Treasure Houses of the Tweed Valley

A Scottish Surprise

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Selkirk, Bowhill House, The Dining Room
Sunday 23 - Friday 28 July 2017 (6 Days)


Some Places

Wonderful opportunity to visit one of Scotland’s most picturesque regions

The Tweed Valley has a remarkable selection of castles & country houses

Private visits to houses normally not available to groups

Gardens will be at their mid Summer best

Quiet hotel set in idyllic position above the River Tweed

Tour Overview

The River Tweed lies amidst spectacular scenery that has seen remarkable events in the shared history of Scotland and England. Consequently, this ‘Border’ country has long been fought over by the two kingdoms.  Its castles and houses bear testimony not only to the tenacity of the great local families but also to their wide use of architectural styles. These mark the transition from a period of intense strife to one of peace and prosperity. Indeed, as most non-Scots when travelling north tend to bypass this marvellous part of the United Kingdom, its architecture, art collections and wonderful gardens are not that widely known. 

The architectural styles range from the truly defensive castles of the Medieval period to the first hesitant introduction of classical motifs in the seventeenth century. After the Act of Union under Queen Anne, the usual procession of Palladian, Rococo and Neo-classical vocabularies all found their way north. In the nineteenth century, the influence of Sir Walter Scott led to great enthusiasm for a more ‘eclectic’ approach to using the past, culminating in the Scots ‘Baronial’ style of the Victorian period. 

These houses were filled with remarkable collections of paintings and works of art. In truth, there is probably not in these islands such a concentration of masterpieces in so small an area as can be found in the Tweed Valley and almost all are still in private hands.  Of these collections, those held by the Duke of Buccleuch & Queensbury and the Duke of Sutherland stand apart in terms of their extraordinary range and quality. We shall have private access to both collections under ‘connoisseur’ viewing arrangements. 

Traquair and Duns Castles represent different aspects of the area’s varied history, reflected in their wide range of historic contents. Paxton and Mellerstain retain their remarkable collections of furniture by Chippendale and paintings by Alan Ramsay. Monteviot presents different solutions to the problems of family life in historic interiors. 

Equally fascinating will be the wonderful gardens and landscapes. Given that the seasons are a few weeks behind those of central and southern England, the late July dates should ensure a delayed ‘flush’ of Scottish abundance. Of these, the gardens at Kalzie, Monteviot and Mindrum should be particularly splendid in late July. 

Warmly welcomed by the owners, some of whom will host us with typical Scottish hospitality; this visit will be an unrivalled introduction to magnificent treasures, many of which are not seen by the public. 

We shall stay at the modestly comfortable and quiet 4* Dryburgh Abbey Hotel. The surrounding grounds sit next to the spectacular ruins of medieval Dryburgh Abbey, where Sir Walter Scott lies buried.


Thank you for yet another fantastic Ciceroni experience. Company, visits, gardens and the sunshine!
Mr & Mrs S McR, Devon

Day by day

Day 1: Sunday 23 July
Participants should plan to arrive at Dryburgh by late afternoon. For those who choose to take the group flight, there will be a transfer from Edinburgh Airport to the hotel. A welcome drinks party will be followed by a group dinner in the hotel. Wine, water and coffee will be served with all group lunches and dinners.
Day 2: Monday 24 July
Our morning will begin with a drive up the Tweed Valley to Traquair, surely one of the most romantic of houses? It has remained mostly unchanged since the eighteenth century and remains in family ownership. We then follow the Tweed upriver towards Peebles near where we shall visit Kailzie for a light group lunch followed by a guided tour of its garden. This has been created by Lady Buchan-Hepburn and is an oasis of horticultural inventiveness. We return to the hotel and the evening will be free.
Day 3: Tuesday 25 July
Today we drive down the Tweed Valley to Paxton, a Palladian house by the Adam brothers, built for a branch of the Hume family. Hardly touched since built, it is full of fine furniture supplied directly by Thomas Chippendale with a good collection of family portraits. Throughout the house we shall find excellent Rococo and Neo-classical plasterwork. After a group lunch we travel to nearby Mindrum where we shall have a guided walk round the gardens. We return to the hotel and the evening will be free.
Day 4: Wednesday 26 July
Our day will begin with a private visit to Bowhill, one of the Scottish seats of the Dukes of Buccleuch and Queensbury. The collections of the Montagu-Douglas-Scott family encompass three great ducal collections: those of the Montagus from Northamptonshire, the Douglas Dukes of Queensbury from Drumlanrig and the Scott Dukes of Buccleuch from Bowhill.  Today, the contents of several of their London and country houses are divided between Bowhill, Boughton and Drumlanrig, so we shall have a busy morning as we trace our way through this amazing collection! The paintings include great masterpieces by Van Dyck, Claude, Canaletto and Raeburn, amongst others. The Mortlake and other tapestries are of museum quality, while the exquisite French and English furniture and porcelain complete the ensemble. There will be some free time in Melrose for lunch (not included) after which we return to our hotel for a tour of the adjacent picturesque Dryburgh Abbey ruins. We shall have a group dinner at our hotel.
Day 5: Thursday 27 July
We are lucky to have secured permission to visit Mertoun, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland. The fabled Sutherland collection is made up of extraordinary masterpieces and whilst the rarest pictures are on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland, this private house has pictures of spectacular quality, including magical Claudes, one of the finest groups of Dutch paintings in private hands in Britain and furniture and decorative arts of majestic splendour. Lunch (not included) will be in Melrose. We continue to Monteviot, the home of the Marquis of Lothian. The house has been tactfully restored and remodelled in recent years to provide a splendid family home. There are fine paintings by, amongst others, Van Dyck and Daniel Mytens, and the gardens are particularly handsome. We return to the hotel and in the early evening drive over to Duns Castle, where we shall be the guests of Mr and Mrs Alec Hay, for a private visit and dinner.
Day 6: Friday 28 July
This morning we visit privately Mellerstain, the magnificent house designed in two stages by William Adam and his son, Robert, for the Earls of Haddington. For some, the house contains the best Adam interiors in Scotland - the Library is indeed one of his greatest creations while the other staterooms are almost as good. These hold a series of fine portraits by Allan Ramsay, Scotland’s premier portraitist of the eighteenth century. We have our final group lunch in the house, after which we disperse; a transfer to Edinburgh for the flights to Heathrow and elsewhere will also be provided.
It was a great week, culturally, gastronomically, socially - logistically
Mrs J H, Herefordshire


  • Price: £1,795 per person
  • Price without flights: £1,685
  • Deposit: £250
  • Single Supplement: £65: Standard (Double Room for Sole Use)
    £125: Abbey Subject to Availability (Double Room for Sole Use)
  • Tour Manager: Tom Duncan

Hotel Details

5 nights with Breakfast at the 4* Dryburgh Abbey Hotel

Room Upgrade

Upgrade to Superior Room £135 (per room, subject to availability)

Upgrade to Deluxe Room £225 (per room, subject to availability)


British Airways

Outward: BA1446 Depart London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 1305 arrive Edinburgh 1435

Return: BA1455 Depart Edinburgh 1730 arrive London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 1855

Price includes

3 Dinners & 3 Lunches with wine, water & coffee, all local transfers, entry fees & gratuities

Not included

Travel to/from Heathrow, 2 dinners, 2 Lunches


Current Conditions

Weather Conditions for Edinburgh in July are:
Average Temperature between: 11oC - 18oC / 52oF - 64oF
Rainfall: 83mm / 3.2 inches

Fitness levels

We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.

Booking Enquiry