Celebrate St Andrew's Day at Abbotsford

Abbotsford in all its glory


Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, will open its doors for a free celebration of St Andrew’s Day on Monday (10-4pm, 30 Nov), with drop-in activities suitable for all the family. The day will see face painting, arts and crafts activities, special family guided tours, storytelling and a birds of prey display.

It’s a wonderful chance to experience the many different faces of this fascinating house and estate. Visitors will be able to enter competitions to win family passes; build dens in the play trail; take a guided estate walk with the ranger; or simply take in the remarkable beauty of this iconic literary house.

Refreshments will be available in Abbotsford’s Ochiltrees restaurant, which offers lovely views over the walled garden and the historic house. Likewise, the visitor centre shop will be open throughout to purchase souvenirs crafted by local makers, or maybe to find that special Christmas gift ahead of the rush.

The day promises to be a great opportunity for families and the community to learn about Sir Walter Scott’s ‘conundrum castle’. “If you have ever wondered what Abbotsford has to offer families, or been curious about the incredible story of Sir Walter Scott, then now is the time to find out!” said Abbotsford’s Chief Executive Officer, Giles Ingram.



Christmas at the Macdonald Cardrona


The Macdonald Cardrona Hotel & Golf Spa has got Christmas and New Year more than covered this year, with guests invited to come and enjoy a variety of celebratory events over the festive period.

On Christmas Day, there will be a mouthwatering traditional festive carvery lunch for all the family in the hotel's Manderston Suite (£70.50 adult, £30.50 child 12-16 years, £19 per child 5-11 years, under 5s free) that will include a special appearance from Santa.

There is also an opportunity to take the stress out of Christmas Day entertaining with a special adults-only lunch in the elegant surroundings of Renwicks Restaurant (pictured). Just sit back, relax and enjoy a Christmas Day with real panache (2-4pm, £80.50 per person).

And, after a brief pause, the hotel is also gearing up for some exciting celebrations over Hogmanay. The hotel's one-night package (from £225.50 per person) sees a malt whisky and festive tea on arrival on New Year’s Eve, an exquisite black-tie ball (which includes a champagne cocktail, extravagant four-course meal and a brilliant ceilidh band and disco), plus a bucks fizz or Irn-Bru brunch the following morning.

For more details on these and other offers, visit:


Film festival launches short film competition

Lee Craigie shot on a wild journey from Dundonnel to Poolewe

Image: Lee Craigie (one of the speakers at the 2016 festival) shot on a wild journey from Dundonnel to Poolewe


Peebles Outdoor Film Festival 2016 has launched a competition for short films that capture the excitement, adventure, or just sheer natural beauty of life out-of-doors. The winners of the Outdoor Shorts competition will be chosen both by a panel of expert judges and a public vote during the festival, which runs over the weekend of 22–24 January.

Film makers of all ages are invited to submit outdoor-themed films, either documentary or fictional work, of no more than five minutes duration that demonstrate creatively, originality and story-telling skill. Films should explore the theme of life out-of-doors – perhaps an adventure, journey, story, personal experience, or portrait of a person or place.

Films can be submitted in either of two categories, under 18 and open, with two prizes awarded in each category. The deadline for submitting films is midday on Friday 8 January.

During the festival, a viewing facility will be set up in the Eastgate Theatre from 2pm on Friday 22 January until 2pm on Sunday 24 January, during which time festival-goers will be able to view all short-listed films. All entrants in the Outdoor Shorts competition will be invited to attend the short film session, Wild World, on Sunday 24 January between 6.15 and 7pm, when the prize winners will be announced and their films shown on the big screen at the Eastgate.

The inaugural Peebles Outdoor Film Festival took place in February this year, with an outstanding programme of films and speakers that was enthusiastically received by audiences. The 2016 event – the full programme for which will be officially launched at the end of November – will be even stronger still, with a fantastic line-up of top-quality speakers, adventure films, hands-on sessions and a mini-exhibition in the café area, as well as the Outdoor Shorts competition.

An entry form and full guidelines for entrants to the Outdoor Shorts competition can be found at

The Peebles Outdoor Film Festival runs from 22–24 January 2016. Full details on this year’s programme, including booking information, will be available soon from the Eastgate Theatre Box Office and online. 


Eastgate Theatre stages world premiere set in the Borders


On Saturday 31 October, the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles will stage the world premiere of a brand new play that is a must-see for anyone with an interest in Borders history – in particular a textile industry that was the beating heart of the area for so many years.

Threads, the latest production from award-winning theatre company Stellar Quines, tells the seemingly simple story of five women in a Borders knitting group. But there is far more to it than that. The play opens with the five women getting together as usual, although this time, as they blether, their stories burst into life – amazing, colourful lives filled with laughter, songs, moments of intense sadness, and even dancing. 

Threads was inspired by detailed research into the lives of Borders knitters and the stories told by women workers in the textile industry. “It all began with a project about women and knitting,” explained writer Sylvia Dow. “We joined in with a knitting group in Hawick for around ten weeks. The play weaves together some of the stories we heard there and some historical stories so that it becomes like a piece of knitting itself.”

“It’s not really a conventional play … one character is talking, then another one goes back – like a conversation,” continued director Muriel Romanes. “I knew that, somehow, we had to evoke the sound of the machinery in the mills; I wanted the sound of the engine of the knitting, not just hand knitting but the machinery, so we came up with clogging, step dancing that kind of sound to provide those rhythms.”

And the songs really underline the themes of the play, added Sylvia. “It’s about women, work, knitting and the whole thread of life – all with a real Borders flavour throughout.”

Threads certainly takes strands of different lives and weaves them into an intricate pattern. A central character, Agnes’ story is based on the real life of a young mother in the late 1800s whose sister works in the local mill in Hawick. Desperate to feed her five children, Agnes and her sister steal no less than 479 yards of yarn to sell. But they are discovered and Agnes is sent to Jedburgh jail.

Agnes is played by multi-award winning actor Molly Innes. Annie Grace plays Mrs Gaughain who, in real life, was the owner of an Emporium on George Street selling wool and other haberdashery to the good ladies of Edinburgh. The cast also includes Joanna Tope as Mary, Paksie Vernon as Lucy and Pauline Knowles as Hattie.

Projected images of mills, mill girls and the redoubtable Edinburgh Emporium form a backdrop to the live action in the play. The stories are interspersed with step dance, live music and traditional songs as the women knit together a very particular time and place in Borders history.

Further info

Threads opens at the Eastgate Theatre, Peebles on Saturday 31 October at 7.30pm. Tickets are £12, £10, £5 for schoolchildren. Available now on 01721 725777 or

The play then tours:

Monday 2 November, 7.30pm, Barony Theatre, Bo’ness, t. 07811 156234

Tuesday 3 November, 7.30pm, Yarrow Fues Hall, t. 07774 683064

Thursday 5 November, 7.30pm, MacArts, Galashiels,

Friday 6 November, 7.30pm, Heart of Hawick,

Saturday 7 November, 7.30pm, Smailholm Village Hall, t. 01573 460666



Spooky goings-on at Traquair


Halloween will be celebrated in style at Traquair House this year with several ghoulish events at the end of October and into November. Traquair’s commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the 1715 Jacobite Uprising continues when the annual ghost tour of the castle includes some Jacobite ghosts who return to tell stories of adventure and escape having put their lives on the line to fight for the cause.  

The Jacobite ghost tours (Fri 30 and Sat 31 Oct, plus Fri 6 and Sat 7 Nov) ensure an atmospheric visit to Traquair and a perfect way to embrace the spirit of Halloween. Be on your guard for the odd unexpected surprise and then relax in the comfort of the eighteenth century dining room with a glass of mulled wine. 

Families will also love the annual Halloween Fun Day on Sun 1 November, which runs as part of this year’s Tweed Valley Forest Festival. Visitors are encouraged to dress up in their finest Halloween gear as they enjoy a range of great entertainment. This year’s event features the award-winning, mind-reading magician Kevin McMahon, plus workshops with Zoolab who will be bringing all sorts of creatres along, including tarantulas and snakes.

The fun day will also feature traditional Halloween games including apple dookin’ and treacle doughnut catching, a spooky scavenger hunt, ghoulish face painting and a wizard and witches workshop. And for those who dare, take a trip down the famous spooky passage for a very ghostly experience or listen to some ghoulish tales in the library.

The 1745 Cottage Restaurant will be serving Halloween suppers on the nights of the ghost tours as well as delicious lunches and teas every day until the end of October.


Further info

Ghost tour: Adults £12.00, children £8.00 (combined tour and supper ticket £24.00). Tours suitable for 8yrs and over. Call Box Office on 01896 830323.

Halloween Fun Day: Adults £8.00, child/concessions £4.00. Family (two adults and up to three children) £20.00. Tickets on the gate only for this event.


New faces at Abbotsford

Jams Holloway, New Chair of Board of Trustees, Abbotsford Trust


The Abbotsford Trust, which looks after Sir Walter Scott’s historic former home near Melrose, has appointed James Holloway CBE as Chairman of the Board of Trustees. In addition, the Trust has also appointed two new Trustees, David McClay and Matthew Maxwell Scott.

James Holloway has been on the Board of Trustees at Abbotsford since February 2013 having retired in 2012 as Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, where he oversaw a £17.6 million revamp of the historic Edinburgh attraction. James has lectured and had numerous articles published on Scottish art and collections, and is Honorary Curator of the National Trust for Scotland. 

“I’ve long been a huge fan of Sir Walter Scott and for me Abbotsford is one of the most special places there is,” commented James. “It is a very great privilege to be part of the team that will care for and develop the house and estate in the years ahead, helping our visitors get to know one of Scotland’s most remarkable and inspiring citizens.”

James succeeds Lord Sanderson of Bowden as Chairman, who remains on the Board of Trustees.

The Board of The Abbotsford Trust operates on a voluntary basis and has a mission to preserve, protect and improve Abbotsford and enhance knowledge and understanding about the life and works of Sir Walter Scott. Since it was formed in 2007, the Trust has raised over £12 million to safeguard Abbotsford’s future, although fundraising continues with an additional £2.5 million being raised to create an endowment to secure the attraction’s future running costs. Donations made are being matched pound for pound by the Heritage Lottery Fund under its Catalyst Endowment Programme.



Traquair Fair goes State-side


Traquair Fair, one of Scotland’s best-loved family events, returns on 1-2 August with a spectacular Americana theme that sees a vast range of live music, street theatre, film, dance and workshops for all ages.

With the Americana theme running through the entire weekend, the Wineglass lawn at Traquair House will play host to some great Wild West cowboy antics from Martell’s Raiders, with whip-cracking, knife-throwing and other feats. Rather more tongue-in-cheek is the hilarious Calamity Jane who will present her own show, including lasso line dancing!

Elsewhere, all sorts of fun will be had with Elvis Presley, a full-on talent show, Michael Angelo (stilt-man extraordinaire) and various Wild West characters, complete with trusty steeds. 

Up in the courtyard, there will be traditional Appalachian clog dance, storytelling, plus performances of Kapow – a new high-octane show from the award-winning Two Faced Dance Company that sees Batman, Superman and Spiderman come to terms with modern-day life. It’s not easy, even for superheroes. And an Americana theme would not be complete without some professional cheerleaders from Elite Pro Dance.

And there are great tunes, too. The music stage will see a fantastic line-up of bands covering everything from bluegrass to country and soul. Highlights include New York-based Curtis Eller’s American Circus, and Brooks Williams, a singer-songwriter from Georgia. There will also be plenty of homegrown talent in the shape of Scotland’s Dean Owens & The Whisky Hearts; foot-stomping music from Glasgow-based rootsy band, The Chaplins; blues from the eight-piece Blueswater; Edinburgh-based soul kings, Rising Souls; and the Borders’ own country favourites, The Frequent Flyers with Kathy Stewart.

Meanwhile, children of all ages will be dazzled with top-quality entertainment, from theatre and puppet shows to circus workshops, swing boats, face painting and even a rodeo bull!

Out in front of the house there will be a display of classic American cars and motorbikes, while up in the house there will be showings of some classic American movies. 

In addition to all the entertainment, there will also be crafts, fantastic foods from around the world, local food producers and workshops, including felt making, stone carving, green wood working and, of course, how to lasso!

Further information

The Traquair Fair, 1-2 August. Camping available on site. For full programme details, and to buy tickets, visit



Summer courses from Ridelines


Summer is here and Visit Tweed Valley member Ridelines is back with a whole range of special events and skills courses, from riding for kids and beginners to honing racing skills and UKMBLA Level 2 Leadership Training. Here goes with the full line-up:

11/12 July – UKMBLA Level 2 Leadership Training

National Governing Body MTB leadership award delivered right here in the Tweed Valley.

Sat 18 July – Level 1 (Beginner) Skills Course

Aimed at those new to mountain biking, the focus is on the basic skills that a beginner needs to build solid foundations into their riding.

Sun, 19 July – Level 2 (Intermediate) Skills Course for Improvers

Designed for riders who want to improve their technique to achieve greater speed and improved confidence and control on all but the most challenging of trails.

21, 22, 23 July and again on 28, 29, 30 July – Summer kids courses

These sessions are designed to be progressive so during the block your young rider will get a whole suite of skills to enhance their riding, confidence and control.​ If you worry they can't keep up, want them to get some top quality riding skills, or want to teach your young rider how to keep it under control even when they're flying, then these courses are ideal. Huge fun all round for kids aged 7–14.

Sat, 25 July – Innerduro Core Skills

Former British Downhill Champion Jess Stone gets your riding mojo working overtime to find extra technical skill and boost confidence when riding testing Enduro trails. Ideal for riders exploring Enduro racing and for those who just want to build speed and confidence on more challenging trails.

Sat, 25 July – Women’s Workshops

Courses designed specifically for female riders and run by our female instructors. If you want to build confidence in the air or when the going gets tough on the ground (or both), the women’s workshops are ideal. The courses are run in an inclusive, supportive and testosterone-free environment!

Saturday 9 August – Jumpstart

Understand the techniques and skills needed to reduce your risks and give you the skills and confidence to get your wheels off the ground! If you have always fancied learning to jump and ride smoother on fast trails then this course will get you off to a great start.

Places on all courses are limited, so be sure to book early to secure the tuition of your choice. To book or for further details, contact Andy Weir at, or visit

Photograph: Ridelines


Kingsmuir House scoops top tourism award

Malcolm and Karen Malarkey (centre) receive their award at the ceremony in London


Kingsmuir House, a boutique bed and breakfast in Peebles, has added to the roster of award-winning accommodation in the Tweed Valley by winning the prestigious title of AA Guest Accommodation of the Year for Scotland 2015/16. The accolade was announced at an awards ceremony in London on 12 May.

Situated on the south side of the River Tweed, close to Peebles town centre, Kingsmuir House has been transformed by owner Malcolm Malarkey (pictured centre with his wife, Karen) from a once neglected Victorian hotel into a stylish and thriving bed and breakfast. Accommodation is in the form of two large, luxurious suites, while guests are also treated to exquisite breakfasts, plus a regularly-changing dinner menu for days when the main local restaurants are closed.

Since opening Kingsmuir House three years ago, Malcolm has aimed to combine the warmth of a B&B with the comfort, style and luxury of an intimate hotel – a commitment that has not gone unnoticed.

“This is a real achievement and I’m so proud that the quality, attention to detail and customer service that we provide to guests from all over the world have been recognised in this way,” commented Malcolm. “It’s not just an overnight stay at Kingsmuir House – I believe it’s the whole experience that matters. I’ve worked hard over the last three years to raise the bar and make each stay a special, memorable occasion for our guests.”

Kingsmuir House is one of the most recent members of the Tweed Valley Tourist Consortium and Chair, Catherine Maxwell Stuart, offered her own hearty congratulations: “We’re delighted that one of our newest members has won this hugely prestigious award,” commented Catherine. “It’s a real testament to three years of extremely hard work and the commitment to outstanding customer service that underpins the quality that we aim to promote in the Tweed Valley. Many congratulations to all.”

Further info

Find out more about this award-winning B&B here

And don’t forget to check out the many other outstanding accommodation options in the Tweed Valley.


50 up at Traquair House Brewery

The special-edition Traquair 50 ale


Connoisseurs of craft ales have another reason to head to Traquair House this year, with the ancient on-site brewery celebrating 50 years of brewing with the launch of Traquair 50 – a limited edition ale (just 20,000 bottles) packaged in a specially-designed bottle.

The brewery has come a long way since 1965 when Peter Maxwell Stuart, the 20th Laird of Traquair, first made an extraordinary discovery in the eighteenth century wing of the house: a complete brew house and tun room had been left untouched for over a century, and used as the family junk store.

Having uncovered the original vessels and then cleaned and restored the equipment, he decided to try his hand at brewing. Together with his friend Sandy Hunter, then owner of Belhaven Brewery, the pair came up with a recipe for a traditional ‘wee heavy’, the orginal Traquair House Ale. The beer was first brewed in 1965 and is still available at Traquair today.

Fast forward a half-century and Traquair has built a world-wide reputation as an iconic Scottish ale with a unique heritage and rarity value. It was even voted 20th best brewery in the world by, an American consumer website.

To celebrate this half-century of brewing, Peter’s daughter, Catherine, who now runs the brewery, has produced the Traquair 50. With an ABV 9%, it’s not a beer to be taken lightly, but is nonetheless a smooth, dark and well-balanced ale. 

“We’ve had a tradition of producing ‘specials’ down the years which have become real collector’s items and the Traquair 50 will be no exception,” commented Catherine. “The oak fermentation gives our ales a depth and complexity that gives the beers their unique character. With a guaranteed shelf life of 10 years, you can keep this bottle in your cellar for some time!”

The Traquair 50 is now available from Traquair House, which is open daily until the end of October, as well as from selected independent retailers.

Further info

As well as one-off specials, Traquair House Brewery produces three bottled ales: Traquair House Ale ABV 7.2%; Traquair Jacobite Ale ABV 8%; and Traquair Bear Ale ABV 5%. For much more info, visit



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