It was a railway that transformed the Scottish Borders into a globally renowned centre for wool and textile manufacture. Now, 46 years and 8 months to the day since the ‘Waverley Route’ closed, (January 6, 1969) scheduled services are set to begin on the new Borders Railway (September 6).
To celebrate this key moment in history, Borders-turned-global fashion brand,Pringle of Scotland joined VisitScotland to launch this exciting new journey with supermodel, Edinburgh International Fashion Festival Founder, and current Pringle muse, Anna Freemantle.
Dressed in the materials that made the region and railway famous, Ms Freemantle swapped the catwalk for the platform at Waverley Station in Edinburgh on Friday 4 September to herald the start of a week-long celebration of the opening of this, the longest domestic railway to open in the UK for over a century.
The Borders Railway will take passengers on a 30 mile, 55 minute journey from Edinburgh through Midlothian to Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders. The £294m project has taken just over two years to construct and includes ten stations.
Scotland’s newest scenic Railway - which will begin its first full day of public service on Sunday 6 September - will take local, national and international visitors on a journey into new landscapes, to discover iconic attractions, such as Rosslyn Chapel, Abbotsford House, the National Mining Museum Scotland, Melrose Abbey and more.
With trains leaving frequently from Waverley Station, it is hoped that the 3.4 million visitors that come to Edinburgh every year will see the Borders Railway as a must-see attraction to add to their itineraries. Worldwide interest in Sir Walter Scott will be a huge draw, as visitors can follow in the footsteps of the renowned writer, starting in Edinburgh with The Scott Monument and The Writers’ Museum, before taking the Borders Railway through the landscapes that inspired his writing. At the end of the journey, there’s Abbotsford (just a short walk from Tweedbank) where a new award-winning visitor centre tells Scott’s remarkable story, from his birth in Edinburgh in 1771 to the cultural legacy he left to Scotland and the world.
For many visitors, the Borders Railway will open up a region of Scotland they’ve only seen on the big screen. The Da Vinci Code brought to life the wonder and mystery of Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian. The film revealed this breathtaking attraction to the world and the Chapel became an overnight phenomenon with a jump in visitor numbers. Just a short taxi shuttle ride or cycle from Eskbank station, it is hoped the Railway will bring even more visitors to this stunning location.
The Chapel is not the only blockbusting spectacle in the region. Hop off the train at Newtongrange, just 20 minutes from Edinburgh, to discover the award-winning National Mining Museum Scotlandwhere visitors can see the largest steam engine in the country, or hear anecdotes from real former miners on a guided tour of the pithead.
For peace and tranquillity, visitors can wander the grounds of striking Newbattle Abbey, or delve into the open countryside of Gore Glen Woodland Park and Vogrie Country Park. The more adventurous can channel their inner Harry Potter with owl encounters, hawk walks and archery at Dalhousie Castle or even their inner David Attenborough with an intrepid walk through Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World at Eskbank. From 4 – 13 September, visitors can also encounter Midfest, a week-long celebration of arts and culture coinciding with the launch of the brand new railway.
Day visitors can easily reach Abbotsford House, just minutes from Tweedbank Station. A jewel in the crown of Scottish architecture, this luxurious mansion was once home to Sir Walter Scott and guests can explore the elegant rooms where he hosted literary glitterati such as Oscar Wilde and Charlotte Brontë, or discover his life and legacy in the visitor centre.
Also near Tweedbank, rail passengers can discover Melrose Abbey. Founded by King David I in 1136, the Abbey is famed as the burial place of Robert the Bruce’s heart. Nearby, the beautifully kept Harmony Garden and Priorwood Garden are filled with colourful blooms. Enjoy a long walk (around 30 minutes) from Tweedbank Station to visit the Abbey, or take advantage of the frequent public transport.
Visitors staying overnight in the great accommodation on offer near the Borders Railway can spend time exploring quaint villages like Stow and Heriot, or discover beautiful Borders Abbeys, such as Jedburgh and Dryburgh. Walkers and cyclists will enjoy the Borders Abbeys Way, a 109-km route passing all the abbeys plus the historic towns of Hawick and Selkirk, and the beautiful St Cuthbert’s Way, one of Scotland’s Great Trails, which begins in Melrose.
Fabrics produced in the Scottish Borders, such as tartan, tweed, wool and cashmere have made their way into the collections of some of the world’s top fashion houses including Chanel, Dior and Vivienne Westwood. Visitors can take a bus to the Borders Textile Towerhouse in Hawick to see some of the famous textiles and get a glimpse of future trends.
Other unmissable attractions in the area near the Railway include Floors Castle, a spectacular stately home with beautiful gardens and grounds. And, of course, visitors to the Scottish Borders must not leave without experiencing the world-class mountain bike trails at the 7stanes centres such as Newcastleton, Glentress and Innerleithen and the sheer spectacle of the Return to the Ridings (May-Aug only).
From walking and accommodation packages to special restaurant menus and shuttle services, businesses along the new Borders Railway route have been making the most of encouraging visitors to the new tourism destinations in Edinburgh, Midlothian and the Scottish Borders. VisitScotland is supporting attractions, accommodation providers, local producers and pubs and restaurants in the vicinity of the Borders Railway in developing news ideas, products and experiences.
Special steam train journeys along the Borders Railway line will also be available every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from Thursday 10 September until Sunday 18 October, giving visitors the chance to experience the full return journey from Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank in the comfort of a beautifully refurbished vintage steam train carriage. This service is only available for six weeks and tickets begin at £40 per adult and £20 per child aged under 16.
To book tickets for the Borders Railway, visit www.scotrail.co.uk