historic Route: A Different Scotland Roadtrip
- The Ultimate South West Coastal 300 Route
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Yorkshire born & bred, Sarah is a professional blogger who loves to travel. Pushing her boundaries with new adventures is her jam, so you likely won’t find her in one place for too long. Also a serious Marmite addict.