Jedburgh is a pocket rocket in the Scottish Borders. Aesthetically lovely and with a high concentration of attractions within small parameters, it is so much more than a drunken mispronunciation of Edinburgh.
This wee gem of a town is in fact closer to England than Edinburgh, sitting just 10 miles from the border. Thanks to this key location Jedburgh bore the brunt of many a battle throughout history and saw a host of famous characters touch base with the town. Today it is home to a little over 4000 residents and serves as a popular tea-and-pee pitstop for many modern day road-trippers.
But seriously, it deserves way more justice than that.
In just one day and overnight stay I discovered that Jedburgh is certainly not a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it drive-through town. This is a town which seriously packs a punch, in the cutest way possible. Thanks to the eagerly anticipated Borders Railway, unassuming towns like Jedburgh will become the destination rather than just the passing place.
I say make Jedburgh your destination. Here’s some inspiration for when you do.
1. Drool over Jedburgh Abbey.
If there was a comic book version of my visit to Jedburgh, the moment where I first cast my eyes on Jedburgh Abbey would involve a massive thought bubble exclaiming “WOW!”. The grandeur of this stunning 12th century ruin can be appreciated from various vantage points in the town; it was a most rewarding game of peek-a-boo when I turned little corners to find another picture-perfect angle of the beautiful structure.
Now a Historic Scotland property, visitors can literally step into the past and learn about the abbey’s Augustinian beginnings and gradual decline throughout the centuries. Those who don’t have the attention span for the text descriptions or audio tour can simply meander through the visitor centre and peaceful grounds, admiring the impressive artefacts and evocative architecture.
Entry to Jedburgh Abbey is £5.50 per adult, £3.30 per child.
2. Visit Mary Queen of Scots House.
I have long been intrigued by the life of Mary Queen of Scots, and was previously unaware of her connection to Jedburgh. The town very nearly became our only queen’s final resting place, after she became gravely ill during her visit in 1566.
Hearing the news that her controversial lover (and catalyst to her demise) – the Earl of Bothwell – lay wounded at Hermitage Castle, Mary embarked on a 40 mile round trip from Jedburgh on horseback to reunite with her soon-to-be husband. Talk about living on the edge! She survived the ordeal, and left an everlasting imprint on the town and the 16th century house where she stayed. The attraction opened to the public on the 400th anniversary of her death in 1987.
The house provides an excellent education in Mary’s extraordinary life and gruesome death, and features exclusive items such as a lock of Mary’s famous auburn hair and the heel from her shoe.
The house sits in a pear tree garden and is FREE to enter. Happy days.
3. Have lunch in a cute cafe.
Wee Scottish towns with the absence of a cute cafe have the potential to be permanently disowned by this lassie. Luckily, such cafes are abundant in super-cute Jedburgh. Obviously.
I chose the aptly named Abbey View Cafe and Bookshop. Wearing an ivy scarf and with tables outside, this quirky cafe was an obvious choice on a sunny day.
My substantial panini and accompaniments, plus two drinks were ridiculously cheap given the quality and attractive location. Plus, the lovely staff member who served me offered to make my latte an iced version given the unusually high temperature that day. Massive thumbs up.
4. Go to Jail.
Walk uphill and away from the town to voluntarily put yourself behind bars and learn about 19th century life as a prisoner at Jedburgh Castle Jail. Dating back to 1823, the jail was not a pleasant place to call home. A series of questionably harsh methods were implemented as a means of ‘reforming’ prisoners, including a ban on any communication or interaction with fellow inmates; a life of silence and solitude.
On a lighter note, the imposing building also houses a museum dedicated to Jedburgh’s history and heritage. The varied exhibits give visitors an insight into Jedburgh’s famous folk, industries and life as the people knew it. The attraction’s elevated position gives you an away-from-it-all feeling, and entry is also FREE!
Whilst entry is free, you may wish to leave a small donation for the upkeep of this great attraction
5. Follow the Jedburgh Town Trail.
As you may have already gathered, Jedburgh is quite the historical hotspot. As such, the Scottish Borders Council have published a suggested trail around the town which passes a plethora of interesting buildings and points of interests, many of which could possibly fall completely under your radar. I enjoyed following in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott, absorbing the town’s historical quirks as I went.
You can do the same by purchasing the town trail booklet from the visitor information centre for £1, or by downloading it here.
6. Hit the Shops.
Imagine my delight when I discovered a distinct lack of tourist tat on Jedburgh’s High Street. Instead I was presented with a satisfying selection of independent boutiques and antique shops. Tasteful memorabilia, local sweet treats and trinkets for the home were readily available to curb any retail cravings and to ensure your impulse purchases are not to be regretted in the morning.
I particularly liked Heart of the Borders, Oisin gifts and picture framing, and Grove Antiques Vintage Emporium.
7. Have your cake and eat it at Border Meringues.
You know your sweet tooth is going to be well catered for in a town like Jedburgh. Cafes with displays of tempting tray bakes, a shop called Jedburgh Chocolate House and a curious cafe known as ‘The Meringue Place’ hidden away from the centre of town.
Yes, Border Meringues isn’t slap bang in the centre of town but I assure you, the 15/20 minute walk to get there was certainly worth it. I disappointingly didn’t order a meringue however, and was instead far too distracted by my ultimate favourite dessert – banoffee pie.
Can you blame me?
8. Take a stroll by the River.
The Jed Water wiggles it way through the town, giving visitors the opportunity to indulge in a spot of scenery and sound-of-running-water therapy. Walking back along the riverside to town from Border Meringues was not only pleasant but also helped to ease my banoffee flavoured guilt-from-gluttony.
Back in town, stop by the Cannongate Bridge; a beautiful spot which was once the primary access point into the town.
9. Enjoy dinner with a view.
Being the devout foodie that I am, a great dining experience for me is the best way to conclude a day. The Clock Tower Bistro was booked for me by Visit Scotland and I couldn’t have been happier with this recommendation. I was welcomed to a relaxing and romantic interior with a prime view of Jedburgh Abbey.
A board of olives and bread was very gratefully accepted before my starter, however it left me worried that I would struggle to accomplish three courses. I needn’t have worried.
The king prawn and crayfish cocktail was the best dish of its kind that I’ve tasted. The monkfish which followed was wrapped in parma ham and accompanied by a confit tomato mash. The lovely owner Karen sold me on the summer berry cheesecake, freshly made on-site and served in a latte glass. Did I finish it all? What do you think?
10. Rest your Head in a 5* B&B
The Willow Court B&B has got it spot on. Reached by a short incline from the centre of town, the accommodation is both central and peaceful. Sat within a pretty estate, the manicured garden is a sign of what is yet to come.
The interior is cosy and stylishly furnished and decorated. The bed was at a level of comfort which poses a threat over your ability to get out of it in the morning. The shower was the same; maybe I’ll just stand under this hot downpour all day.
Breakfast was eggs benny. What else can I say about that? Apart from a huge thanks to owner David for his wonderful hospitality. Each of the B&B’s 5*s are well earned. My only gripe is that I was staying just one night!
While my trip was organised by Visit Scotland, I explored independently and as always, all of my opinions are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.