Start of the Borders Abbey Way: Kelso to melrose

Borders Abbey Way: Kelso to Melrose

The challenge of a long distance walk has been luring me for sometime, so when I asked my bestie if she fancied walk–running the Borders Abbey Way, I was delighted (but not surprised) when she said “yes.”

The Borders Abbey Way is a 62 mile circular walk and most itineraries suggest that you walk it in 5 or 6 days, start in Melrose or Tweedbank as you can get the train there, and walk it clockwise. We ignored all of this: firstly Teddy could only spare 4 days due to work commitments, hence the walk-run plan; Kelso is the closest town on the route to where I live so it seemed sensible to start there and we went anti-clockwise, because that meant that we would get the longest leg – about 18 miles – under our belts on day one.

I have not included maps in this blog, because a) it is so well sign-posted you barely need a map and b) I would recommend you buy the guide book - just remember we did it in reverse.

We pontificated somewhat on what to carry – we would be running some of it after all, so wanted to go light. In the end we went with the running gear day wear, including waterproofs, and one change of clothes for the evenings, plus washbag, first aid kit, snacks and water. As we were only away for three nights, we decided to book bed and breakfast for accommodation. Food was also high on the priority list, so apart from the first night in Melrose I booked evening meals in advance.

You can, of course make this walk easier. You can base yourself at one place and take buses out to the start and finish of each day or alternatively there are companies that will take your luggage to your next destination. By carrying our own kit, we felt it was more of a challenge, even if our accommodation was luxurious.

Borders Abbey Way: Kelso to Melrose

 After all the excitement of planning the trip, we finally set off on the xx May. Leaving the car in Melrose we took a selfie in front of Kelso Abbey and set off up the River Tweed towards Floors Castle, before bearing off right around the town and along the side of the racecourse and across the fields towards the Newton Don Estate where you turn left on to a quiet road. It was unseasonably cold, so that meant at least we were wearing all our running clothes to keep warm.

I knew the first part of the route quite well as my sister used to live at Newton Don, plus many years ago I had my horse stabled nearby, so had explored many of these routes on horseback. The map made it look like we would be following a long, straight, road for some time and it might be a bit boring. But, whether it was the company or our reasonable speed with quite a bit of running as it was flat, it was far better than I imagined. It probably also helped that all the cherry and apple trees were in full blossom and seemed to frame our route in pink and white.

I was very pleased that the route was exceptionally well-marked as I was in charge of navigation and had been plotting the route on my maps for weeks! I felt that a good place to have lunch would be near Makerstoun when the route returned towards the Tweed, but there were no benches and the cold easterly wind, whilst it was at our back, was not conducive to sitting on a bank for lunch. So, we swung away from the river up to the St Boswells Road and crossed over to Clintmains before dropping back down to the river with lovely views of the Mertoun Bridge. We were pretty hungry by this time and finally found a stile which we used as a bench for lunch. As we had our break, I was very excited to see my first osprey of the summer.

We soon came to Dryburgh Abbey our second Abbey of the day, however it was not visible from the path and you needed to pay to go in, so on our timetable we felt we didn’t have time to visit. If you do the walk over 5 or 6 days, you would spend time exploring all four abbeys of the route. Happily for us the toilets were available and gave us a most welcome break!

Just half a mile or so from Dryburgh the route takes you past the Temple of the Muses and down over the Dryburgh Bridge – this is also part of the pleasant circular walk to the Wallace Memorial described in this blog. I was slightly (very) concerned that a sign we had seen saying the road was closed meant that the bridge was closed to pedestrians as the alternative route around to St Boswells would have added may be 4 miles to our already long day. Anyway, much to my relief, the path was not closed, and the Borders Abbey Way joined the St Cuthbert’s Way to leave the river and head up to Newtown St Boswells. This was a glorious bit of woodland and the sun had come out so it was a bit warmer. The birds were singing, the woods were full of aconites and garlic and there were plenty of benches – we were making good time, so we decided to make use of one of them.

Once rested we quickly reached Newtown St Boswells and picked up the old road to Melrose, this had been the route we used when we first moved up to the Borders in 1990 – it has now been replaced by a by-pass and is no longer a through road. We kept on this road, past the Rhymers Stone and down below the bypass and into Newstead and finally down the last mile or so, past Melrose Abbey and straight into the coffee shop for a well-deserved tea and cake. We had made the 18 miles or so in about 6 hours and were very happy with that.

We stayed the night at Fiorlin, a luxurious B and B run by my friends Lorna and Kenny Paterson and went out to eat at the Italian restaurant, Monte Casino  in the Old Station at Melrose, which I can highly recommend.

lane between Kelso and St Boswells on the Borders Abbey Way
Blossom on the path towards Makerstoun
First view of The Eildons, the destination for the day.
First view of The Eildons, the destination for the day.
River Tweed at St Boswells
River Tweed at St Boswells
Temple of the Muses
Teddy musing at The temple of the Muses.
Melrose Abbey
Arrival at Melrose Abbey





Distance: 18 miles

Terrain: Mostly quiet roads and tracks

Difficulty: easy

Date Walked: 4th May 2023






Cherry blossom

Apple Blossom


Few flowered leek


Temple of the Muses

Rhymer's Stone