What to expect at an Instameet

Where to stop on the Borders Railway

Sometimes, when you’re sitting in an office most of the day, you forget how beautiful nature is. The season when this contrast is most apparent is autumn. Jump in the car after a day at work, and your background is sandstone tenements, modern blocks or city shopfronts. It takes the weekend — and escaping the town — to breathe fresh air, see the seasons swerve and bathe yourself in the golden glow of sundown.

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Two weekends ago, I was lucky enough to be asked to the Visit Scotland Instameet, direction Scottish Borders. Out my bed at an ungodly hour, I traipsed the soaking Edinburgh streets and arrived at Waverley with my fellow photographers. I got chatting to Matt and Kim — who were part of my Borders group; the others were off to Midlothian — and we sat on the train together, heading south.

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First stop, after a quick bus shuttle, was Abbotsford House. I was in awe of the colours. Golds, browns, bright orange, even the deep red of a dying, water-speckled rose. This house — Sir Walter Scott’s 200-year-old estate — is a jewel of historic artefacts, stone archways and lush gardens. We spent more than our allotted time here, taking in each history-stuffed room and its lavish decorations. Even the view out the window was superb; a horizon of autumnal colour.

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Then, we headed for Melrose Abbey. I’d been outside the gates when I was younger, but navigating through the carcass of the nave, up the narrow stairs and looking out at Melrose below was pretty unforgettable. I then found a quiet corner of the graveyard where my feet made imprints in the leaf bed. Meanwhile, our little troupe of five Instagrammers snapped away at anything and everything photogenic.

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We had a swift stomach refuel at Hergé’s on the Loch, a Tintin-inspired restaurant that boasted nothing Tintin bar a few posters and statues. But that wasn’t too much of an issue, because the food was good: lemon-infused sea bream on a rich mascarpone risotto, a warming meal to fire me back up for the afternoon’s adventures. The burgers didn’t look bad either.

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One of the most striking panoramas of our speedy Borders tour had to be Scott’s View. Kim — a fellow Scottish travel blogger — pointed our bus driver in the right direction, and soon we were gazing out across the landscape. A black river wound in the bottom of my vision, the golden green colours of the trees stretching far across the hills. It was quite simply stunning. I could have stayed there for hours just taking in the wonder of autumn (every year this season comes around, I fall in love all over again).

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Kim continued to take us on incredibly scenic diversions. The next one was Smailholm Tower which — when we saw it in the distance — we just had to visit. The drive through the countryside was confusing, via a farm and some muddy roads, but eventually we reached the base of the structure. It was perishingly cold (you could only imagine how the laird felt in the depths of winter). However, with its simple yet imposing architecture, and golden grasses in front, it did provide some pretty fantastic photo opportunities. I hugged myself for warmth.

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We continued to zoom across our small square of the Borders, rushing into the grounds of Floors Castle before it closed just a few minutes later. We stood, tiny people in front of a sprawling mansion, and lamented the disparity between rich and poor that sadly still exists. But before long, we were back in the bus for the final time, looking over a bridge towards the River Tweed and a tiny fisherman below.

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The six of us (five photographers plus Visit Scotland’s Jodi) watched the light slowly fade on the orange leaves. The figure in the river below cast his line again. Slowly, the blue of the river turned yellow, then orange as the sun fell further west and cast a magical hue on the autumnal landscape. It was beautiful.

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Like my trip to Cameron House last year, this Borders Railway day tour rekindled my love of autumn. Yes, I ended up ill afterwards (not enough layers!) but escaping the city, standing high above the forest and being surrounded by a rainbow of colours is the perfect way to spend a Saturday. I adore autumn. A big thanks to Visit Scotland and Mother Nature for jogging my memory.

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