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THE LOTHIANS AND THE BORDERS
Edinburgh and the Lothians – capital city and capital countryside.
Edinburgh's main attraction is the Castle, but there are many more visitor attractions worth a visit – the fabulous National Museum of Scotland, Dynamic Earth, Gladstone’s Land, the Museum of Childhood, the Royal Yacht Britannia and the Royal Botanic Garden. You don’t need to be based in the city to enjoy its benefits – there are holiday parks on the outskirts and several in East Lothian. There is a good train service to Edinburgh from North Berwick and Dunbar, so you don't have the hassle of parking and you can use the Edinburgh Bus Tour to get around.
At the harbour in North Berwick is the Scottish Seabird Centre, where live cameras allow you to see up close not only thousands of seabirds (gannets and puffins) on the Bass Rock, but also grey seals. Along the coast and especially near Dunbar, there are coastal paths and a choice of sandy beaches in the John Muir Park. Not far from Edinburgh is Glenkinchie Distillery, one of Discovering Distlleries' best! Enjoy a tour and a dram.
Now that winter is here, several of the castles are hibernating for the winter, but there is one rather magnificent place of major historical interest which is open - Rosslyn Chapel. The"Da Vinci Code" made it world-famous but there is so much more to study and to marvel at in the sumptuous carvings. www.rosslynchapel.org.uk/ It's not a problem if you don't have a car, there is a good bus service to within 5 minutes of the chapel.
If castles are your main interest, then visit Tantallon Castle perched on the cliff-top near North Berwick or Dirleton Castle and Garden and, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Newhailes, an outstanding example of an 18th/19th century grand manor, where much of the original furnishings have been preserved.
Golfers also find this area one of the most appealing in Scotland, with both links and parkland courses, including Muirfield and Gullane, and, whilst it may be difficult for you to get a tee-off time on the former, Gullane and several other courses in the area welcome visitors.
The Borders stretches from the east coast right across to the M74 in the west and takes in wild moorland and remote castles, such as Hermitage, near Newcastleton. Other castles and historic houses are easier to reach – Manderston,, Abbotsford and Traquair, a few miles from Peebles - visited by 27 Scottish monarchs, is an important historic house. The gardens and abbeys are worth visiting; make sure you include Kailzie on your trip, as well as Dawyck Botanic Garden, and Priorwood Garden in Melrose, with traditional apple trees. In the 12th century, King David I of Scotland, founded several abbeys and eight hundred years later, although now magnificent ruins, they can still be admired – Kelso, Dryburgh, Jedburgh and Melrose, where the heart of Robert the Bruce lies buried in a special casket.
National Trust for Scotland: In Edinburgh visit Gladstone's Land and the Georgian House and see the different styles of living in the Old Town and the New Town. Nearby is the magnificent mansion of Newhailes in Musselburgh, as is Inveresk Lodge Garden. In the countryside you can visit Preston Mill, a charming place, complete with millpond. In the Borders there is a complete contrast between Harmony Gardens in Melrose and Robert Smail's in Innerleithen, with its Victorian printing works. For information call 0844 493 2100 or check www.nts.org.uk Now that winter is here not everywhere is open, so it's best to check.
Historic Scotland: In the Borders are the abbeys of Dryburgh, Melrose and Jedburgh, and Hermitage Castle and Smailholm Tower recall the days of the swash-buckling Border Reivers. The Borders' Explorer Pass is great value for money at just £31 for two adults plus up to six children. Available from the Historic Scotland properties in the Borders or at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/explorer
View the Thistle Holiday Parks in Edinburgh, the Lothians & the Borders