Peebles was another place we had never heard of before house sitting, all we knew is that the house we were to look after was heritage listed and we’d be accompanied by one lovely lady on all of our walks. Lilly the pointer x lab came in a package with two sister cats. The cats, being rather typical, generally ignored our presence while Lilly thrived on being out and about. Those were our days, but in the evening, when Scotland’s winter closed in around us, every member of the household (ourselves included) could be found stretched out in front of the wood burning stove, the faint slap of the cat flap signalling that the group was complete. It is those evenings that rekindle the fondest of memories from our time in Peebles.
But animals aside we had a brand new world outside our window. Road tripping Peebles meant exploring the Scottish Borders and therefore we have spent our week hillside hiking, seeking out castles and ancient fortresses and following the River Tweed that had bewitched so many authors before us.
Peebles lies 23miles south of Edinburgh at the join of the River Tweed and Eddleston Water. In 1152 while being declared as a Royal Burgh (granted a Royal Charter) by King David I of Scotland it was one of Scotland’s prominent towns with a bustling market square and a town crier relaying everything the public needed to know. Our house has a distinct marking on it, a very specific flat-nosed lion statue. This not only belies the fact that it was built in Peebles in that era, some 500 years ago, but also lets us know that this stone structure was one of the original Free Houses (Yes! We’re living in an ancient pub).
But with the town retaining its historic layout there’s many other buildings to marvel at. Beyond the Tweed Bridge for example, is the towering Old Parish Church of Scotland. There’s a proud carving of the towns’ arms, three salmon with one facing forward and two backwards. This signifies the need for one Salmon to swim upstream two return to the sea. “Against the stream they multiply” is Peebles motto and since it’s one of Scotland’s prominent Salmon fishing regions the motto is not only empowering it is very relevant. Around 10,000 Salmon are caught from the River Tweed every year. There’s the ruins of Cross Kirk, a 13th Century church built atop an old stone cross and commissioned by King Alexander III of Scotland.
Walk a little along the River Tweed and you can stand at the foot of the Neidpath Castle. Built in the 14th Century this omnipresent tower is accompanied but the Neidpath Viaduct, which provided a railway line over the River Tweed. Winding 97 miles across the Scottish Borders and into England’s Northumberland the River Tweed was once witness to the long struggle between the Scottish and English. Now it is home to pleasant country walks, crumbling forts and historic towns and surrounded by miles and miles of rolling hillsides. Needless to say we had to get out and about.
We walked for miles along border country, seeking out Iron Age settlements, crossing charming stone bridges and getting bogged at least twice in the wintery marshland.
This world famous chapel sits midway between Peebles and Edinburgh. Rosslyn Chapel owes its preservation to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code but its creation and beauty to William Sinclair, the 1st Earl of Caithness. Rosslyn Chapel was and remains to be an enigma, an elaborate representation of one persons dream building. From its imposing archways to the elaborate figurines carved in every nook and cranny every inch of the chapel has a story, a myth or a representation and is argued over by scholars even to this day. It’s noted that there are even musical harmonies hidden within the cross section of arches at one end of the chapels’ ceiling, if only someone could crack that code. Real and mythological stories are so intertwined with this building, that may or may not be finished, that its hard to tell where each begins. And in the end we let them merge together for one magnificent visit back in time to the Sinclair clan. (Yes, once again Prue gloats in her ancestral glory).
Atop the smooth rounded hills of Cademuir’s summits we found our favourite example of Iron Age architecture (dating back 2000 years). Streaks of shale rock, which abruptly intercept vivid green and yellows of the hillside, determine the forts central location. Several patches of carefully placed jagged rocks lie nearby, these are the remains of a “chevaux de frise,” a defence against approaching cavalry. If you keep your eyes peeled you may also find the remains of several Iron Age settlements which have collapsed into shadows of crumbly grey rock etched into Cademuir’s slopes.
Quiet Innerleithen Village, with a population of 2500, was one of the quaintest places we visited in the Scottish borders. The neighbouring summit, Pit Cairn Hill is crowned by an Iron Age settlement and overlooks the stunning valleys that surround you while travelling around the Scottish Borders.