Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Why move to the borders?

Well, that's one reason anyway....

However, it is a question we get asked rather a lot. Often by random strangers in the pub, it must be said, but I think it's worth taking a little time to think it through. Particularly as we're debating getting some staff through an agency, and it might help us to attract the kind of person who will see life here as a positive part of the job.

So, the Borders, or Scottish Borders if you want to be pedantic about it. You'd think that it would be the area along the border between Scotland and England, and in a sense you'd be right. However, the area as defined by the local council as well as the tourist board is a little more tightly defined than that.

So, how do you feel about living in England then?

That's the first misconception we generally have to deal with. Jedburgh is still in Scotland - only just mind, we're about 10 miles from the border, max - but because the Borders don't look like the pictures on shortbread tins, very few people actually realise that. We're very much seen as a convenient stopping-off-point on the way to the "real" Scotland of big scary hills, big scary Scotsmen, and big scary Highland cattle which you apparently find in the same area as the big scary (but completely invisible) Nessie.

A gentler side of Scotland

The scenery in the Borders is on a far less grand scale than the Great Glen or the Cairngorms. That doesn't make it any less lovely in my view. In fact, if you're a bit intimidated by the idea of a Munro (that's a hill which is over 3000 feet high) then walking up the Eildons near Melrose, or simply taking in part of the Borders Abbeys Way (quite a bit of it flat) might be possible.

The empty part of Scotland

Yes, I know most people would think of the Highlands when you said that, and there probably are fewer people actually living there. In terms of actual bodies spending time there, particularly in high season, though, I think you'll find the Borders are a lot less busy. You can go out on a country road, or off to the top of a hill, and meet nobody at all. The air is clean: there are lichens growing on the paving slabs in the town centre. We sleep in a room which looks out onto the High Street, and generally the only disturbance is people walking home from the club which closes at about 2 o'clock on a Sunday morning....

But close enough to the cities

Another disadvantage, as I see it, of living in the Highlands is the sheer time it takes you to get anywhere of a decent size. Durness to Inverness is 105 miles, and the AA thinks it will take you over four hours to drive it. I won't argue! Inverness to Edinburgh is another 160 miles, or 3-and-a-bit hours. If you want to do some serious shopping, and many Highlanders do, then your best bet is often to spend a night away from home in either Glasgow or Edinburgh.

Jedburgh, by contrast, is roughly equidistant between Edinburgh and Newcastle. It's just the wrong side of 50 miles to Edinburgh, and about 56 to Newcastle, but driving will take you 80 minutes either way. If you need public transport, well, you're limited to Edinburgh, but there are at least 5 buses a day, and it takes around 2 hours at longest.

Not bad, really!

And if you love golf, or fishing....

Well, I probably won't need to sing the praises of the Borders to ardent fishermen: the Tweed and Teviot are known world-wide as wonderful trout rivers. Golfers, however, seem to be blissfully ignorant of the opportunities locally. Unlike the famous course at St Andrews, you don't need to book your tee-time months in advance at either the Roxburgh or Cardrona - and they're championship courses. As a visitor, you can buy a Passport which gives you 10 rounds of golf over 5 days, for the princely sum of £99. Not bad when you realise that there are 21 courses in the Borders which are part of the scheme, and even Cardrona only asks for an extra £20 for a round (instead of the normal £45).

The downsides

Well, there had to be some, didn't there?

For me, living in any small town was always going to be second-choice. I'm a city girl at heart, and really enjoy the busy-ness, the multiculturalism, and the open-ness that you find in a city - and which you simply wouldn't expect to find in a small town or village. Jedburgh is still very much a local town, rather than a commuter dormitory, and that applies to most of the Borders towns too. That's good in that it gives a sense of community, but it can also be stifling as change comes slowly, if at all, to an area where the same families have lived for hundreds or years.


I'm not sorry we moved here. The things which made us choose the Borders still apply, and it's as good a place as most to be trying to run a tourism business. I can't see myself staying here forever though, which shocks the locals who really can't imagine living anywhere else, and look forward to moving somewhere a bit closer to the bright lights of the Central Belt before I reach 40!


Anonymous Dawn said...

Hello Lorna,
Just to let you know someone is reading and enjoying your posts (and John's).

Love the photo, if I remember rightly, it is the masthead on your hotel website.


27/4/06 10:43  

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