When you think about outdoor adventures in Scotland, most likely the vast rural expanse of the Scottish Highlands comes to mind, but there is so much more to explore. One of the most recommended cycling routes is the Four Abbeys, which takes you on a historic trip of the four main abbeys in the Borders: Jedburgh, Kelso, Dryburgh, and Melrose.
Most of the route is comprised of rural roads, and the scenic route also includes other points of historical interest interspersed between the four abbeys. If you’re ready to explore another side of Scotland, read on to plan your trip along the Four Abbeys cycle route.
- Distance: 55 miles
- Difficulty: Hard
- Altitude gain: 1185 feet
History, hills and headwinds on today’s cycle, finally got round to doing the #4abbeys route stopping off here at #kelsoabbey. Loads of climbing, strong headwind but enjoyed every minute of it. Cheers to Jason @untouchable1974 for the guided tour. • • #fourabbeys #4abbeysroute #historicscotland #scottishborderscycling #scottishcycling #cycling #cyclingphotooftheday #cyclingwithfriends #morningride #specializedbikes #specializedtarmac #iamspecialized #bikestagram #bikestyle #fromwhereiride #lovewheremybiketakesme #thisismyplayground
Although the route can be done in a day, we recommend that you schedule at least two days, especially if you want to have time to explore the abbeys and have some rest breaks. The good thing is that if you do decide to break the trip up, there are plenty of great places to stop and grab a bite to eat, as well as places to stay that are Cyclist Welcome accredited.
You will encounter magnificent scenery and views of the Cheviot Hills and the River Tweed on the way, and the small towns that comprise the Borders are quite quaint, peppered with stately houses and historic castles.
Though the trip ends up being a loop between Melrose Abbey and Dryburgh Abbey, there are two routes you can take: Newtown St Boswells Route or Scott’s View Route. Both routes are similar, though Scott’s View is more hilly and a bit longer, but the views are incredible.
Newtown St Boswells Route: Start at Melrose Town Square and head south, crossing the bypass road.
Scott’s View Route: Start at Melrose and head east between the Abbey and the river, following the Tweed Cycleway signs, and cross the old bridge.
Aside from the aforementioned Abbeys, keep a look out for the following interest points, where we’re sure you will want to soak up all the history the Four Abbeys cycle route has to offer.
- Smailholm Tower (16th Century): Located between Dryburgh Abbey and Kelso, the tower contains Walter Scott figures and tapestries.
- Kelso: This historic town is home to Floors Castle, and a prototype of Waterloo Bridge over the River Tweed.
- Roxburgh Castle: Unfortunately, only a mound remains of what was once a stately castle, located in the now tiny village of Roxburgh. If the sun happens to be shining, look around for magnificent river views.
- Cessford Castle: The ruins of the castle were once home to the Kerr Clan, and you can brush up on your history, as it’s a remnant of a time the way of life was feuding between the Border clans.
- Jedburgh: Aside from Jedburgh Abbey, which is the most conserved medieval construction in Scotland, you’ll also find the house of Mary Queen of Scots, and Castle Jail
No matter which route you decide to take, there will be plenty of opportunities to explore and be immersed in some of Scotland’s most varied history.