Melrose – an international success for the Borders

Every year in April the Scottish Borders town of Melrose becomes the focus of international attention.

The occasion is the Melrose Sevens rugby tournament, devised and first played in the town in 1877. Cue TV cameras, about 16,000 visitors (that’s six times the resident population) and rugby union’s red carpet for some of the sport’s top players.

The Sevens is one of the biggest events held in the Borders and attracts rugby fans from all over the world.

But this small town has plenty of other claims to fame and is well used to welcoming visitors from all over the world.

Its enduring appeal can be measured by the number of excellent hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfast establishments it supports. Close by is one of the biggest Roman presences in Scotland, the supply camp of Trimontium, and wherever you go in Melrose the Abbey is never far away.

The abbey was founded in 1136 by a Cistercian order of monks from Rievaulx in Yorkshire. They were know as white monks because of the unbleached wool of their habits. St Cuthbert was part of the abbey community before he moved on to the island of Lindisfarne off the Northumberland coast and after his death, eternal glory at Durham as one of the north’s best loved saints.

Melrose is the starting point of the popular 64-mile St Cuthbert’s Walk which criss-crosses the borders on its way to Holy Island.

The abbey suffered at the hands of Richard II during an invasion in 1385 and was left in ruins by the English in what history has recorded as the ‘rough wooing’, an attempt by Henry VIII to force the betrothal of the infant Mary Queen of Scots to his son Edward.

It is also the resting place of Robert the Bruce’s heart after it had been taken for use as a talisman by Scots fighting to remove the Moors from Spain.

The mason’s who helped build the abbey have been linked to the freemasons’ Lodge of Melrose – St John No 1. It houses a plaque bearing the mason’s coat-of-arms with the date 1156 and proven antiquity with a minute book dating back to 1674. The Melrose Lodge, standing in the High Street, was the last independent lodge to join the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1891.

A visit to Melrose will not disappoint.

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