Best of 2016 Tour: Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders

Last in my 2016 top three is Edinburgh and the English/Scottish borders. 

Last year for Christmas, Alessio played an ace and got me a weekend break for two. He played it nonchalant, I could bring anyone I wanted but he knew he’d be my “for two” companion.

After lots of deliberation, planning, reading good and bad reviews I narrowed it down to a hotel in the New Forest (ponies), a cottage in York (proximity to a Betty’s Tea Room) and a wildcard guesthouse in Northumberland. The wildcard had zero bad reviews. 

Betty’s very nearly swung it for me, but Alessio declared how much he wanted to visit Scotland. I looked at flights and trains to Edinburgh and waved goodbye to fulfilling my dream of going to Betty’s. The wildcard had won.

We flew up to Edinburgh because it was both faster and cheaper – and were rewarded with extra leg room

And this magazine.

What is it about arriving in Scotland that makes people twats?

Why did so many Londoners screech about how much colder it is when London was only three degrees warmer?

Why did I begin speaking in a Scottish accent and informing Alessio “they don’t say yes here, they say ‘oh, aye’. If you say yes they won’t understand.”

It was so easy to get from the airport into the town and much quicker than the Gatwick Express. We were quickly and cheaply on the bus, and walking through the gorgeous Princes Street Gardens.

From there and over the bridge it’s easy to get to the Old Town. The Old Town is a lovely walk, stretching from Holyrood to Edinburgh Castle. There are lots of side streets and alleys to amble down, dotted with modern chains. Whilst it looks very old and photogenic, many of the shops were touristy. They sold gifts, kilts and shortbreads but nothing felt authentic. 

Edinburgh is very small, so after a short while, we took a dinner in a small cafe. This caused a row because in the five (twenty) minutes it took for me to choose a menu item, they sold out entirely of eggs. This put Alessio into a bad mood, then they took about forty five minutes to make his meal, forgetting mine entirely. An American couple next to us bonded with us over this plight, because the woman ordered tea and she finished her meal before it arrived. The waiters were all lovely, however.

From our time in the old town, we headed to the train station. The centre of Edinburgh is very small in comparison to London, so everywhere is quickly walkable. Our trains were replacement buses, so we expected to get to our next destination at 6pm.

We got there for 3pm. Berwick-upon-Tweed. 

It was chilly cold, but the sun was beating down. We took a walk through the park to see this beautiful view of the viaduct and the Tweed river, all the way to the town centre.

The town itself was very quiet – being a small town on a Sunday evening most places were shut, so we took a bus to our onward journey – Cornhill-on-Tweed.

I had never heard of Cornhill, but it is a village on the borders of Scotland where an adorable guesthouse lies.

The Old Schoolhouse is a converted school, run by two locals Judith and Noel. The second we arrived, Judith called us into the front room and provided us with home made scones and coffee. We chatted for ages about their family and ours, the local area, London and Edinburgh. Truly, it felt like coming into the home of an old family friend.

Judith allowed us some time to rest and choose a local pub, wherein Noel would later run us up there in his car. 

There are a few local pubs, as well as the stately home next door. All the local businesses support each other and the locals are all eager to say hi and greet you. We were even invited to join the raffle to win a massive onion that was about eight or nine inches big!

In the morning, Judith took us with her to walk her dog round the estate of neighbours. The stately home is now a hotel, but we got a lovely little tour. We had a wonderful breakfast of local foods, cheeses and meats, then she dropped us to Berwick where we could stroll and catch our train back to Scotland.

Berwick has this lovely coast, with the lighthouse. This, and the viaduct, were my favourite parts of Berwick itself.

We headed back on the train to Edinburgh where it began to rain. As we had already seen the most touristy sights, we decided to grab an enormous dinner opposite the Waverley station forgetting that Northern portions are so much bigger than London portions.

This was at the Juniper Edinburgh, where we ordered macaroni cheese and potato rösti. The food was delicious, there was just a lot of it!

That meal and the cocktail was our farewell to the North, we flew back to London and wrote a thank you email to Judith and Noel.

What we didn’t expect was to receive, two months later, a handwritten card from Judith!

It was so sweet and thoughtful of her to do this. I cannot recommend their guesthouse enough, and it’s a great base for exploring areas both more North and more South. If we had more time, we would have flown into Edinburgh and explored just the same, but also dedicated time to seeing the villages along the border and travelling more southern into Northumberland to see Holy Island and the Lindisfarne Nature Reserve.

It was such a surprisingly lovely trip, made all the better by our hosts Judith and Noel. I can’t recommed Tillmouth Old Schoolhouse enough.

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