Category Archives: Events

Scottish Borders Saddles Up

Towns and villages across the Scottish Borders are gearing up for the upcoming season of special events and one of the area’s most spectacular traditions – the Common Ridings.

Hundreds of horses and riders will turn out in 11 separate festivals to take part in each town’s annual ride-out – a celebration of the centuries old riding of the Boundaries. The tradition harks back to the days when the magistrates and burgesses of the town made an annual inspection of the various markers that outlined the ground belonging to the town. Each town has its own special week of events each summer that combines with various ride-outs with parades, music and song.

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Jedburgh Callants Festival

The rides are the most spectacular element of each festival and can over 300 horses and riders gallop across open fields, through rivers and up hillsides and parade through town centres behind an elected principal rider that bears the town flag as they follow the historic boundary lines. They can last anywhere from four to ten hours and often include a ceremonial element.

It’s an amazing sight, with almost everyone from each town turning out to cheer on the riders and wish them luck and a safe journey with the phrase – ‘Safe Oot, Safe In!’ Many of the rides start first thing in the morning so if you want to see them for yourself, you’ll need to be prepared for an early start.

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Galloping Across the Fields

Hawick is the first of the larger town ride-outs and this year’s Common Riding Festival takes place from 5 to 11 June, with the main ride-out being held on Friday, 10 June 2016.

In Hawick the traditional ride-out is combined with a commemoration of the young men who successfully defended Hawick from a raiding party at the Battle of Hornshole in 1514. Following the disastrous Battle of Flodden in 1513, where all Hawick’s menfolk between the ages of 16 and 60 were killed, it was heard that a raiding party was approaching and the young men of Hawick decided to defend their town. They surprised and defeated the invaders who had camped at Hornshole, taking their banner and riding triumphantly back to town. Although small in scale, the victory was a huge boost to the town’s pride after the Flodden defeat.

The main ride outs for each town take place on the dates below, although dates should be confirmed before travel:

  • West Linton – Saturday, 4 June 2016
  • Hawick – Friday, 10 June 2016
  • Selkirk – Friday, 17 June 2016
  • Melrose – Monday, 13 June 2016
  • Peebles – Wednesday, 22 June 2016
  • Galashiels – Saturday, 2 July 2016
  • Jedburgh – Friday, 8 July 2016
  • Duns – Saturday, 9 July 2016
  • Kelso – Saturday, 23 July 2016
  • Langholm – Friday, 29 July 2016
  • Coldstream – Thursday, 4 August 2016
  • Lauder – Saturday 6, August 2016

These events are the most familiar example of the heritage and traditions of the Scottish Borders but the region is also filled with stunning countryside and history and makes a wonderful holiday destination at any time of the year.

We have a selection of fabulous cottages in gorgeous locations in the area, ranging from romantic retreats for two, to beautiful family friendly cottages that are perfect for a relaxing break or a larger family get-together. We even have some properties that allow you to bring along your own horse, should you fancy riding in some of the beautiful countryside yourself.

Click here to discover more or call 01835 822277 where a member of our friendly team will have lots of suggestions of great places in the region for you to stay.

Come Rally Round!

Throughout history there have been plenty of famous people who have hailed from Scotland.  Rightly so, many of them have become local heroes who are celebrated and remembered by their fellow Scots in various different ways.  Jim Clark is one such star who lives on in the hearts of his countrymen, and back in 1970 an event was started which ensures he will to continue to do so for generations to come.

The Jim Clark Rally, near ChirnsideIf you’ve never heard of Jim Clark, then suffice it to say that he was one of the best formula one racing drivers of all time.  His versatile driving style lead him to become twice world champion, no small feat for a lad who grew up on a farm not far from the Berwickshire town of Duns.

Sadly, Jim Clark died in a racing accident in Germany when his car veered off the track and crashed in some trees; however, the annual Rally that commemorates this short but exciting life ensures that the legend lives on.

Jim Clark action in the Scottish BordersOver the past 40 years the Jim Clark Rally has grown to become one of the biggest motor sport events in the UK, attracting drivers and spectators from all around the world.  The course winds its way through the beautiful Scottish Borders countryside in and around where Jim Clark grew up, providing a suitable challenge for those who wish the follow in the great man’s footsteps.  For the less intrepid, there are plenty of places on the various stages where you can admire others’ driving skills and get a great vantage point for watching the action.

This year the Jim Clark Rally begins on Friday 27th of May and provides a great weekend of entertainment for motor-sport lovers and those, like me, who secretly wish they could have been rally drivers themselves!  Spectator packs are available from the Jim Clark Rally official website, were you can also find more information about the event, as well as a collection of photos that demonstrate the thrills and spills of the last few years.

Something novel…

I’m of the opinion that reading is definitely ‘medicine for the soul’ and that a good book can transport you to another place, a world away from any worries or stress.  Whether it be a gritty crime mystery, a heartwarming romance, an epic historical thriller or a light hearted comedic satire, there are books suit every taste.

Melrose Abbey, Scottish Borders.Avid readers like myself will, no doubt, be delighted to hear that once a year, in the pretty Border town of Melrose, lovers of literature congregate for a celebration of the diversity and enduring appeal of the written word.

If, when you think of books and reading, the image of a dusty old library with a misery guts of a curator sharply ‘shhh-ing’ you for the slightest sound springs to mind, then prepare to be surprised!

The Borders Book Festival has a relaxing, jovial, carnival type atmosphere, which is both exciting and exhilarating!  In fact, you would be hard pushed to find such a wide collection of witty, intelligent, imaginative people all in one place at one time!  But it is one factor which unites them all and that’s a love of all things literary!

Borders Book Festival 2011, Melrose, Scottish Borders.With a range of events taking place from the 16th to the 19th of June, the Borders Book Festival offers something for everyone, no matter your age or interest.  The festival attracts famous names such as presenter Peter Snow, broadcaster and journalist Michael Parkinson, impressionist and playwright Rory Bremner, comedian Rory McGrath and actor Larry Lamb, to name just a few.

The event is eminently family friendly, and children (of all ages) can have fun while they learn about the Murderous Maths of Everything, create their own story in the Mazes and Monster Workshop or just sit back and enjoy the free Storytime sessions.

So, if you agree that sometimes there is nothing better than curling up with a novel, then why not check out theVisit Melrose, Self Catering Cottages Scotland. Borders Book Festival this year and join an exceptional celebration of the written word in some truly beautiful Scottish surroundings?

Self Catering Cottages in Melrose >

More about the Borders Book Festival >

Here’s a video about the venue where the festival is held (it refers to the 2009 festival, but will be held at the same place this year), I hope to see you there! >

Calling all Foodies!

May joins us this year with the sun shining and a pleasant warmth which promises that it going to be a fantastic summer weather wise, and I for one am looking forward to the opportunities that dry and warm conditions offer!

Indulging in a little (or in my case a lot of) alfresco eating is one of my favourite ways to spend the long, warm summer evenings; especially if the food is something a wee bit more special than your normal barbeque cuisine of charcoaled sausages and bedraggled burgers.

I find that one of the best ways to get exciting recipe ideas for mouth-watering meals that are perfect for outside dining is to attend one of the many food festivals that take place throughout Scotland.  With a variety of fresh local produce, Scotland’s food fairs and festivals are a celebration of all that is great about Scottish fare and a brilliant chance to pick up some interesting (and tasty) tips to spice up your summer eating.

Whether you fancy trying something completely different like venison jerky with a wild garlic salad, or want to put an interesting new twist on old favourite by adding the award winning Crittel Cheese to your burger rather than a bog standard slice, Scotland’s food fairs and festivals are an ideal place to get inspiration.

One such festival takes place later this month in Argyll, on the banks of Loch Fyne.

The Loch Fyne Food Fair is a two-day celebration of west coast food, with the star of the show being the world famous Loch Fyne Oysters.  These are known for their superb taste which is in large part due to the exceptional cleanliness and quality of the loch in which they grow (that and the fact they’re so fresh).  Fortunately, if you can’t make it up to Loch Fyne on the 14th or 15th of this month, you can sample this exquisite local delicacy all year round at the Cairndow Oyster Bar and Restaurant which is open 7 days a week.

See cottages near Loch Fyne >

More Scottish food festivals >

The water of life

With the extended May bank holiday weekend pending, lovers of good whisky will be delighted to hear that the date coincides with this year’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.  Running from this Thursday (28th) to the Monday May-day bank holiday, it offers 5 days of whisky, food, music and fun throughout the Speyside region.

A wide variety of events, including a ‘Whisky Smugglers Argocat Tour’, the opportunity to bottle your own whisky, a ‘Colour of Whisky’ art exhibition and lots of traditional Scottish food and music, await you.  Of course, there are also plenty of whisky tasting sessions where you can sample what all the fuss is about!

If you’re a lover of the original amber nectar then the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is definitely not to be missed!  But don’t worry if you can’t make it this weekend (after all, there is a lot on this bank holiday weekend) because all year round Speyside remains a whisky lovers’ delight; after all, it is the home of the famous Malt Whisky Trail (the only one in the world).

The trail takes you through the beautiful surroundings of Speyside to seven working distilleries, giving you a special insight into the art of whisky making and the 500-year evolution of the process that now makes it one of the most highly regarded spirits in the world.  A journey along the whisky trail includes a visit to the smallest distillery in Speyside (but of course size isn’t everything), the only distillery pioneered by a woman, the first licensed distillery (licensed being the operative word) in the Highlands and the home of the World’s Favourite Malt Whisky, the Glenfiddich distillery.

However, Speyside is not just for those who enjoy a wee nip, in fact, it is an area of Scotland that offers some spectacular and varied scenery along with a good mix of things to do.  It is bordered to the north by the Moray Coast, which is generally agreed to be one of Scotland’s finest stretches of coastline and the perfect place for dolphin spotting, and to the south is Tomintoul, the highest village in the Highlands, gateway to the Cairngorm National Park.  With activities from archery to bird watching and mountain biking to rafting, there really is something for everyone to enjoy, whether you fancy a dram or not!

If you’re attending the Speyside Whisky Festival this bank holiday weekend, then I wish you “slainte mhath” and be sure to have one for me!  If your taste buds have been tantalised and you fancy a trip to the heart of whisky country then Unique Cottages have plenty of cottages close to the whisky trail where you can make yourself at home and savour the flavours of the region.

See Cottages in Speyside >

Happy Scotland Week!

In the USA (and for the first year in Canada) this week is Scotland Week, which runs from the 3rd of April to the 10th of April and celebrates all things Scottish.  4.8 million Americans reportedly have Scottish ancestry (2000 census) and 4,719,850 people in Canada can be described as ‘Scottish-Canadian’ (2001 census), so both countries’ strong heritage links to Scotland are represented by this weeklong exploration of Scottish culture.

We’re quite obviously biased, but we think Scotland Week is a great idea.  There is indeed so much to celebrate about our fine country!  One such example is our excellent (and unique) cuisine, from Haggis to Selkirk Bannock, Cock-a-leekie Soup to deep-fried, battered Mars Bars we Scots have an interesting variety of ‘traditional’ foods.  Therefore, it is only right that as part of Scotland Week one of our renowned chefs, Michael Smith, shares his expertise with Scotland’s kindred spirits across the pond.

Born in Inverness, Michael Smith is scheduled to appear on a number of well know TV programs in American and Canada, including the ‘Martha Stewart Show’.  However, for those closer to home who wish to sample the culinary delights of this highly commended chef, he will then return to his usual stomping grounds as Head Chef at the highly rated Three Chimney’s restaurant on the beautiful Isle of Skye.

On the edge of Loch Dunvegan, the restaurant offers a first class dining experience on an island that can accurately be described as magical!  Unique Cottages has some wonderful self-catering properties within easy reach of this acclaimed eatery, including The Missionary’s House (sleeping 5) only a 5 minute drive away, Kinlochfollart (sleeping 10) and, new for this year, the extremely inviting Claigan House (sleeping 4).

Although dinning out every night at the Three Chimney’s may not be within everyone’s budget, the joy of self-catering in Skye is that you can recreate the experience back at your home base, with a variety of fresh, local produce available from suppliers on the island.  For more information about our self-catering properties in Skye (because, let’s face it, on an island so beautiful it’ll not just be the fine food that tempts you to visit), send us an email enquiry or call 01835 822277 and we’ll be happy to help you find your dream island get away.

And to those celebrating across the Atlantic, from all at Unique Cottages, may we wish you an splendid Scottish Week this week and an terrific Tartan Day tomorrow!

A Royal Appointment…

Prince William and his soon-to-be wife Kate Middleton visit Scotland this week and return to the place there their relationship first started – St Andrews University.  Their trip is prompted by the university requesting that William be patron for their 600th Anniversary appeal.  One of the main aims of the appeal is to raise money for scholarships with the noble objective of supporting bright students without financial means to be able to benefit from a St Andrews higher education (not something William or Kate had to worry about when they attended).  Obviously, I am all for everyone, no matter his or her financial position, being able to attend university and St Andrews, the first University in Scotland, should be no exception!

I was accepted at St Andrews University myself (1 or 2 years before William and Kate attended!) and, on my intrepid quest to try to work out (at the tender and clueless age of 17) which University I should choose I visited the town and had a look around the university.  I decided in the end that St Andrews was not the University for me (much to my parents and teachers disappointment) and instead the City of Newcastle suffered my ‘interesting’ student years.   But my choice not to go with St Andrews was no reflection on the university, town or the surrounding area, rather the lesser number of pubs (which at 18 was of crucial importance to me) it had in relation to the big city!

Do not get me wrong, I enjoyed my time at Newcastle University, however now (older and wiser?) I can’t help but think that maybe I missed a trick (and the chance for a royal husband)!  St Andrews University and the town in which it is situated are steeped in history and tradition.  The architecture of the town is truly stunning and for those who enjoy golf it is definitely a place you can’t afford to miss.  My favourite building (or what is left of a building) is St Andrews Castle that stands close to the water’s edge over looking the small beach of Castle Sands, there is something quite haunting about the structure which was once used as a prison, and it proximity to the often harsh north sea just adds to its almost threatening character.

The history of the town extends beyond its boundaries; with the nearby village of Cellardyke has one of the most pretty old fishing ports in the country and Lower Largo birthplace of the ‘real’ Robinson Crusoe.    Branching further out of the town are treasures such as the village of St Monans with its superb coastal views and quaint traditional houses on narrow winding streets and intriguing stories of piracy, smuggling and shipwrecks.  Relics of the less distant past also wait to be discovered – Scotland’s Secret Bunker, built in the 1950, is well worth a visit.  And while Newcastle had its fair share of kebab shops (another staple of my student years) I have yet to find a better fish supper than the one served at the award winning Anstruther Fish Bar!

So, as William and Kate head back to St Andrews, the starting point of their romance, I do hope they get the opportunity to take some time out from their busy schedule and enjoy some of the peaceful pleasures the East Neuk of Fife has on offer before the stress of the pre-wedding frenzy!