Looking for a secluded stay in the sleepy Scottish countryside? Visit Bonchester Bridge!
You may be reading this thinking: where is Bonchester Bridge? Well, it was only a few weeks ago I was asking the same question. I wanted to book a few days away with friends and I was looking for somewhere sleepy, secluded, and tucked into the Scottish countryside. We weren’t too fussy about the location, as long as it wasn’t too far away, and that’s how we ended up at a cutesy cottage Airbnb in the Scottish Borders, at Bonchester Bridge!
I’m not gonna lie, while I’d heard of a few places in the borders, such as Jedburgh, Melrose and Selkirk, I’d never been myself. I also didn’t know much else about the area or what there was to do there. So in short, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from my trip! So what was it like?
Well, the short answer is that the borders is a lovely area. We stayed just outside Bonchester Bridge and the area was peaceful, scenic, and steeped in history. It felt like a step off the hamster wheel into a little pocket of tranquility. If you want to get away from it all, come here!
What are the Scottish Borders known for?
As I mentioned, Bonchester Bridge is located in the borders of Scotland. It’s an area that’s known for its history and is also recognised for a number of things, including…
Back in 1940 nearly one third of the Border’s labour force was employed in the textile industry. The area is famed for its tweeds, tartans, and knitted items, and is even home to Heriot-Watt University’s School of Textiles and Design, which is located in Galashiels. For souvenirs, you’ll find plenty of textiles manufacturers dotted throughout the region.
Annual Common Ridings
You may be wondering what the annual common ridings are. Me too! Well, it’s a tradition that dates all the way back to the 13th and 14th centuries when the area was very much a battleground between the Scottish, the English, and neighbouring clans. In these times of plundering and robbing, the towns would appoint someone to ride around the boundaries of the area to keep an eye out and make sure there were no wannabe trespassers – also known as Border Reivers. This became known as the common ridings and the practice is celebrated in the borders towns today, albeit with a bit more pomp and pageantry!
Like a bit of Scottish history? This area is absolutely jammed with it! Selkirk is one of the region’s oldest towns and it was in the town parish where William Wallace was named Guardian of Scotland. Continuing the Braveheart theme, the heart of Robert the Bruce is buried at nearby Melrose. Plus, Mary Queen of Scots stayed in Jedburgh for a short time.
How to get to Bonchester Bridge
There aren’t very much train stations in the Scottish Borders. In fact, the nearest train station is at Galashiels – and you’d still need to get two buses after that. So while it’s by no means impossible, if you’re travelling to Bonchester Bridge it’s probably easier to travel by car. It really is tucked away into the Scottish countryside, so if you want to visit some of the other nearby towns and villages it does just give you a bit more flexibility.
Bonchester Bridge from Edinburgh
It’ll take you one hour 25 minutes via the A68
Bonchester Bridge from Glasgow
It’ll take you two hours one minute via the M8 and A68
Bonchester Bridge from Dundee
It’ll take you two hours 24 minutes via the M90 and A68
Where to stay at Bonchester Bridge
We stayed at Fairule Cottage in Bonchester Bridge, which we booked through Airbnb. It was absolutely gorgeous – if you’re into the cottagecore vibe then it really doesn’t get much better than this. Nestled into the picturesque Scottish countryside, expect rolling hills, patchwork fields, nature, and beautiful scenery all on your doorstep. There’s even a field next door where you’ll find a cute little Shetland pony called Sparky roaming around.
It’s a two-bedroom bungalow and can accommodate up to five guests. There’s a large master, a bedroom with bunk beds, and another pull-out bed that can accommodate a small adult. My sister slept on it and said it was totally fine. There were five of us staying so we used all the beds, so even though the bunk beds weren’t totally ideal they did the job!
The living room is vast with a large dining table, a comfy leather sofa, and the much-needed open fire. There’s just something about an open fire when you’re on holiday, right? This was a great hang out zone for us and our spot to chill after a long walk and play board games. But I’ve saved the best bit until last… the garden and the hot tub!
There’s a large garden that wraps all the way around the house, with a lush green lawn around the front which was the perfect spot for throwing the ball around for the dog, if you bring one. There’s also a hot tub out the back, which you can arrange to be pre-lit. The surrounding scenery is so pretty, it was great to be able to enjoy it from the hot tub!
There’s also a bag of treats on arrival and shampoo and conditioner for all guests.
My favourite Fairule Cottage features:
- Two bedrooms
- Up to five guests
- Large living room
- Lovely garden
- Hot tub
- Open fire
- Park on premises
- Scenic surroundings
I’m a big fan of staying in Airbnbs when I go away – it’s easier with the dog and I love having more space to spread out in. It’s also really sociable if you’re away with friends.
If you’d like to read about my perfect Airbnb packing list then I’ve written a full post on the subject here. Trust me, if you don’t pack a pair of slippers you’ll be disappointed!
What to do near Bonchester Bridge?
Climb Bonchester Hill
There are plenty of nice walks right on your doorstep. You’ll be able to see the grandiose Rubers Law on one side of the cottage, which could be an option if you’re feeling particularly energetic. As the weather wasn’t that great we decided to cut through the local farm (the one belonging to the owners of the cottage) and climb the slightly smaller Bonchester Hill. We passed by sheep as well as some horses in the nearby fields, which trotted over to see us – I think they were pretty disappointed when the saw we were empty handed. It was also while we were out walking that we clocked Gatehousecote Lake…
Go wild swimming at Gatehousecote Lake
We discovered this artificial lake during our walk on the first day, and so we made sure we headed back the next day with our swimming gear. There’s a picnic bench, small wooden pier, and even a spot where you can have a barbeque – so it really is designed as a spot to hang out in. It was lovely and the lush countryside just makes it even more scenic.
Not gonna lie, I was a little apprehensive about the temperature of the water. However, it it was a LOT warmer than the sea, so even without a wetsuit it was perfectly tolterable. It isn’t deep and swimming is completely at your own risk, so that’s something to keep in mind. However, I really enjoyed it – there’s nothing more invigorating than wild swimming!
We didn’t have a huge amount of time to explore Jedburgh as we were booked into see the Abbey, which I’ll talk more on below, but what I did see I thought was absolutely enchanting! So what should you know about Jedburgh? Is Jedburgh worth visiting? What are the best bits? Well, it’s absolutely worth visiting! It’s a former royal burgh and lies a mere 10 miles away from the English border. One of the most notable locations is the truly stunning Jedburgh Abbey – but it’s not the only place you should stop by.
Unfortunately, a lot of the tourist attractions were closed when we were there, but here’s a quick run through of the highlights in case you want to plan your trip…
- Jedburgh Abbey
- Mary Queen of Scots’ Visitor Centre
- Jedburgh Castle Jail & Museum
So, Jedburgh Abbey is one of the big four abbeys located in the Scottish Borders, along with Kelso, Dryburgh, and Melrose. Founded in the 12th century, it’s unusual in the sense that it combines both gothic and Romanesque element in its architecture. This is because it took so long to build – around 70 years in fact – that architecture trends simply moved on. Although you can’t enter the nave you can still appreciate its pointed gothic grandeur, while the arched windows and columns mean it certainly delivers on the ‘wow’ factor.
The abbey ebbs and flows with history, from its Augustinian roots to its later destruction at the hands of English soldiers, which came as retribution for one of William Wallace’s attacks in 1297. As you wander around you’ll also see the ruins of all the various spaces in the abbey, from the refectory to the kitchens to the cellars, which give a sense of what it was like to live in the space. You can take a deep dive with an audio tour available to download, but I enjoyed simply moseying around and soaking up the views at leisure.
That said, the visitor centre has a few really interesting nuggets of information, such as what time the brethren had to get up at and what their diet was like. If you’re looking for a peaceful hour or so contemplating a rich historical building, definitely book a visit!
Jedburgh Abbey price £3 per visitor (make sure you book a time slot in advance)
Where to eat at Bonchester Bridge
The Horse and Hound Country Inn
We ate in for the first two nights of our trip, but on the last night we opted to go out. I’d been doing some research and the Horse and Hound at Bonchester Bridge gets great reviews! It was about a half hour walk along a country road with no path from our cottage – and we had to contend with lots of annoying flies buzzing in our faces. However, it was definitely worth it when we turned the corner and saw the Horse and Hound Country Inn. Set next to a picturesque stone bridge and opposite some cute cottages it really is the perfect spot!
We’d booked a table as I wasn’t sure if it would be busy or not. However, we pretty much had the place to ourselves when we arrived. I mean, it was at 5.30pm on a Wednesday, so not that surprising! We were there early so we could rush back and watch the Euros!
What is the food like at the Horse and Hound?
Well, it’s pub grub – but it’s pub grub done good. You can expect to find all the usual suspects on the menu. Steak pie, fish and chips, mac ’n’ cheese, as well as a few other contenders. The owner (I think it was the owner anyway!) came out to say hello and he recommended the grilled haddock with a cream cheese and dill sauce. He said you definitely wouldn’t regret it, so I ordered it and he was right. It was super yummy!
Some of our group ordered desserts – the Malibu and pineapple cheesecake which was one of their specials – but I opted for a Bailey’s liqueur coffee. It’s always a winner! The service was really attentive and the food was great, so I’d definitely recommend it.
What are the opening times at the Horse and Hound?
Well, they’re open for evening meals every day, but they don’t serve lunch every day. You can get lunch on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but not Tuesdays or Thursdays.
Have a look at their website for the opening hours in detail.