Be King or Queen of the Castle

As 2017 is Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, we thought we’d celebrate this country’s unique and colourful history by showcasing some of the best Scottish castles for you to visit as part of a break with us and have even highlighted special places to stay nearby.

Caerlaverock CastleCaerlaverock Castle, Dumfries

The literal translation of Caerlaverock is ‘castle of the lark’, but this gentle name seems somehow at odds with the imposing sandstone walls of one of the most powerful-looking castles in Scotland. Located in Dumfries and Galloway on the edge of the Solway Firth, this medieval fortress is packed with fascinating tales of its turbulent history and yet has a fairytale appearance and its own moat. It was even used as a filming location for the film ‘The Decoy Bride’ back in 2011.

Box Bed at Ghillie's Bothy
Box Bed at Ghillie’s Bothy

Enjoy a wonderful night’s sleep in a full size Scottish box bed set into the wall in the beautiful Ghillie’s Bothy in Dumfries and Galloway. Tradition combines with modern facilities to offer a scenic, peaceful base for visiting Caerlaverock Castle and the surrounding area. Sleeping 2 people and welcoming 2 pets, prices start at £295 for a 7 night stay.

Stirling CastleStirling Castle, Stirling

One of the largest and most imposing castles in Scotland, Stirling Castle sits dramatically on top of Castle Hill, surrounded on 3 sides by step cliffs – an ideal defensive position. Several kings and queens of Scotland were crowned here, including Mary Queen of Scots, who also lived in the castle as a child. It has the largest medieval banqueting hall ever built in Scotland – and even comes complete with a ghost.

The Ridge is the lower section of an old turreted Scottish baronial mansion situated just a short walk from Stirling Castle. This elegant, spacious property sleeps 4 people with prices starting at £335 for 7 nights.

Dunvegan CastleDunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye

Dunvegan Castle, situated at the heart of a 42,000 acre estate on the Isle of Skye, is one of the great Hebridean castles and has been continually occupied by the Clan Chiefs of Macleod for over 800 years. It is absolutely filled with paintings and clan treasures including one of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s waistcoats and the famous Fairy Flag, a sacred clan banner that is said to have with magical powers. When it was unfurled in battle, the clan would snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

View from Sandaig CottageSandaig Cottage is a modern, open plan cottage with gorgeous views out over the Sound of Sleat where you can relax and keep an eye out for the otters, seals and dolphins that are often spotted along the shoreline. Pet friendly and sleeping up to 4 people, prices start at £550 for 7 night stays (with linen, towels and WiFi included).

Tantallon CastleTantallon Castle, near North Berwick

Tantallon Castle is the ruined stronghold of the Red Douglas dynasty. Set high on a cliff edge looking out towards the Bass Rock, it was besieged by both James IV and James V but was ultimately destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s troops in 1651. There are lots of nooks and crannies to explore, including the remains of the Great Hall and the spooky pit prison.

A short drive up the coast from Tantallon Castle, on the outskirts of Dunbar, is The Beach House set just 50 metres from the shores of beautiful Belhaven Bay. There is the potential for surfing at mid to high tide, plus lots to explore nearby. The Beach House is pet friendly and sleeps up to 3 people with prices for 7 night stays starting at £355.

Floors CastleFloors Castle, Kelso

Floors Castle is Scotland’s largest inhabited castle and it’s easy to see why it is one of the most popular visitor attractions in the Scottish Borders. It is a truly stunning building, designed by William Adam in 1721 for the 1st Duke of Roxburghe and subsequently remodeled by William Playfair between 1837 and 1847. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and filled with treasures including fine art, newly-restored tapestries and porcelain, it is a lovely place to spend an afternoon.

Kingfisher Cottage
Kingfisher Cottage

Kingfisher Cottage near Kelso is a spectacular conversion of part of an old mill dating from 1774 that has been carefully renovated with all 21st century comforts. It has plenty of space to spread out into with a spacious open plan living area and separate galleried TV room upstairs that makes sure all viewing tastes are catered for. The cottage sleeps up to 6 and prices start at £450 for 7 nights.

eilean-donan-castleEilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan is one of the most photographed castles in the world, thanks to its stunning setting on an island at the entrance to Loch Duich. Many different versions of the castle have been built and rebuilt since the 13th century but after it was partly destroyed in a Jacobite rising in 1719, Eilean Donan lay in ruins for around 200 years until it was restored to its former glory and became one of Scotland’s best-loved attractions.

Letterfearn Cottage is situated right on the shore of Loch Duich and looks across to Eilean Donan castle. It makes the perfect base for forest walks, cycling and, of course, visiting the castle itself. Letterfearn sleeps 4 people and prices start at £395 for 7 nights (WiFi and linen included).

With cottages spread out across the whole of Scotland we have just the place for you to enjoy this special Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology by visiting some of the other castles Scotland has to offer, as well as historic dwellings, stately homes and heritage sites galore. Just delve in and immerse yourself in the stories of Scotland’s past. Give us a call on 01835 822277 to speak to our helpful booking team or browse the whole portfolio online to find your perfect fit. We even have some properties that are set in some pretty historic buildings themselves.

Exploring Scotland’s Best Beaches

Clear blue waters, giant dunes and stretches of soft golden sands. No, we’re not talking about the Caribbean, but Scotland, the surprising home of some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Scotland’s beaches have a charm and character unique to the country and often feature fabulous wildlife and activities galore to try out from windsurfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and surfing to swimming, sandcastle building and rock pooling.

We’ve picked five of our favourites beaches that, like all of Scotland’s beaches, are perfect for exploring at any time of year – you don’t have to save them just for the summer.

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1. Seacliff Beach near North Berwick, East Lothian

Situated on the gorgeous East Lothian coast, this is a gem of a beach that’s accessed by a private road (small charge). Visitors are treated to a beautiful sandy beach, a fascinating tiny harbour plus fantastic views of the dramatic Tantallon Castle on the cliffs overhead.

Out to sea, the famous Bass Rock dominates the horizon, a former prison island that is now home to one of the largest gannet colonies in the world. If you are really lucky you may even catch sight of the beautiful Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.

Shore Cabin, Driftwood and The Beach House are all in easy reach of Seacliff and sit on yet another sandy beach of their own!

2. Morlich Beach at Glenmore, Cairngorms National Park

Loch Morlich Beach
Loch Morlich Beach

Did you know that one of Scotland’s loveliest beaches is actually 25 miles from the sea? Loch Morlich is a fresh water loch in the Cairngorms with wonderful sandy beaches, a water sports centre and yacht club.

It is surrounded by acres of forest and has a stunning backdrop of the beautiful northern Cairngorms. It really is a perfect beach resort like no other.

Alvie Cottage is just over 15 minutes’ drive away and is new to our portfolio so currently has plenty of availability, a week’s stay starts at just £365.

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3. Camusdarach Beach at Arisaig

Made famous when it featured in the film Local Hero, Camusdarach Beach is a fantastic place to while away the hours. There are stunning views over the islands of Eigg, Rum and Skye plus wonderful walks and lots of places to explore with the family. It is a true gem.

Orchard House and Achnahanat are both set just a mile away from this wonderful beach.

4. Luskentyre Beach on the Isle of Harris

Luskentyre Beach
Luskentyre Beach

Luskentyre Beach in the south of the island of Harris frequently makes it onto lists of the country’s best beaches and it is very easy to see why. The seascape is truly spectacular with clear blue waters, white sands and amazing scenery that wouldn’t seem out of place abroad.

We have a range of lovely properties on both the isles of Harris and Lewis.

5. Coral beaches at Claigan, near Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye

Claigan Coral Beach
Claigan Coral Beach

The wonderful coral beaches at Claigan on the Isle of Skye are, despite their name, actually made up of scraps of hardened algae and seaweed from the sea. A lovely walk leads along to the beach which is great to walk along whatever the weather to admire the remarkable sparkling turquoise waters. You may even see some of the local cows that like to have a nice lie on the beach themselves.

Mag Findargat is just 11 miles from the coral beaches and offers a spacious, contemporary getaway with plenty of room to spread out into. A week’s stay starts at just £575 and discounts are available for couples.

We have dozens of coastal cottages right round Scotland that are perfect for exploring the country’s shoreline. If you are ready to hit the beach, just visit our coastal properties to find your perfect Scottish holiday cottage. A lot of our beachside properties are now booking up already for 2018 so get booking while there is still some availability! If you’re not sure exactly what you’re looking for, our booking team are happy to help on 01835 822277.

Bustling Book Festival Come to the Borders

Guest blogger Markus Stitz fills us in on an interesting upcoming event.

This week sees a celebration of literature in the Scottish Borders as the annual Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival arrives in Melrose from 15 to 18 June 2017.

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Stars of stage and screen will make their way to Melrose for the four day festival that is opened by actress Anne Reid’s one-woman show about her 50 year long TV career, including her time on Dinner Ladies and Last Tango in Halifax. Some of the other big names appearing at the festival are Fawlty Towers star John Cleese; TV wildlife adventurer Steve Backshall; international tennis coach Judy Murray; bestselling novelist Joanna Trollope and TV’s one and only Michael Parkinson.

A particular highlight of the festival is the story of two Yorkshire mums’ adventures rowing across the Atlantic and Rory Stewart talking about his experience of walking 600 miles over 30 days in the borderlands between England and Scotland.

Copyright - Nancy Macdonald
Louise Gray © Nancy Macdonald

On Friday Louise Gray hosts a discussion of her new book ‘The Ethical Carnivore’ that explores how she decided to only eat animals that she had killed herself, starting with fishing and oyster shucking and moving on to rabbits and deer.

Fans of Top Gear will enjoy hearing from Richard Porter on Sunday. He worked as script editor on Top Gear from 2002 all the way through to 2015 and is now script editor for The Grand Tour. His book ‘And On That Bombshell’ gives a behind the scenes insight into the show and what it is really like to work with Jeremy Clarkson!

Richard Porter

In her new book ‘The Children of Jocasta’ Natalie Haynes reimagines the Oedipus and Antigone stories from the perspectives of two of the women who have often been overlooked: Jocasta and Ismene. Natalie combines stand-up comedy with her passion for classical literature and will wow the audience on Thursday evening.

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Border Book Festival

The Family Book Festival runs through Saturday and Sunday with fun for the whole family and an array of children’s authors including Philip Ardagh, Petr Horacek, Guy Bass, Vivian French, and bestselling author Derek Landy.

Entry to the festival site is free and there will be live music, street food, gift stalls and a food village with some fine local produce. There are also free events for children including storytelling, stilt walkers and circus skills.

The festival runs every June, so why not get booked in at a Scottish Borders holiday cottage ready to enjoy the festival in 2018? More information on the Borders Book Festival can be found at http://www.bordersbookfestival.org.

Markus Stitz, Guest Blogger

Scotland – Star of the Silver Screen

The scenery of Scotland plays a starring role in a new film that has just been released. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is directed by Guy Ritchie and stars Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law and Eric Bana in this latest portrayal of the legendary medieval king.

The blockbuster is the latest in a growing number of films to use Scotland’s glorious scenery as a backdrop, a trend that has been accompanied by increasing numbers of tourists searching out the locations of their favourite movies. And no wonder, when you consider some of the locations that have been chosen. From Braveheart and Bond to Outlander, Monty Python and the Da Vinci Code, Scotland could certainly win an Academy Award for its movie settings.

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The wonderful Quiraing, Isle of Skye

The iconic cliff face of the Quiraing on the Trotternish Peninsula on the Isle of Skye is one of the stunning locations in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. It’s a dramatic backdrop that has also featured in the 2015 version of Macbeth and in fantasy movie, Stardust, staring Michelle Pfeiffer. It’s a truly spectacular setting and well worth a visit, even if you haven’t seen the films.

Skye is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides and was voted fourth best island destination in the world by National Geographic magazine. There are activities aplenty on land, including fantastic walking and climbing opportunities, and at sea, plus a host of attractions offering a peak at island’s unique history. Visitors can explore Dunvegan Castle, one of the greatest Hebridean castles and the only one that has been continually occupied by the same family for 800 years. And you can quite literally walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs if you visit the beautiful beach at An Corran, Staffin to see the remarkable footprints that were left by a family of dinosaurs 160 million years ago.

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Mag Findargat

There are lots of beautiful cottages to choose from when you visit Skye including Mag Findargat near Dunvegan. This pet-friendly, contemporary home sleeps 6 people and has large windows that flood the cottage with light and provide wonderful views. It is close to Dunvegan Castle and an easy walk from the award winning Three Chimneys restaurant. Prices start at £575 for 7 nights.

Or you could try Garbh Bheinn, a beautiful cottage overlooking the Sound of Sleat. Stylish and modern, it sleeps up to 7 people and 2 pets, with prices starting at £595 for a week’s stay.

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The Three Sisters, Glen Coe

No article about Scotland’s fantastic film locations would be complete without a mention of Glen Coe, arguably Scotland’s most scenic and historic glen. Its wonderful light and unpolluted atmosphere are loved by film makers from across the globe and it featured prominently in Skyfall, the 23rd Bond movie, starring Daniel Craig, and provided a stunning setting for scenes in Rob Roy and Braveheart.

Glen Coe is a haven for walkers, climbers, mountain bikers and those who simply love to stop, stare and enjoy the sight of the towering mountains. Laraichean at the Pap of Glencoe is the perfect place for doing just that with its upstairs wall of windows leading to a raised deck that has one of the best and most exclusive views across the glen. You can walk straight out of the property onto the hills, or stroll through the woods to the village. Laraichean sleeps 6 and prices start at £550 for 7 nights.

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The view from Laraichean

Laraichean would also be a great base for visiting another of Scotland’s best-known film locations – the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Famous to a generation of Harry Potter fans, the viaduct carried the Hogwarts Express as it transported dozens of eager young wizards to school, stopping off at Glenfinnan station en route. The Jacobite Steam train runs regularly from Glenfinnan to Fort William and Mallaig throughout the summer months, allowing fans to experience their own piece of Potter-magic.

Why not experience the set of some of the movie greats for yourself this year? Just visit our website or call 01835 822277 and speak to our friendly booking team who can help you choose the perfect cottage for your stay.

Adrenalin and Adventure in Mountain Biking Heaven

Scotland is a haven for mountain bikers. Whether you’re just heading out for a few hours of adventure or taking to the tracks for some serious cycling, the country has the forests, hill, glens and awesome scenery to rival any of the world’s mountain biking destinations.

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Photo Courtesy of Stewart Meldrum

One of the most popular places for the sport is the South of Scotland. The area is sometimes overlooked by visitors as they head to the central belt and beyond, but it’s somewhere that mountain bikers in the know return to time after time.

Stretching from the Scottish Borders in the east to Dumfries and Galloway in the west, the area features the famous 7Stanes – a series of mountain bike trail centres comprising a mixture of different graded trails running through fabulous mountains and hills.

One of the most popular is Glentress in the heart of the Tweed Valley near the pretty Borders town of Peebles. The centre boasts a skills area for beginners, plus excellent Green and Blue routes. More experienced mountain bikers will love the Red route with its Spooky Wood descent, as well as the epic 30km Black route.

Adrenaline-junkies can pop along the road to Innerleithen and experience the leg-burning climb and thrilling single track descents of the centre’s XC route, or the exhilarating, ‘extreme’-rated Innerleithen Downhill with its Cresta Run, Matador, Make or Brake and Gold Run sections – definitely not for the faint-hearted.

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Downhill course at Innerleithen – Photo Courtesy of Stewart Meldrum

Further west, in Dumfries and Galloway, another highlight of the 7Stanes is Mabie, just south of Dumfries. It offers something for every level of mountain biking, from peaceful rides through the forest to the 17km Red-graded Phoenix Trail and The Dark Side, a 3.8km orange-rated bike park graded trail that’s strictly for experts.

A recent visitor to the South of Scotland is famous cycling adventurer, Markus Stitz. Born in Germany but now based in Edinburgh, he is known for cycling around the world on a bike with just one gear. Markus recently stayed at Whitmuir Steading Cottage – a delightful converted farm building that sits between Melrose and Selkirk and is surrounded by stunning countryside.

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Markus Stitz on his recent visit to the Whitmuir Estate – Copyright: markusstitz.com

Markus has kindly created some new cycle routes around this beautiful part of the Borders. These Ale Water Trails range from the 9-mile Selkirkshire Ward Route, which is great for beginners and starts and finishes in Selkirk, to the 108 mile Reiver Raid loop that offers 11 hours of exhilarating riding.

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Whitmuir Steading Cottage’s Games Room

Whitmuir Steading Cottage sleeps four people from just £450 for 7 nights and comes complete with a games room and pool table for enjoying downtime together, plus important cycling accessories including bike tools, a puncture repair kit and an air pump. It is one of three of our cottages that are set on the beautiful Whitmuir Estate.

Further north, the hills and glens of the Scottish Highlands also feature some mountain biking treasures including two great routes on the Glenlivet Estate in the heart of Cairngorms National Park just 4 miles from the village of Tomintoul.

The 9km Blue trail is idea for novice or experienced riders and comprises sweeping single track trails and forest roads. It is suitable for families and is great for a bit of wildlife spotting along the way.

The 22km Red route includes sections of the Blue run, but then branches off to take riders across moorland and through woodland on monster climbs and flat-out fast sections. Technical trail features include drop offs, rollers, stone staircases and berms. The centre also has a café, bike hire and bike washing facilities. It is also close to Tomintoul Distillery, if you fancy a wee dram after your ride.

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Cosy Corrunich Cottage

One of our wonderful wilderness retreats, Corrunich Cottage is also close-by. With a previous life as a barn, it has now been lovingly converted into a spacious, open-plan cottage for two people that is warm, light and airy and includes a fitness room with rowing machine, cross trainer, weights and table tennis.

Corrunich Cottage is pet friendly and costs from just £450 for 7 nights.

Find out more about mountain biking breaks or call 01835 822277 and speak to our friendly booking team who can help you choose the perfect cottage for your stay.

Discover Dolphins off Scotland’s Beautiful Coastline

Dolphins have long been amongst the most beloved of all animal stars with documentaries, television programmes and films all focusing on these intelligent, friendly, playful creatures and enchanting people of all ages. So much so, that a BBC poll of the public’s top 50 ultimate ‘things to do’ wish list placed swimming with dolphins in the number one spot.

The best way to enjoy these fascinating creatures has to be through seeing them in the wild. Ecotourism has taken the world by storm, more than trebling in the last 20 years and one of the top countries for dolphin spotting is definitely Scotland.

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Swimming the Seas

Marine research expeditions off the west coast of Scotland recorded record numbers of dolphins last year with over 2,300 common dolphins being sighted. Visitors can get involved both by spotting them from the shore or by taking one of the many Seafari boat trips that are offered from locations including Gairloch, Oban and Crinan.

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Chanonry Point Lighthouse

Scotland’s east coast is also enjoying a dolphin and porpoise boom with sightings occurring from the Fife coastal path south-east of St Andrews to South Queensferry and of course on the highly dolphin populated Moray coast where Chanory Point is regarded as the best location to dolphin spot from the land.

If getting up close to these beautiful animals is something you’d like to experience, we can offer ideal places to stay. The best time to spot dolphins in Scotland is from April to September so now is the perfect time to book a gorgeous holiday cottage as a base for your next ecoadventure.

We have dozens of cottages ideally situated for sealife spotting but have a selected a few that are in particularly prime locations.

The First Officers Quarters forms part of Rua Reidh Lighthouse near Gairloch on the West Coast. Built in 1910 by David Alan Steveson it has a truly spectacular location and this ground floor apartment within the lighthouse has been modernised to create a cosy and comfortable holiday home for up to five guests.

There are views from the property to the Isle of Skye, the Shiant Isles and the Western Isles, cliff top walks and beaches to explore and fantastic wildlife spotting opportunities with whales, dolphins, otters and eagles all regularly seen from the lighthouse wall. A stay in the First Officers Quarters is just £365 for 7 nights – it has three bedrooms and pets are welcomed.

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Mallard Cottage’s Wonderful Location

Also enjoying an enviable location is Mallard Cottage in Tayvallich. Sleeping up to 5 adults this stylish cottage features panoramic views of the marina with a stunning galleried landing and an open plan double height living/dining and kitchen area. Priced from £495 to £795 for week long stays it is just a short drive from Crinan harbour where boat trips are offered for wildlife watching and out to the dramatic Corryvreckan whirlpool.

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Cherry Cottage’s Garden

Alternative options on the east coast include The Old School House that is very close to Chanonry Point) and Cherry Cottage. The Old School House sleeps 8 people in four bedrooms and also welcomes pets. Priced from £550 a week it is set in a secluded location in Rosemarkie in the Black Isle, just 5 minutes from the beach. For a couple, picture perfect Cherry Cottage offers a fabulous romantic retreat and is the ideal place for dolphin spotting with views of the Moray Firth from the garden. The cottage is located near Ardersier by Inverness and costs from £295 to £495 per week.

Peruse our range of cottages or call 01835 822277 and speak to our friendly booking team who will help you choose the perfect accommodation for your Scottish dolphin spotting experience.

Treasure Hunting in Scotland

If you enjoy the thrill of a treasure hunt and also love spending time in the great outdoors, then a break spent ‘geocaching’ in Scotland might just be the thing you need to harness your inner adventurer.

A term first coined in 2000, geocaching is an activity that now boasts millions of devotees all over the globe and is a fantastic, fun way to get people of all ages out and about and enjoying their surroundings.

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One of Many ‘Caches’ to Track Down

All over Scotland, and indeed the world, special boxes or ‘caches’ have been hidden, awaiting discovery. The only equipment you’ll need is a GPS enabled device. Simply log on to the official geocaching site (free) and pop your location into the search box. You’ll then see the coordinates of the ‘caches’ nearby and you can just pick one and off you go.

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Logging Your Visit

Once you find the cache, look inside and sign the log book. You may even find some trinkets to swap, or a stamp to mark your own personal log book before putting the box back for other geocachers to find. All that’s left to do is to log your experience on the geocaching site when you get back. There’s quite a community of geocachers out there, most of whom are keen to share their experiences with fellow treasure hunters and many will have left reviews of their searches for your chosen cache.

Geocaching is a great way to find out more about your own area, or a place you may be visiting. Take Melrose, for example, a beautiful town in the Scottish Borders. A quick look on the geocaching website reveals a host of beautiful walks, amazing scenery and fascinating facts ready to be discovered as you search out your treasure.

As you look for the Rhymers Bridge cache you can learn about the reputed prophet, Thomas the Rhymer and his fairy friends and see where JMW Turner painted a waterfall when visiting Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford in the early 19th century. You could even follow this up with a visit to Abbotsford itself, Sir Walter Scott’s wonderful ‘conundrum caste’ on the banks of the River Tweed on the outskirts of Melrose.

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Hollybank Barn

Wherever you decide to head to on your Scottish geocaching adventures, our cottages make the perfect base. If you do decide to geocache in the Scottish Borders, why not stay in Hollybank Barn in the charming village of Gattonside with its winding lanes and chain footbridge that links the village with the town of Melrose. With a 5 star rating from our guests, it has a chic modern style and sleeps four people. Prices start at £460 for a 7 night stay.

The Trimontium Stone Summerhouse cache is hidden at another fascinating Borders landmark that few people discover on their visit to the region. The Summerhouse is a fascinating little building built with stones taken from a nearby Roman Fort in 1908 and while that wouldn’t be approved of by our modern day preservation standards, it’s fascinating to see and may well whet your appetite for all things Roman and encourage you to find out more about the region’s history in Roman occupied Britain at Melrose’s Trimontium exhibition.

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Eildon Cottage

You could try one of our newest properties, Eildon Cottage in Melrose. This secluded cottage sleeps 4 people and up to 2 pets and is in easy walking distance of Melrose’s many shops, pubs and restaurants. It is ideal for exploring the region and has a lovely wood-burning stove to curl up in front of after your day’s exertions. Prices start at £345 for 7 nights.

Browse our range of cottages that are spread out across the whole of Scotland or call 01835 822277 and speak to our friendly booking team who will help you choose the perfect accommodation for you and your treasure hunting team.

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