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Where to eat in Melrose, Scotland

Head to this Scottish town for black pudding paninis, pumpkin doughnuts and its celebrated Melrose tarts.

Published 15 Aug 2021, 06:07 BST
Melrose High Street's main thoroughfares are lined with family butchers, bakers and chocolate-bar makers; restaurants using ...

Melrose High Street's main thoroughfares are lined with family butchers, bakers and chocolate-bar makers; restaurants using local produce; a bottle shop well stocked with Scottish whisky and gin; and an orchard of heritage apples, which flourishes beside the ruins of Melrose Abbey.

Photograph by Kenny Lam

Melrose High Street is just as high streets ought to be. In this Scottish Borders town, tucked between the Eildon Hills and the River Tweed, there’s barely a chain store in sight. Its main thoroughfares are lined with family butchers, bakers and chocolate-bar makers; restaurants using local produce; a bottle shop well stocked with Scottish whisky and gin; and an orchard of heritage apples, which flourishes beside the ruins of Melrose Abbey.

The unofficial taste of the town is the Melrose tart, a pastry base filled with honey, brown sugar and ginger — “all ingredients with historic links to the town,” says Craig Murray, owner of Alex Dalgetty & Sons. This family-owned bakery has been using the same cast-iron ovens since the 19th century, which, according to Craig, “bake in a different way, resulting in a completely different end product.” They also produce a signature Selkirk bannock (the most indulgent of teacakes), which sells by the thousands each week.

For an accompanying tipple, head to Abbey Fine Wines. This store, on Melrose’s market square, stocks 300 whiskies, as well as a selection of boutique wines (“You won’t find any of them in the supermarket,” says owner Joanne Gribben); craft beers, including hyper-local Tempest Brewing Co and Traquair Ales; and a number of Borders gins — 1881, Lilliard and Selkirk are all distilled nearby. Frequent tastings are held in its Cellar cafe, which also serves lunches, from speciality cheese platters to black pudding panini.

Just along the high street, Apples For Jam is an alternative snack stop. The countertop is stacked with cakes and bakes, but best is the bagel menu: the emmental, avocado and chilli mayo, or the salt beef and pickle, should hit the spot.

Apples for Jam is flanked by two other must-visit stores. No-frills greengrocer WA Williamson sells locally sourced fruit, vegetables and flowers, including blueberries from Kelso and juicy Borders raspberries. On the other side, the Country Kitchen Deli has a more international flavour, with Scottish cheeses and oatcakes sitting alongside Indian chutneys and Moroccan preserved lemons, plus a whole corner dedicated to Italian products.

Two of the best restaurants in the area lie a short walk over the river, in Gattonside. It was here that chef-restaurateurs Roger and Bea Mackie opened Seasons in 2015. “We make everything from scratch — breads, sauces, ice creams,” says Roger. “Our food is unfussy and reflects the changing seasons.” Most produce is sourced within a 20-mile radius: fruit and vegetables from Selkirk’s Philiphaugh Estate; dairy from Stichill Jerseys in Kelso; locally roasted beans from Three Hills Coffee. “We’re passionate about sustainability, and about food from local people who care about what they produce,” explains Roger.

Nearby is The Hoebridge. Self-taught chef Hamish Carruthers worked here as a boy and, after a stint in New York, has returned with his partner Kyle (who works front of house) to transform the old pub into a stylish restaurant. The imaginative menu changes monthly and might include smooth and creamy roast cauliflower soup, braised oxtail or pumpkin doughnuts.

Published in Issue 12 (summer 2021) of National Geographic Traveller Food

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