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A Hume’s Ultimate Guide to Kelso

 

Kelso in the Snow

 

Kelso (in Scots: Kelsae and in Gaelic: Cealsaidh), is a little market town in the Scottish Borders that sits in a beautiful setting where the river Tweed and Teviot join. In the heart of the borders within the boundaries of the historic county of Roxburghshire, it is surrounded by stunning countryside views in the form of both farmland and woodland.

 

Why Kelso is so Important to A∙Hume

Over 90 years ago Arch Hume founded the first A ∙Hume store in Kelso. Within this setting, A∙Hume was able to keep reigniting a passion for the countryside and has been selling some of best luxury brands to the local community for decades. Our passion for providing quality goods fit for the countryside lifestyle resonated with the locals, and so our shop in The Square, Kelso continued to grow and expand. We can confidently say that if it were not for the support and community spirit of the people of Kelso, A∙Hume would not be the award-winning business that it is today.

 

Background on Kelso

Kelso Square From Pennies (Taits) 1950

Historical Facts of Kelso

Kelso Abbey, King David I & Roxburgh

Kelso as a town was first recorded in the 12th Century (with it previously being known as Calkou or Calchou). The town details a rich politically divisive history with intimate connections to the long-lost royal burgh of Roxburgh and King David I. The Kelso Liber, a collection of hundreds of documents covering the period if 1113-1567, has been a valuable resource for historians to understand the significant events that occurred in the Scottish Borders during this time. Kelso was first recorded in c.115 in the foundation Charter of Selkirk Abbey, with the Selkirk Brethren moving to the new Kelso site in 1128.

The Kelso Liber details how the abbeys relocation to Kelso allowed for military, economic and religious power to be all in one place in the country for King David the I’s rule. This allowed Roxburgh to become one of the most important towns in the whole of Scotland. Roxburgh was first sacked by an English Army in the year 1216, further English invasions during the middle ages devastated the area which caused Roxburgh to eventually be abandoned. Today there are still a few signs of the castle and previous town of Roxburgh, with it probably being one of the only abandoned medieval towns in the whole of Europe.

Kelso also suffered hardships during this period, especially during Henry VIII’s ‘Rough Wooing’ campaign in which the Kelso Abbey was heavily bombed. Despite the Abbey coming to an end during reformations in 1559, the town of Kelso continued to survive invasions and serious fire outbreaks.  The reformations meant that land owned previously by Kelso Abbey was made into an estate by the Duke of Roxburghe. The Roxburghe family was powerful and helped to ensure the success of the union negotiations between England and Scotland in 1707.

 

Napoleonic War Prisoners

In 1813, Kelso housed many Napoleonic Prisoners of War with officers staying with local people and were allowed to freely walk around the town.  To pass by the long hours they created activities such as cookery lessons, music recitals and even created a theatre for performances. When the prisoners left it was recorded that a Kelso resident stated their stay was “Was the gayest that Kelso had since the tragedy of Flodden cast its pall across the country.”

 

A History of Trade, Craftsmanship

By the mid-eighteenth-century Kelso had become a thriving centre of trade in Scotland, Kelso’s famous square became the site for weekly markets and two annual fairs. Craftsmen gathered in Kelso and the town became well known for shoe making and leather crafting. Scotland’s rich heritage of craftsmanship is well documented by the national library of Scotland, with many records including ‘The Skinners of Kelso’, the Skinners are one of the six crafts mentioned in Kelso’s extant constitution of 1757.

 

What it is Best Known For

Due to this history of quality craftsmanship Kelso is best known for leatherworking and creating shoes. With races and fishing destinations, Kelso became popular with the local gentry. Kelso Racecourse is known as Britain’s friendliest racecourse and salmon fishing on the River Tweed has long become a big part of Kelso’s economic and cultural development. This has led to several beautiful country homes being built in the area including Floors Castle, the largest inhabited castle in Scotland (used as a family home by the 11th Duke of Roxburghe).

 

Famous Kelso People (and those associated with Kelso)

Sir Walter Scott

Was born the 15th August 1771 and died on the 21st September 1832. Most famous for being the author of the Waverley Novels, for nearly a century these novels were some of the most widely read books in the whole of Europe (the first book being published in 1814). Many of his writings were inspired by his grandparents while living with them on their farm in the Roxburghe border, they often told him stories of border battles between Scotland and England. All his books have a historical Scottish setting that is inspired by his interest in Scottish Heritage.

 

Daniel Laidlaw

Was born on the 26th July 1875 and died on the 2nd June 1950. Recipient of the Victoria Cross for his actions at The Battle of Loos during World War I in 1915. A change in wind led to allied soldiers being gassed and too afraid to go over the top, Laidlaw played ‘Blue Bonnets Over the Border’ and went over the top, his playing encouraged his company to leave the trenches.

 

Jim Clark

Was born on the 4th March 1936 and died on the 7th April 1968. He was formula one Racing driver who won two world championships in 1963 and 1965. He is currently still the only racing driver to win the formula one world championships in the same year as winning the Indy 500 in 1965.

 

Sir William Fairbairn

Was born on the 19th February 1789 and died on the 18th August 1874. He was a Kelso born Scottish Civil Engineer and a pioneer in his field, his study of discovering the weaknesses of iron helped identify problems in bridge designs and he was the first to use wrought iron to create hulls and other structural parts for ships.

 

Edward Francis Cunningham

Born c. 1742 and died in 1795. Edward was a Scottish portrait painter born in Kelso, he studied art in Parma, Rome, Venice, and Paris after fleeing Scotland with his father in 1745. He found full employment as a portrait painter in Berlin and achieved a deserved success.

 

Ross Ford

Born on the 23rd April 1984. Ross grew up in Kelso and became a professional rugby player, he is currently the most capped Scotsman for Scotland with 110 appearances on the team. He retired from professional rugby in 2019 and now has a role at the Fosroc Scottish Rugby academy.

 

John Moffat

Born on the 17th June 1919 and died on the 11th December 2016. Also known as ‘Jock’, Lt Cdr John Moffat was credited to have a key role in sinking the Bismarck German Warship during World War II. Born in Kelso, he joined the navy and after qualifying as a pilot flew a Swordfish L9726. He dropped a torpedo which sank the Bismarck on the May 27th, 1941 and eliminated Hitler’s flagship vessel.

 

Peter Crawford

Born on the 22nd November 1818 and died on the 10th June 1889. Peter was born in Kelso and was educated there before training to become a land surveyor in Edinburgh. He founded a settlement in Washington and named it Kelso in honour of his hometown.

 

Dr. Jennie Kidd Trout

Born on the 21st April 1841 and died on the 10th November 1921. She was the first women to become a licensed doctor in Canada during 1875. Born in Kelso, she challenged the exclusivity of jobs for men in the medical field in Canada and she helped open doors for females in medical professions.

 

Reasons to Visit Kelso

 

Top things to do in and around Kelso

Floors Castle

Floors Castle and Gardens

Floors Castle was built in 1721 and is the largest inhabited castle in Scotland, it is the home of the 10th Duke of Roxburghe. Visitors to the castle can admire the architecture, art collections (featuring work of Matisse) and explore the beautiful gardens filled with fruit trees and the summer house built in 1867 for the visit of Queen Victoria. They offer homemade food and Scottish produce in their Courtyard Café, Terrace Café and gift shop. You are also able to cycle or walk around the castle’s surroundings with woodlands and cycle trails close by.

 

Angraflat Mountain Bike Trails

The Angraflat trails were created by Kelso Wheelers with permission from the Duke of Roxburghe. These trails are free to ride on and are located on the Roxburghe Estate. It is a 1.5km cross country loop that includes a pump track, jump lines and a dedicated skills area. The construction of the trails used materials sourced from Floors Forestry and Blinkbonny Quarry.

 

Kelso Junction Pool

Fishing in Kelso

The Roxburghe Estate offers Salmon fishing on both the River Tweed and the River Teviot. They offer a wide range of opportunities for their beats such as fishing by bank, boat or wading.

The Kelso Angling Association (believed to be the third oldest fishing Association in the world since starting in 1859) has rights from the Riparian owners to fish for trout and greyling on a section of the River Tweed and the River Teviot. They have a river watcher on the riverside for any help and advice and they own salmon fishing rights on the River Teviot for full members only.

The Fly Fishing Centre is based on the River Tweed near Kelso and is an educational facility dedicated to teaching fly fishing to a wide range of age groups and abilities. They teach all forms of modern speycasting and fly fishing instruction. Teaching takes place at their teaching centre on the River Teviot and they own their own private Salmon beat and a stocked trout lake.

 

Shooting Sport in Kelso

The Roxburghe Shooting School offers 500 acres of wooded parkland and is a perfect teaching ground from complete beginners to experienced shots. For shooting they offer group and corporate packages for clay pigeon shooting and air rifles. They also provide professional couching and tuition, children’s lessons and days, ladies lessons and days, game shooting ‘warm up’ lessons and a gun fitting service.

Pheasant shooting is offered at Floors Castle, it takes place in the parkland and woodland surrounding the Castle. Driven days of 100-500 pheasants can be organised for parties of up to 9 guns and lunch in one of the castles dining rooms is offered in their packages.

Eskdale Shooting services offers high quality partridge and peasant shooting on the Greenhill estate situated in the Cheviot hills, it is one of the premier high bird shoots in the UK. They offer a limited number of walk up grouse days and mixed walk up shooting.

 

Kelso Swimming Pool

A mix of fun and fitness is available at this family-friendly swimming centre. Main facilities are the 25m swimming pool, steam room and a spacious studio. The swimming pool offer activities such as mixed swimming sessions, lane swimming, adults only swimming sessions, swimming lessons, aqua fit and swim fit. Classes available in the studio include spin, step, boxercise and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

 

Borders Ice Rink

The ice rink was opened in 1964 and was designed based on the Canadian style soft base ice pad. The pad has now been replaced with an insulated concrete base and the rink now has updated ice preparation equipment that is more environmentally friendly. The ice rink offers facilities for ice skating including lessons, public skating, and an ice disco on a Saturday. It also offers facilitate for curling clubs, coaching and competitions. It also features a Café that serves from breakfast till dinner and for curling club members there is a club lounge.

 

Kelso Golf Club

A warm welcome is guaranteed at this parkland course located a few miles from the Championship Roxburghe course, known for its good condition of its greens and fairways. The course is 18 holes and is a par 71, the ground is generally flat for more leisurely play and is a suitable challenge for standard players. The club has a fantastic parkland over Kelso Racecourse that is great for all levels of golfers. The clubhouse is friendly with an open bar and Bistro serving home cooked food.

 

 

Shopping in Kelso

The Square, Kelso

Kelso is full of independent retailers selling a range of delights such as handmade jewellery, riding gear, fishing equipment, luxury clothing and so much more. It is no surprise that in The Square of Kelso you will find our store (and our other store on Horsemarket). The historic town centre also features the following shops:

 

 

Kelso Abbey

Kelso Abbey

The abbey ruins are a remarkable example of Scottish monastic architecture, it is free to visit and is situated in a historic burgh in the heart of Kelso.

 

Smailholm Tower

The tower is located five miles from Kelso, standing at over 65 ft it is amazing place to sit and admire the stunning countryside scenery. It famously provided inspiration for Walter Scott’s writing of ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border’ and inside the tower it features a model of the Pringle residence, a collection of costume figures and tapestries in tribute to the book.

 

Kelso Folk & Live Music Club

The club promotes traditional and contemporary music in the form of both cabaret style settings and informal pub sessions, they run weekly meets and hold their very own mini folk festival in September. They have a traditional Scottish tune session in the Saddle’s Bar at the Cross Keys Hotel on Thursday nights, and on a Friday Night they hold an acoustic cabaret-style meet in the Oak Room at the Cross Keys Hotel and a pub session in The Cobbles Inn.

 

Beirhope Alpacas

Beirhope is a family-owned small holding in the Cheviot Hills and provide Alpaca Treks in the rolling hills for some local wildlife and stunning Scottish scenery. If you aren’t up for a hill trek, they also have gentle strolls around the paddocks.

 

Nenthorn Equestrian Centre

In the countryside north of Kelso you can find this well-respected equestrian centre that caters for all ages and abilities. They offer an indoor and outdoor school with their facilities available for hire. The horses are all of quality and are well-schooled for clients.

 

Kelso Events Throughout the Year

 

Events in Springwood Park: Border Events Centre

The Border Union show is held at the centre annually on the last Friday and Saturday of July.  It is a traditional farming show with over 500 open competitions for horses, livestock and industrial arts. It  has over 200 stalls with a wide range of goods and is accompanied with a Food Fair, Craft & Gift Marquee, and a children’s fun fair.

The Borders Art Fair is an event where you can buy art directly from the artists and take part in free artist led workshop for all ages and abilities. For children they offer a face painter on the Saturday and Sunday.

The Kelso Ram Sales is the biggest and most famous one day sale of rams in the world. The ram sales are well recognised and respected for buyers and offer a wide range of exhibitors, for sellers they offer the perfect arena to sell your animals.

 

Kelso Races

A National Hunt Racecourse, they run fifteen staging fixtures from September until May. They have one public enclosure which allows all racegoers access to the parade ring, winner’s enclosure, and the bar. Annual Members have special access to the Cunningham Room Bar.

 

Farmers Market

The farmers market is held in Kelso’s Square on the 4th Saturday of every month and features merchants and farmers selling their local product. Organic Pork, Fresh Veg, Pedigree Aberdeen Angus Beef, Chicken, Homemade Cakes, Bread, Eggs, locally roasted coffee beans, locally made chocolate and even more produce is available at the stalls.

 

Snowdrop Weekend at Floors Castle

Held in February, the woodland floors surrounding the castle are open for paid admission to view the carpet of snowdrops along the footpaths. Children are free to participate.

 

Kelso Antique Fleamarket Fair

Held in Springwood, it is the largest antique flea market in the Scottish Borders. It is held indoors with around 120 tables, many stalls sell items such as jewellery, genuine antiques, furniture and more.

 

Best Places to Stay in and around Kelso

There is a wide range of accommodation available in and around Kelso. From hotels, guest houses, bed and breakfasts to self-catering properties; there is something to suit everyone. Here are some places that we highly recommend staying for your visit to Kelso (insert links):

 

 

Best Places to Eat and Drink in and around Kelso

Kelso is filled with a wide variety of places to eat and drink. From pub food to award winning fine dining, we are spoilt for choice. Here are some of our recommendations (insert links):

 

 

How to Get to Kelso: Best Transport Links

 

Bus

There are regular bus services that connect Kelso to other parts of the Scottish Borders, Edinburgh, Newcastle, and Berwick-Upon-Tweed.  The 67 service by Borders Buses operates a route between Galashiels to Berwick Railway Station has a stop in Kelso.

 

Train

There is a train line from Waverly Station in Edinburgh that goes to Galashiels/Tweedbank stations on a regular basis. If you are coming from the south of the UK, the closest station is the Berwick-Upon-Tweed Station. Taxi services will be available at the stations to travel to Kelso.

 

Flying by Plane

If flying to visit Kelso, the closest airport is Edinburgh airport. Other airports near are Glasgow Airport and  Newcastle Airport. Taxi services should be available at the airport to travel to Kelso.

 

Travelling by Sea

The Ferry services closest to Kelso are the Ferry Service to Hull and the Amsterdam to Newcastle ferry service.

 

Kelso in Popular Culture

Film

Greystoke, the Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)

Floors Castle was used as the ‘Greystoke Mansion’ in the film. The castles exterior and ballroom were featured in the film.

 

Television

Scotland’s Home of The Year (2020)

A Victorian girls’ school-turned- family home in the Forestfield area of Kelso was featured in the finals of this television series.

Marks and Spencer Christmas Advert (2018)

The Square in Kelso was featured in the M & S annual Christmas advert in 2018.

 

Castle in The Country (2008)

Floors Castle was featured in season 4 of the show, the expert team and visited the castle and presented it for television viewers.

 

Two Fat Ladies (1999)

In the episode ‘A Day at the Races’, the show filmed at both Floors Castle and Kelso Racecourse.

 

Million Dollar American Princesses (2015)

Floors Castle features in the episode ‘Wedding of The Century’.

 

Conclusion

This dedicated guide to Kelso shows why it is one of the most amazing places for country lovers to visit in the UK. Visitors and residents are spoilt for choice when spending time in this little town in the Scottish Borders. We are so lucky that Kelso is the home of A∙Hume and that we get to live the countryside dream every day.

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