A Road Trip through The Borders
This road trip through The Borders will take you to a printing press that has been operational since 1866, as well as a donkey sanctuary and a coastal national nature reserve.
Total drive time: 2 hours and 24 minutes, not including the stops.
- A – Grey Mare’s Tail
- B – Robert Smail’s Printing Works
- C – Harmony Garden
- D – Scottish Borders Donkey Sanctuary
- E – Chain Bridge Honey Farm
- F – St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve
The road trip begins at Grey Mare’s Tail. After a 10 minute walk from the car park (members park for free!), you will experience spectacular views of the fall, which cascades from Loch Skeen into the Moffat Water Valley from a rocky precipice above. There are a range of walks with breathtaking views, and don’t forget to keep a keen eye out for ospreys, ring ouzels, feral goats and nesting peregrine falcons.
Next on the itinerary is a visit to Robert Smail’s Printing Works, a fully operational letterpress print shop, and an important part of Scotland’s industrial heritage. Between 1866 and 1986, everything from newspapers and business cards to stationery for local traders all passed through the inky presses of this thriving business.
The National Trust for Scotland purchased the printing works in 1986 and have kept it as a genuine working print shop. The printing presses, some of which date back to the Victorian era, can be seen in action; shelves of type line the walls, revealing the changing fashions for typefaces; and 52 giant guardbooks showcase almost every item printed by the family firm.
Afterwards, head to Harmony Garden, which is only a short 30 minute drive away. As its name suggests, at Harmony Garden nature is perfectly in tune. Manicured lawns, scented borders and fruit and vegetable beds spread out from a beautifully proportioned Georgian manor house, which is actually available as holiday accommodation.
Insider tip: Homegrown seasonal produce can be purchased here and at nearby Priorwood Garden.
It’s time to hit the road again, this time heading towards the Scottish Borders Donkey Sanctuary. Founded in 2003, the sanctuary aims to provide permanent accommodation for donkeys and mules in need of re-homing, whether as a result of rescue from cruelty or neglect, or because the current owners could no longer care for them. The sanctuary is open to visitors from 2pm to 4:30pm, from Easter through the first week in January. Animal lovers can feed the donkeys and tour the sanctuary.
Then, it’s a quick 45 minute drive towards our next stop, Chain Bridge Honey Farm. In the visitor’s center, check on exhibits such as the observation hive, where a living colony of bees can be viewed behind glass. You might watch these fascinating creatures for hours, particularly if you embark upon a search for the queen! Additionally, there are exhibits on bee behavior, products of the beehive (including honey, wax and propolis), and information on swarms. Insider tip: To round off your visit take tea in the café situated in a double decker bus! Yes, that’s right! The café bus has been a huge hit since opening in 2005. Treats available include honey flapjack, honey sponge, heather honey oaties and superb heather honey ice cream.
Your final stop is St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve. The reserve is a haven for birdwatchers, nature lovers, and walkers will appreciate the epic sea views. You can easily spend hours in the summer months watching and listening to the thousands of seabirds who nest in the high cliffs. Away from the cliff’s edge a carpet of wildflowers spreads out among the grassland – look out for sea pinks, rock rose, wild thyme and purple milk vetch.
Insider tip: The best time to visit is from May to July for seabirds, May to August for flowers, July to August for butterflies, and spring and autumn for migrant birds.