Today on another website we've been posting pictures of our various houses. While I was putting one of my house up, I got to thinking about one of my favourite places - where I used to live in the Scottish Borders.
It was this artist (Tom Davidson) that made me think about it. I've got a number of his fantastic works of art in my house. I've even bought this one for my big sister to hang in her house in Canada.
Scottish Borders is a truly amazing place - beautiful countryside and real communities. And above all, a really strong arts and crafts spirit.
Even the small village I lived in had its own art gallery - with coffee shop attached, much to the delight of my dad when he came to visit. Lots of cakey cakies! The FlatCat Gallery is a treasure chest of art, jewellery, knick knacks and other delights. Many a birthday and Christmas present was bought from there.
It also sells (and uses) amazing furniture made from wood left pretty much in its natural form - all burrs, blemishes and all. Tim Stead was a legendary craftsman who has sadly passed on, but it's good to see his workshop is still flourishing with equally talented craftsmen and women carrying on his trade. This is the kind of furniture he and his workshop are famous for.
As well as amazing arts and crafts, the Scottish Borders also has an awesome array of great places to eat. One of our favourites was a little restaurant called Chapters in the small village of Gattonside, close to Melrose. We had many a celebration meal there in our time in the Borders.
Also worth visiting was The Old Thistle Inn in Westruther - out in the middle of nowhere but serving the most fantastic selection of steaks you could ever ask for.
Our most regular haunt, however, had to be our local pub, The Eagle in Lauder. Sadly they don't have a website but suffice to say we would go on a regular basis for a meal in the lounge bar and never be disappointed. We did once try the public bar but after a tumbleweed moment when everyone stopped drinking and stared at us, we stayed faithful to the lounge bar thereafter.
Anyone thinking about visiting the Borders should definitely head for Melrose, home of the rugby sevens but also home to some gorgeous pubs, shops and cafes plus an amazing abbey.
Kelso, Coldstream and Jedburgh are also worth a visit, as is the coastal area from Eyemouth, through Coldingham and all the way to Berwick, just across the Border in England.
Not surprisingly with all the beautiful scenery in this area, there are a couple of long distance walking routes that go through the Borders. The longer of them is the Southern Upland Way from Portpatrick in Dumfries & Galloway in the south to Cockburnspath just in the Borders in the north. The shorter is St Cuthbert's Way, following the ancient monastery trail from Melrose in the north to Lindisfarne in Northumberland in the south. I've walked a couple of sections of St Cuthberts Way and can vouch that the walking is relatively easy and that the scenery is truly stunning. A friend of mine walked the middle section of the Southern Upland Way at Easter and was very taken with the area, never having visited before.
I'll finish now and wait for my cheque from the Scottish Borders Tourist Board! Seriously, it's a beautiful part of the world and well worth a visit. It's more than just the bit of Scotland between England and Edinburgh - a true gem in its own right.