The range of historical attractions in the Scottish Borders is truly impressive. With a rich history spanning millennia and proudly celebrated through community gatherings and events, this is one of the very best places to visit in Scotland for history buffs. There's a good mix of castles, abbeys, stately homes and museums which is guaranteed to keep you busy for days on end!
Floors Castle is well-known as one of the most iconic buildings in the whole of Scotland. It's stunning sandstone with intricate patterns stands out for miles around, and it's easy to see why it's the most photographed spots in the Borders. The outlook from the castle is just as impressive as the building - sweeping views of the River Tweed and Cheviot Hills. Built in the 1720s, it's still inhabited but visitors can tour some of the rooms and view the collections of art and artefacts.
Thirlestane Castle dates back to the 13th century when there was a fort on the same site, although the main castle was built in 1590 and has been remodelled a few times since then. The castle is still home to the Maitland family, but guided tours are available with knowledgable guides where you will see some of the rooms and view collections of art and furnishings. There's also a collection of historical toys, which will delight family members of all ages. 5* accommodation is available at the castle if you want to experience what it's like to live there for yourself.
Neidpath Castle is a photogenic tower house set in beautiful countryside close to the town of Peebles. Mary Queen of Scots stayed here in 1563, and these days so can you! It's a wedding venue with a range of accommodation on site and it's not open to the public for visits, but a number of lovely walks in the area will take you past it and give you a chance to take a look and some photos of this pretty and impressively well-preserved building.
Hermitage Castle was built for war. Situated just over the border with England, it's seen its fair share of battles and still has quite an imposing presence today. It's called the 'guardhouse of the bloodiest valley in Britain', and visitors can learn more about why as they tour the ruins, which are now under the care of Historic Environment Scotland.
A castle of a very different kind, Stobo Castle in Kelso is Scotland's only destination spa - with a beautiful swimming pool, various health and beauty treatments, a fitness studio and fine dining on site, this is a wonderful getaway in the heart of the Scottish Borders. It doesn't have the history of the others, but it's a lovely place to spend a relaxing day.
Scotland's oldest inhabited house, Traquair dates back to 1107. It's been lived in by the Stuart family since 1491 and has hosted its fair share of royals in its history. Today the house and grounds can be visited, and there's a host of craft workshops and educational events on site, as well as a cafe and gift shop - it's a great place for a family day out.
Old Gala House in Galashiels now hosts a museum and exhibitions dedicated to the history of this lively town. It's also at the centre of the town's annual Braw Lads' Gathering, which celebrates the town's traditions through a series of ceremonies and a journey en masse to Abbotsford House on horseback.
Abbotsford House is the former home of the famous Scottish writer, Sir Walter Scott. The house was renamed by Scott after he purchased it, inspired by a nearby ford that was once used by the monks of Melrose. The exhibitions on site are dedicated to Scott's life, and unsurprisingly the library is the star of the show!
Mellerstain House and Gardens in Kelso is one of architect Robert Adam's finest works. Visitors can tour the rooms including the library, admire the art collection and explore the lovely grounds and gardens.
18th-century Paxton House is a partner for the National Galleries for Scotland and has an impressive collection of paintings on loan. Surrounded by 80 acres of grounds and gardens, it's an excellent family day out as well, and dogs are allowed to join you in the grounds as long as they are kept on a lead.
Gunsgreen House was built in 1753 by a local smuggler, and the cellar houses a museum dedicated to the history of smuggling. It's family friendly and offers dressing up, challenges and puzzles for children to complete and a 'tea chute' which was used to hide smuggled tea in the past.
Manderston is a stunning example of an Edwardian country house. The house is only open to the public on certain 'open days', but it's well worth going to one of these if you can. Guided tours are offered twice a day in a limited summer period (1st July to 1st August) and the extensive gardens are also open to visitors.
Known collectively as the Borders Abbeys, the stunning ruins of Melrose Abbey, Jedburgh Abbey, Kelso Abbey, and Dryburgh Abbey were home to different orders of Christian monks in the 13th and 14th centuries, and these days they are all open to the public to visit.
Borders Textile Towerhouse is housed in the oldest building in Hawick, a 500-year-old tower. It's now a visitor attraction and museum covering the history of tweed and knitwear manufacturing in the Borders area. As well exploring these traditions, there are exhibitions showcasing the work of local companies still active in this sector.
The National Mining Musem in Newtongrange is dedicated to the history of Scottish mining, and houses a collection of more than 60,000 mining-related items including tools, clothing and safety equipment. As well as an extensive museum full of interactive exhibits, there's an outdoor play and picnic area for visiting families.
Eddlestone is a museum spanning an entire village. The historic village is entirely covered by a conservation area, owing to the historical significance of the buildings. It's a very pretty place to wander, with quaint whinstone cottages and bridges crossing the nearby waterways.
Other historical attractions in the Scottish Borders
Mary Queen of Scots Visitor Centre in Jedburgh houses collections of items and art which help tell the story of her dramatic life.
TheThree Brethren Cairns sit atop a 465m hill - in fact, they have done so since the 16th century. The cairns mark the meeting of the Bucchleuch and Yair estates and the Selkirk Burgh. It's a moderately tricky hill walk to reach the cairns, but the effort is rewarded with lovely views.
St Abbs Head Lighthouse was built by David and Thomas Stevenson and completed in 1862. It remains operational today, although has been automated since 1993 and is no longer manned. The lighthouse can be visited and it's a lovely place for a clifftop walk.