The next day I said farewell to my cottage and set off on a long driving tour into the Scottish borders and then back to Northumbria in England. I first made a small detour to see the north western part of the Lake District, around Keswick and Buttermere. This turned out to be a bad idea – the weather was poor, and with the arrival of the weekend, lots of other motorists had the same idea. I spent most of the time squeezing past oncoming vehicles on the tiny roads rather than looking at the scenery, but I did stop to take a photo of beautiful Buttermere in the rain.
From there I headed straight north up the M6 into Scotland, leaving the motorway at Moffat. This was a pretty little town, and much less touristy than the Lake District. Scotland had not fully emerged from its Coronavirus lockdown, so some shops were closed and everyone wore masks. I searched hard for a tea or coffee room, like there are all over the Lake District, but couldn’t find even one. In Scotland people seem to do their drinking in pubs (which were open) and drink beer rather than coffee at lunch time. I also had to search hard for somewhere to buy lunch, but finally found a bakery. After many communication problems caused by face masks and the owner’s broad Scottish accent, I finally managed to order three scones. A final communication issue arose when I couldn’t believe the price – only £1.65 in total. You’d pay that per scone in London.
From Moffat I headed off along a country road, through rolling, empty hills. The straight and broad road was a relief after the twisty roads of the Lake District. I stopped briefly – along with what looked like half of the local borders population – at a local beauty spot called the Mare’s Tail, where there is a pretty waterfall.
Then I headed on through Selkirk to Abbottsford Castle, the home of Sir Walter Scott (author of many classic British novels, such as Ivanhoe and Rob Roy). The castle was still closed (Coronavirus again) but I spent a very pleasant half hour strolling through the beautiful gardens.
From Abbottsford, I headed on to Melrose, yet another pretty borders town with a nice central square and ruined abbey.
I searched again in vain for a tea-room, but there were none, not even closed ones. One pub was open, but was full and wouldn’t let me in. Just outside of Melrose I visited another local beauty spot called Scott’s View- three hills rising out of rolling Scottish countryside. It was a beautiful sight in the late afternoon sun.
Last on my Scottish excursion was Kelso, another small market-town. All these towns seem to be built to the same pattern, with a pretty central square and ruined abbey. I arrived after five o’clock so had no hopes of finding a coffee room open (I didn’t even see a closed one) but did I stumble across a Co-op and stocked up on some snacks and some cans of cold latte to help me drive the remaining two hours to my hotel.
From Kelso my route took me back south to England. I passed through Jedburgh, which was also supposed to be worth visiting – but it was late and I’d seen enough pretty town squares and ruined abbeys for the day. The border with England was marked by a Scottish flag and large “Goodbye from Scotland” sign on the Scottish side….and a small inscription “England” on a stone on the other side.
The road continued through rolling hills of the Northumberland National Park and yielded one further interesting detour to see a part of Hadrian’s Wall.
Hmm, small………Not nearly as impressive as the Great Wall of China (see my very first blog for a description of this), but given that it is nearly 2000 years old it’s still remarkable. Apparently, there are more extensive sections elsewhere but unfortunately my route didn’t go past them. I finally arrived at my hotel in Hexham at around 8pm. I’d picked a really nice hotel, facing………yes, another medieval abbey, only this time still in use as a church. I had a quick stroll around town – another pretty place, very similar to the others I had visited – before enjoying a surprisingly sophisticated dinner in my hotel’s restaurant.