Kelso Things to Do

  • what's left...
    what's left...
    by iaint
  • Kelso Bridge the model for London Bridge
    Kelso Bridge the model for London Bridge
    by Drever
  • Information Office,
    Information Office,
    by Drever

Most Recent Things to Do in Kelso

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    Kelso - fairytale castle, abbey ruins and bridges

    by Drever Written Mar 5, 2014

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    Remains of Kelso Abbey
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    Kelso lies in this conundrum in a fertile valley at the junction of the Rivers Tweed and Teviot. The Lammermuir Hills to the north and the Cheviots to the south gaze down upon it. With cobbled streets leading into a wide market square bounded by graceful three-storey 18th- and 19th-century town houses, Kelso is one of the most striking of the Border towns -- full of architectural and historical interest.

    King David I in 1128 granted permission for the Tironesian monks from France to build Kelso Abbey. Over the decades the largest abbey in the Scottish Borders arose. Double-cruciform in the Romanesque style, having four transepts instead of the usual two, and two towers instead of one -- the most stunning building. Its influence was as strong as its style. Renowned artisans the Tironesian monks used their skills to help the local community.

    King James III was crowned at Kelso Abbey in 1460. In the years following, constant attack by English invaders badly damaged Kelso Abbey and massacred its inhabitants. By 1587 the only part of the abbey being used was a part adapted for a local church. What is left is still stunning. The facade of the north transept is one of the most spectacular examples of Romanesque architecture in Scotland. Admission is free by the way!

    Today the town of Kelso surrounds the Abbey remains. In the centre of the town’s spacious Square stands the Tourist Information Centre in an impressive town house. Spanning the Tweed is a graceful five-arched bridge dating from 1803. Start small and go big was the idea. Built by John Rennie the bridge was a prototype for London Bridge.

    In parkland overlooking the Tweed a mile northwest of the town centre stands the fairytale Floors Castle with its gleaming turrets. It is Scotland's largest occupied house and home to the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe. We wandered through the spectacular palatial Staterooms filled with priceless European paintings, tapestries, furnishings, a 15th-century Brussels tapestry and robes. It’s a must see. About every signpost seems to point to it.

    To the north of Kelso are the magnificent Adam designed mansion of Mellerstain and the defensive towers of Smailholm and Greenknowe, dating back to the 16th century when defence against Border Reivers and English forces was a must have.

    Teviot Water Garden six miles to the west of the town offers riverside walks. To the south nestling in the foothills of the Cheviots are the twin villages of Town and Kirk Yetholm. There stands the Gypsy Palace where the last Queen of the Gypsies lived, and the end of the 270-mile Pennine Way long-distance walk.

    Local publications include a Town Plan, mini-guide, and countryside walks.

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    Kelso Racecourse

    by stevezero Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Not my photo

    With thirteen fixtures in the season, Kelso is the home of National Hunt Racing and its race-goers are made to feel really welcome. The Racecourse itself offers breathtaking scenery, in a plush, green setting, with all of the hospitality suites overlooking the magnificent course. On race days, the thrill of the race, the atmosphere, and the stunning location offers a unique experience and a truly unforgettable day out. Kelso Races offers the unique charm of a bygone era, coupled with the very best in modern facilities.

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    • Horse Riding

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    Kelso Abbey

    by iaint Updated Mar 2, 2009
    what's left...

    The abbey was built in 1128 by the Tironesian monks from France.

    Being so close to the English border, it was repeatedly damaged during all the skirmishes with Scotland's big, nasty neighbour which preceded the ill fated Union. The abbey is in ruins now.

    If ruined churches are your thing, the Borders is the place to go. I can think of Jedburgh, Dryburgh and Melrose Abbeys without researching the subject!

    The website below gives a good history of Kelso Abbey. Along with the others mentioned above, it was built in the time of (Scottish) King David I. All four were destroyed around the same time (in 1545) by (English) King Henry VIII.

    Damned shame really, but what can you expect from that lot.

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    Greenknowe Tower

    by stevezero Updated May 23, 2006

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    Greenknowe Tower
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    Greenknowe Tower is a handsome tower house on an L plan, built in 1581 and still retaining its iron gate or yett.Formerly the property of the Gordon and Seton families, in later times it came into the ownership of the Pringles of Stichel and the Dalrymple family.

    In the care of Historic Scotland -
    Admission free

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    Smailholm Tower

    by stevezero Written May 23, 2006

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    Smailholm Tower
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    This is a well preserved and well restored border tower house dating from the 15th century. Situated on Sandyknowe Farm, it is visible for miles around. Formerly the home of the Pringles of Smailholm and later that of the Scotts of Harden, it was well known to Sir Walter Scott who came to Sandyknowe regularly to visit his grandfather.
    The tower was surrounded by a barmkin wall, which enclosed the outhouses, chapel and kitchen.
    Three storeys in height with a garret and parapet, it now houses an excellent display of dolls which illustrate the stories from Scott’s ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border’.

    It is quite a difficult walk from the car park, and probably not suitable for those with walking dificulties, It is also very exposed, so warm clothing is recommended evon on a sunny day.

    In the care of Historic Scotland
    Admission Charge -
    Adults £3.30

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    Floors Castle Grounds and Gardens

    by stevezero Written May 23, 2006

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    Floors Castle Grounds and Gardens
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    Apart from the castle itself, Floors also has magnificent grounds and gardens, which befit such a residence. There are lots of walks, some taking you by the river tweed. there are also formal gardens, and a garden centre where you can buy plants.

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    Roxburgh Castle

    by stevezero Written May 23, 2006

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    Roxburgh Castle

    From the grounds of Floors castle, you can hust make out the outline of Roxburgh Castle, which stands on the opposite bank of the River Tweed.
    Roxburgh Castle, then known as Marchidun, is first recorded as the residence of the Earl of Northumberland in 1107. After David I renamed it, it became a residence for Scottish Kings over the next two hundred years. Within its walls, kings were born and kings were married, and outside its walls, kings died. It was a massive fortress with four towers and at least one church within its walls. With the Wars of Independence, it became an important site. In 1296 it was captured by Edward I. It changed hands frequently, thereafter, until 1460, when it remained in English hands for 100 years. From 1124 until it was finally destroyed in 1550, it had been continuously occupied by either one side or the other.

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    Floors Castle

    by stevezero Updated May 23, 2006

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    Floors Castle
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    Floors Castle is the largest inhabited house in Scotland, with a towered central block and symmetrical, Georgian ranges. In 1721 additions were made to an existing tower house to create a plain country house, which was then absorbed in the construction of a magnificent 19th century baronial mansion. In the grounds is a holly tree, which marks the spot where King James II was killed by an exploding cannon, while besieging Roxburgh Castle.

    Admission
    Castle and gardens - Adults £6.00
    Grounds abd gardens only £3.00

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    Hume Castle

    by stevezero Written May 23, 2006

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    Hume Castle
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    A rare example of a simple courtyard castle of the 13th century, the ruined curtain walls forming the basis of a folly built in 1794 for the last Earl of Marchmont.

    In the care of the Berwickshire Civic Society
    Admission Free - Parking nearby

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    Market Square

    by stevezero Written May 23, 2006

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    Market Square
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    Kelso has a surpise in its town centre, the frech style cobbled market square, which is surrounded by elegant Georgian buildings. Eating establishments abound, and you can also find the Tourist Information Centre here (very helpfull too!)
    It's a shame that they have to use it as a car park!

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    Spingwood Park

    by stevezero Written May 23, 2006

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    Spingwood Park, Kelso

    Springwood Park is only a short walk from Kelso town centre, it consists of forty acres of well maintained parkland and is surrounded by woods and the world famous Tweed Junction Pool. There are also spectacular views of Floors Castle and the outline of Kelso with its medieval abbey, churches and stone buildings.

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    Kelso Abbey

    by stevezero Updated May 23, 2006

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    Kelso Abbey
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    Kelso Abbey is a Scottish abbey built in the 12th century by a community of Tironensian monks (originally from Tiron, near Chartres, in France) who had moved from the nearby Selkirk Abbey. The monks constructed the Abbey on land granted to them by King David I. The construction commenced in 1128, and when completed fifteen years later, in 1143, it was dedicated to The Blessed Virgin and Saint John.
    Kelso Abbey soon grew to be one of the wealthiest and grandest in Scotland, with much of its income coming from its vast estates in the Border country. However, the Abbey's close proximity to the border with England led to it suffering damage from cross-border raids. It was first damaged in the Anglo-Scottish wars at the start of the 1300s, but was later repaired by the monks.
    The Abbey suffered serious damage during the Earl of Hertford's "Rough Wooing" campaign (the dispute over Mary Queen of Scots) against Scotland between 1544 and 1547, which caused considerable destruction to many of southern Scotland's abbeys, including those at Melrose, Dryburgh and Jedburgh. The Reformation, which took place in Scotland in 1560, meant that Kelso Abbey had no chance to recover and rebuild. After further attacks and damage the Abbey was declared officially derelict in 1587.
    Although derelict, the abbey is well worth seeing, and is only a short walk from the town centre.

    In the care of Historic Scotland
    Admission free

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    Kelso Abbey

    by ringleader Updated Mar 1, 2004

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    Kelso Abbey

    Just a stop-and-see tip. There are no admission fees, no guides, no tours. It is the ruins of an old abbey in the middle of a town with Floors Castle just around the corner. (See my tip on Floors Castle.)

    Other Border Abbeys worth visiting (see my other travel tips) are Dryburgh (in St. Boswells), Jedburgh, Melrose. Kelso is most ruined of them all. All of these abbeys are located close to each other and can be easily seen in a day's trip to the Borders.

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